While we don’t know if the NBA will return this year, we do know that free agency will go on as planned, which means former Louisville basketball star Montrezl Harrell is about to get paid.
The 2019-2020 NBA season was one that was expected to see the Los Angeles Clippers compete for an NBA Title behind their acquisitions of star wings Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. While all the talk centered on those two coming to LA, those who watched the Clippers nearly take down the Warriors in the playoffs as an eight seed, knew that the player who may benefit most was former Louisville basketball star and potential sixth man of the year candidate, Montrezl Harrell.
Harrell developed into the inside force that the Clippers needed in 2019-20, averaging a career-high 18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game, and it was a huge reason why the team sat in second place in the wastern conference when the league came to a standstill nearly four weeks ago.
While the season isn’t over yet (at least not officially) that hasn’t stopped anyone from looking ahead to the offseason where a few big names will be hitting the open market, including Harrell. The time has finally come for the five-year veteran to test the waters as a big-time free agent looking for a major pay raise, after signing a two-year deal back in 2018 that paid him just $6 million per season.
Expectations were for Montrezl Harrell to hit free agency as one of the most desired players on the market, potentially demanding anywhere from $18 to $22 million per season. The NBA trade deadline and the hit to the NBA from COVID-19 are likely to play major factors in the salary cap this offseason (whenever that shall come) and it likely means that Harrell will receive less than what the market would normally say he’s worth.
Unlike most offseasons, this one features only a very small handful of teams with big money to spend on the free-agent market. Atlanta, Charlotte, Detroit, Miami, and Phoenix are the only teams currently projected to have more than $20 million to spend this summer, and several of those rosters already feature prominent big men who would compete with Harrell for minutes.
That leaves another summer for Harrell with a limited market while seeking a major pay raise. This time, fortunately, Harrell is going to get paid to a level that is much more in line with his 18.6 ppg and 7.1 rpg as the primary center for the title-contending Los Angeles Clippers.
There’s always the chance that Harrell could return to LA, but due to salary cap restrictions, the likely desire from Harrell to move into a starting role and having other mouths to feed, the bag that should be paid to their star big will likely have to be spread out to fill the roster around max contract players, Leonard and George.
According to Jovan Buha, who covers the Clippers for The Athletic, the team only has roughly $6 million to offer Harrell at this time (although that amount could increase with denouncing rights and cap holds). That is well below what he is expected to receive, which means that unless the Clippers move another piece or two, Harrell will likely walk or be apart of a sign & trade deal.
With that being the case, let’s take a look at three teams who could be potential fits for Montrezl Harrell this summer.