Montrezl Harrell has stepped up his game for Sixers

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Montrezl Harrell reacts after a basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Sixers made a lot of additions this off-season with the sole intention of improving the bench. P.J. Tucker, Danuel House Jr., De’Anthony Melton. However, the one who often goes overlooked is Joel Embiid’s backup: Montrezl Harrell.

Montrezl Harrell has had a very quiet year thus far into the season. He’s currently averaging 6.1 points per game, 2.9 rebounds per game, and 0.6 blocks per game. He’s playing an average of 12.6 minutes per game as well. This is a far cry from Sixth Man of the Year Trez with the Clippers. During his award-winning season, he was averaging 18.6 points per game and 7.1 rebounds per game on 58.0% shooting from the field.

However, something has happened over the last three games for the award-winning big man. With Joel Embiid missing games with injury, many expected Harrell to get the start at center. Instead, Doc Rivers allowed Trez to still operate as a sixth man for the first two games while still expanding his role to be the most effective. Doc has started small ball center P.J. Tucker at center in those two games. In Montrezl Harrell’s last three games before Embiid returned, he played 75 minutes, putting up season highs. Prior to this, Trez hadn’t played over 20 minutes in a game since November.

While the sample size is incredibly small, during that small three-game stretch, Montrezl Harrell averaged 18.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game. He has been one of the most consistent members of the Sixers, and while most of the praise rightfully belongs to Montrezl himself, some should be given to Doc Rivers for proving that he knows how to put Harrell in a position to succeed. Even in the game that Rivers’ started Harrell at center, the big man only played 24 minutes en route to his season-high 20 points.

The days of Montrezl Harrell winning Sixth Man of the Year awards are probably behind us now, but for his contract and the level he’s been playing at with Embiid out, Trez could turn out to be one of the best additions Sixers’ President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey made this season, especially if he continues to be the consistent backup capable of stepping up when Embiid misses time that the Sixers have needed for so long.