It's Time For More Montrezl

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Montrezl Harrell has been a fan favorite for the Rockets this season, providing a much-needed spark every time his number is called. His energy and hustle has produced per 36-minute numbers of 16.5 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. However, the Montrezl sightings have been few and far between. Harrell has only played in 12 of the 21 games so far this season, seeing an average of 13.7 minutes. For a player seemingly producing every time he sees the court, many have have asked why he isn’t seeing more minutes?

It makes very little sense on the surface, but the problem for Montrezl is that Mike D’Antoni views him exclusively as a center within his offense. As a 6-8 five man, Harrell has faced an up-hill battle proving that he can hold his own against bigger and stronger opponents. However, over the past three games - with Nene sitting out in two of them – it seems as if Harrell may be starting to gain D’Antoni’s trust.

Playing an average of 21.3 minutes per game over a three game stretch against the Warriors, Nuggets and Celtics, Montrezl has responded exceptionally well. Against an array of tough opponents, such as Jusuf Nurkic, Al Horford and Draymond Green, Harrell has kept opponents to 30.6% shooting. He’s also been unbelievably effective guarding the paint, only allowing 9 field goal attempts inside of 6 feet and forcing misses on 6 of those 9 attempts.

The evidence is mounting that Harrell is ready to play over Nene, and all of the evidence suggests that he’s an upgrade on both ends. Harrell is much more athletic than Nene, which has not only allowed him protect the paint better, but has also has allowed the Rockets to secure plenty of second chance opportunities. Harrell has shown great activity on the offensive glass pulling in 4.4 offensive rebounds per 36-minutes - compared to Nene’s 2.5.

On defense, Harrell is a much more willing and active defender, capable of blocking shots and staying in front of smaller players (of which Nene seems almost incapable of doing at times). In fairness, a lot of Nene’s struggles are due to his declining athleticism, but his effort also wanes. His lateral movement is worse than poor and he’s not capable of getting up to block a lot of shots.

On offense, Nene has also been limited by his inability to consistently finish over opponents. As we know, Harrell doesn’t have that problem - just ask James Michael McAdoo. The Louisville product is much more bouncy than Nene, and despite the size disadvantage that has allowed him to be more effective.

That couldn’t be more evident than when analyzing the two players individual net ratings. Montrezl Harrell has a current net rating of +6.0, compared to Nene’s +0.0. However, when you also compare their on/off court differentials,the gap between the two is even greater.

The Rockets net rating with Harrell on the court is +6.0, but with him off the court it’s only +2.9 - meaning that Harrell has a +3.1 on/off differential. Nene on the other hand, has a +0.0 Net rating on the court, compared to +4.8 off. Meaning his differential is a horrible -4.8. That's a differential of 7.9 points per 100 possession between the two - which is massive!

That lines up with the eye test right? At least it does for me.

Basically, it’s become apparent that Harrell has had a much more positive effect on this Rockets team than Nene has. A lot of fans see it, I see it, and it seems as if D’Antoni is starting to come around. It wouldn't surprise many if Harrell’s minutes began to increase, especially if Motiejunas isn’t making a return any time soon.

Keep an eye on Harrell’s minutes over the coming games; it definitely seems like his stock his trending up.

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