Philadelphia 76ers: Montrezl Harrell isn’t as bad on defense as advertised

Philadelphia 76ers, Montrezl Harrell (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Philadelphia 76ers, Montrezl Harrell (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

There’s no denying that the Philadelphia 76ers were able to sign Montrezl Harrell to a team-friendly contract this offseason. Harrell has been one of the best offensive reserve big men in the NBA for the majority of his career, but the stigma of him being bad defensively has stuck.

Some of it is warranted. Harrell isn’t a small-ball center, he’s just a small center at 6-foot-7 and he’s not being a particularly good perimeter defender. However, he’s not as bad as some have made it out to be.

Philadelphia 76er’s backup big man Harrell isn’t as bad on defense as advertised.

Despite being undersized at center, Harrell has not only made NBA rosters since he was drafted in the 2015 draft but he’s also been a part of a rotation since his second season. That means he’s not a horrendous defender, if so he wouldn’t be playing.

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His general stats defensively aren’t eye-popping, for his career, he’s averaged 5.3 rebounds, 0.6 steals, and 0.8 blocks. However, he’s been serviceable on defense if you evaluate his advanced states.

During the regular season his Per 100 possessions stats, Harrell has a career Defensive Rating of 109. Is that great defense? No, but he’s certainly passable and it should be noted that last season saw his worst rating at 114, but he was on two horrendous defensive teams in the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets.

Now it should be noted that it gets worse in the postseason at his Defensive Rating is 115. However, he had one really bad postseason in the 2019 playoffs when they faced the Kevin Durant-led Golden State Warriors.

Looking at his Defensive Box Plus/Minus scores, only had one regular season where he had a negative score and that was his rookie season. During the postseason, Harrell had three out of five playoff runs he had another score but the first two were with the Houston Rockets when he was a young player barely getting minutes.

The other time was when he was smoked by Nikola Jokic who’s a top-5 player in the league and one of few legit post players in today’s game. Most players struggle against the two-time MVP so it’s a little forgivable.

In short, Harrell isn’t the horrible defender that the media narrative has made him out to be. There are struggles that he’s had in the postseason, but it’s important to consider who he faced in those matchups as well. The Philadelphia 76ers have a solid backup in Harrell and shouldn’t put all their stock into that narrative.

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