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2021-22 Season Review: Montrezl Harrell

The Hornets landed a long sought after target in a midseason trade, but he didn’t make the impact he was expected to make.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Charlotte Hornets Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Charlotte Hornets were linked to Montrezl Harrell long before they acquired him in a midseason trade with the Washington Wizards. They reportedly tried to sign him prior to the 2020-21 season, but he turned down the offer to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers instead. They eventually got their guy at the trade deadline this past season as the Washington Wizards were offloading any semblance of healthy veteran talent they had on their roster to bottom out for draft positioning.

Harrell seemed like an ideal fit for a Hornets roster that’s been sorely lacking an interior presence on the offensive end for several years. His defensive shortcomings are well noted, but he was still expected to be a net positive, especially with the Hornets trotting out Mason Plumlee and PJ Washington as their only viable centers.

It didn’t go quite as planned though. Harrell averaged the fewer minutes and points per game than he has in any previous stop since his first season with the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2017-18 season. His minutes trended down as the Hornets entered the home stretch—he averaged just 17.1 minutes per game in the Hornets final 10 games, and he was held on the bench for the entirety of a Hornets loss to the Heat in early April.

Despite the minute reduction and lower-than-expected impact, Harrell still was a net positive for the Hornets. The team was 1.8 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor with him off, thanks in large part to better defense, which runs counter to Harrell’s reputation. He averaged 11.4 points per game and his finishing ability around the basket was something not seen on this team in recent memory. He was a great pick and roll partner with LaMelo Ball, and he worked his way into being a nice facilitator from the high post by season’s end.

The Hornets have a decision to make on Harrell this offseason. They have early Bird rights on him, meaning they can go over the salary cap to retain his services. Letting him walk won’t really open anything up to use elsewhere, so I’d say it’s likely the Hornets will try to bring Harrell back if he’s amenable to a deal.