The NBA free agency period began more than two months ago, but moves are still trickling in, and a few key players remain available. But one of those players is no longer an option for Golden State Warriors fans to dream about, as center Montrezl Harrell is off the market.
According to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Harrell, the 2019-20 Sixth Man of the Year, has signed a two-year, $5.2 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. The deal includes a player option for the second year which, barring something unforeseen, will almost surely be exercised by Harrell, making him a free agent again next year.
Harrell — who played for the Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards last year, and has also played for the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, and Houston Rockets — was one of the more intriguing free agents this summer. He is one of the best bench scorers in the league, and one of the best pick and roll scorers in the entire NBA. Since the 2018-19 season, he’s averaged 15.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game, while shooting 61.2% from the field, despite starting just 11 games.
He’s a pretty rough defensive player, but still ... those numbers, which gave him the 46th-highest EPM in the league last year, should be enough for a very sizable contract. But Harrell was arrested in June, shortly before the start of free agency, and charged with felony marijuana trafficking, which put a halt to his market. He recently had that charge downgraded to a misdemeanor possession charge (he was arrested in Kentucky, where weed remains illegal), which he pled guilty to.
That seemed to clear his market a bit, but not entirely, as it’s still a much smaller contract than Harrell would have received with a clean record. If he avoids legal trouble for the next year, however, the misdemeanor charge will be expunged from his record, and I’d assume it will result in a much heftier contract for the 2023-24 season.
Either way, the Warriors were always unlikely to sign Harrell, and were never linked to him, though fans often brought him up. It’s understandable why fans clamored for him: Harrell is, in many ways, what the Warriors are hoping to get out of James Wiseman. While Wiseman arguably has more tools (a three-point shot and better defensive potential), Harrell is proven. He would have made one heck of a backup to Kevon Looney.
But the Dubs didn’t go into last year with a backup center, so there was no reason to think they’d sign one this year, now that Wiseman is healthy. They seem content to run it back with Looney as the starter, with Draymond Green and JaMychal Green providing small-ball five minutes, and Wiseman being worked into the fold.
We’ll see if the Sixers — who add Harrell to a very intriguing roster featuring Joel Embiid, James Harden, Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, and P.J. Tucker — can bring out the best in Harrell, and potentially meet the Warriors for a June matchup.