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Montrezl Harrell: A Surprise Early Contributor for Wizards

montrezl harrell washington wizards

When the Washington Wizards acquired center Montrezl Harrell as part of the deal that sent Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles, he was an afterthought in many people’s minds; nothing more than some salary filler to sweeten the deal to acquire Westbrook. After a forgettable year in Los Angeles in which he was played off the floor in the playoffs and unceremoniously traded, a lot of people wrote him off as a regular-season player who was overpaid because of his ineffectiveness in the postseason. Not only that, but in Washington, he had a serviceable frontcourt depth chart of Daniel Gafford and Thomas Bryant to compete with for playing time. 

Fast forward a few months, and Harrell has quieted the haters, even if just temporarily. So far this season through four games, he is averaging 17.8 points per game and 8.5 rebounds, both of which would be the best or second-best averages of his career. To top it off, he is shooting a scintillating 67.5 percent from the floor and getting to the line over six times per game on average. 

Harrell is accomplishing this in his usual fashion; he is putting in maximum effort on the offensive boards and finishing tough buckets around the basket. He may be only 6’7 at the center position, but the size of the fight in the dog matters more than the size of the dog in the fight. His hustle and grit have been a needed boost for a team that lost their main contributor of that sort of attitude with Westbrook’s departure. 

With how uncharacteristically quiet of a season Harrell had last year, many fans seem to have forgotten that he was a Sixth Man of the Year award winner when he played for the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2019-2020 NBA season. He has always been capable of impacting games in a meaningful way by bullying lackluster second units and playing starter minutes in a pinch. His presence has been a welcome one for a Wizards franchise that did not have much bench depth last year. 

It is easy to write off Harrell’s production as empty calories because it does not translate to the playoffs, but he has consistently been part of good regular season squads, and his game does a lot to raise the floor of mediocre teams. Having a hustle guy who also gets buckets that can be depended on every night is a massive boon for a team like the Wizards who will likely be fighting for a playoff spot all season. 

While it might only be four games into the season, and Thomas Bryant has yet to return from an ACL injury he suffered last season, there is a lot for Wizards fans to be excited about. It has been a while since fans have had a tough-nosed gritty player like Harrell to root for night in and night out. His 30 minutes per game average will almost certainly go down as Bryant eventually returns to the lineup, but he has shown the ability to still be a big contributor even in limited minutes. Even if his game does not translate perfectly to the playoffs, he is helping this team get crucial wins early in the season. Here’s to hoping Harrell keeps this up all season.

All stats courtesy of ESPN and Basketball-Reference

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