Despite Montrezl Harrell’s infectious energy when he is on the court, the LA Lakers center has been sidelined by coach Frank Vogel for Games 2 and 3 of their first-round series with the Phoenix Suns.
The 27-year-old played 15 minutes in Game 1 against the Suns and logged 12 points. However, his size made him a bad defensive matchup against the likes of Deandre Ayton. The LA Lakers wanted to win physical series such as this one and dominate the paint, which is why they moved for Andre Drummond in the middle of the season.
Meanwhile, former third-choice center Marc Gasol is more of a perimeter defender, while Harrell is an undersized big man. That led to last year’s Sixth Man of the Year being left out by Vogel and will perhaps not appear again in this series.
The LA Lakers aren’t quite playing like reigning champions yet, but they’re certainly warming up to it.
On Thursday night, they rolled over the Phoenix Suns in game three 109-95, putting in yet another terrific defensive performance. Chris Paul is struggling with a shoulder injury he suffered in Game 1 but the Lakers are still gaining momentum after they struggled through the end of the season with their own injuries.
As a result, the Suns have had to rely on Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker for their offensive threat while Paul has been off his usual pace. Ayton, in particular, has been dominant in the paint and has secured a double-double in each matchup so far, averaging 21.7 points and 12.3 rebounds.
That has prompted Frank Vogel to focus a lot of defensive attention on the 22-year-old center. Hence the use of Andre Drummond and Marc Gasol’s minutes as the two Lakers playing centers. Montrezl Harrell is, unfortunately, an average defender at best. When the former 6MOY is on the floor, it often forces Anthony Davis to exert increased attention and pressure on the defensive end of the floor.
Gasol and Drummond are far better suited to a physical matchup like this one and give the LA Lakers the ability to have three imposing players on the court alongside Davis and LeBron. Gasol has athletic limitations at this stage in his career, but his communication and positioning are more valuable to the Lakers than Montrezl Harrell’s energy and athleticism.
Montrezl Harrell is not your traditional big man and is unfortunately too small on the defensive end. Although his offensive contributions are vital during the regular season, when James and Davis are playing heavy minutes in the playoffs, his offense is not needed as much. Instead, Gasol’s floor-spacing and ball movement proves to be more effective.
That leaves Harrell in the position Gasol was in previously. It is necessary for him to stay ready in case he is needed but Montrezl Harrell is likely going to be the third-choice center going forward.