Coming into this season, a lot was expected of Montrezl Harrell. Statistically, his rookie year was underwhelming (3.6 points, 1.7 rebounds), but he flashed enough energy, hustle and defense that a leap was expected in his sophomore campaign. And that leap did occur.
He finished the year averaging 9.1 points and 3.8 rebounds in 18.3 minutes per game. His per-36-minute stats look sparkling: 17.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. He finished the year shooting 65.2 percent from the field, which was an increase from his rookie season.
He also had an effective 15-game stretch in December/January filling in for starting center Clint Capela, who was out with a leg fracture. During that time frame, Harrell averaged 14.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. He also had a 29-point game and a 28-point game. He had a four-game stretch where he was in double-digit points scored every game. Other than Nene, he was the most physical front court player on the Rockets.
But after Capela returned to his full workload, Harrell’s minutes plummeted. Often, he couldn’t get off the bench, racking up 15 DNPs from Jan. 27 onward. In the games he did play, he exceeded 20 minutes in a game just six times in that same timeframe, a span of 32 games. And this was with Nene playing mostly limited minutes and sitting a game during back-to-backs. Harrell also played just 21 total minutes in the Rockets’ 11 playoff games.
So what happened?
Well, it’s been rumored that Mike D’Antoni feels that Harrell isn’t a fit for his system, and his actions speak those words as well.
D’Antoni refused to play Harrell at power forward, telling the media on several occasions that he thought of Harrell strictly as a five. We don’t need to tell you that D’Antoni likes his power forwards to stretch, and although Harrell’s been working on his outside game, he’ll never be confused for Ryan Anderson.
That doesn’t quite explain why the coach couldn’t find minutes for Harrell in the playoffs after Nene went down, and the Rockets struggled with a lack of size, strength, and physicality in the front court. But my guess is that the rumors are definitely correct, and Harrell’s going to have this problem as long as he’s on the Rockets and D’Antoni is the coach.
In that vein, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Rockets try to move Monstatrez this season, as there should be some value on the trade market. D’Antoni’s not going anywhere for the foreseeable future, so expect GM Daryl Morey to include Harrell’s name in any trade talks.
That isn’t to say he doesn’t have value as player — he certainly does. But D’Antoni clearly doesn’t trust him, as evidenced by the now infamous 7-man rotation in the playoffs. And with Zhou Qi now looking to also be in the fold, D’Antoni will have another big man to consider who, at first glance, looks to be a better fit for what he wants do.
Trez definitely developed his game in his sophomore campaign with the Rockets, but I would actually be a bit surprised if he’s still on the Rockets this time next season.