It’s early in the season but some of the new Los Angeles Lakers players are already making an impact. Through six games, Dennis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell are the third and fourth leading scorers for the team. While Schroder has been a strong fit and definitely makes life easier for LeBron James, some are already questioning how Harrell fits.
It’s still very much early in Harrell’s career with the Lakers, but Dan Favale of Bleacher Report believes the team should trade him away already:
Harrell’s individual numbers continue to toe the line of divinity. He’s a devastatingly efficient play-finisher and more at home putting the ball on the floor than many tend to realize. But his value to the Lakers’ larger postseason ambitions is fuzzy.
Teams are already exploiting his vulnerability in space on the defensive end—see: Los Angeles’ Dec. 28 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers—and he doesn’t much elevate their offensive ceiling as a non-shooter. It’s fair to wonder whether the Lakers would’ve even signed him had they known Marc Gasol was gettable.
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No, Lakers Shouldn’t Trade Harrell Yet
While Favale does bring up valid points about Harrell’s fit with the Lakers, it’s certainly still too early to start thinking trade. First of all, the team doesn’t have a backup center to Marc Gasol if they trade Harrell. Also, he brings a lot of scoring off the bench. He’s an excellent offensive player despite the defensive issues.
Harrell is fourth on the team in scoring as he’s averaging over 12 points a game. The Lakers didn’t sign him with the intention of trading him less than two months into his tenure with the team. Perhaps he’s not a long-term option for the team but he should at least get one season. A common complaint about the Lakers last season was that they didn’t get enough scoring off their bench. With Harrell on the squad that shouldn’t be a problem. The Lakers will probably have to sit their stars a lot this season so it’s good to have a guy who is capable of putting up over 20 points a night if necessary.
Harrell’s Defense Is a Problem
Harrell won the Sixth Man of the Year award last season but it wasn’t because of his defense. He’s a prolific scorer off the bench but becomes a liability on defense late in games. These issues were on full display in the recent game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Blazers consistently attacked Harrell in the fourth quarter and it wasn’t a good look for the big man. The main problem with him is that he is undersized for a center. At 6-foot-8, bigger centers have their way with Harrell. This was a problem for him against Nikola Jokic in last year’s playoffs. The Lakers would be wise to limit how much they play Harrell late in games unless they need a lot of points.