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Can Montrezl Harrell replicate his Sixth Man of the Year season with Sixers?

Let’s discuss arguably the most surprising addition to the new Sixers’ roster in veteran big man Montrezl Harrell.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be profiling every player currently on the Sixers’ roster ahead of training camp, which begins on Sept. 27.

Montrezl Harrell

Age: 28

Contract status: On a two-year veteran's minimum deal worth $5,223,516 with a player option for 2023-24. Harrell will earn a base salary of $2,463,490 in the 2022-23 season.

While the addition of Montrezl Harrell can be debated, his contract is undoubtedly a steal. He’ll outproduce his salary in the regular season alone, where he’s proven to be a very good player.

It’s safe to assume that Harrell is joining the Sixers with a promise of guaranteed playing time right off the bat. The Sixers’ backup center role was never officially solidified this offseason, although most expected Paul Reed — who had a very solid postseason debut — to take this spot.

Now, Harrell has the keys to the backup center role where he should preform well in the regular season. He’s a high flyer, and has proven to be one of the best roll men in the entire NBA. He’ll obviously pair well alongside James Harden, but I’ll be intrigued to see how often the Sixers look at a Tobias Harris-Harrell pick-and-roll game. The stats show Harris is a capable ball handler in the pick-and-roll, and the potential for that duo to flourish is there.

Harrell fills in a lot of holes from last year’s Sixers. First and foremost is rebounding — where Harrell has made a name for himself. He plays bigger than his listed 6-foot-7 frame, and is always attacking the offensive glass for a put-back or kick out. This alone will be a huge breath of fresh air, as the Sixers were simply a terrible rebounding team last season.

One new dimension Harrell brings to the Sixers’ bench unit is his ability to create offense. Obviously, he’s not gonna isolate often, but he is capable of getting his own shots off without a creator. Expect a similar offensive game to former Sixer Andre Drummond — straight line drives and layups. Montrezl is capable of driving to the rim where he has soft touch.

Defensively, Harrell should do fine in limited time throughout the regular season. He’s giving up a few inches and pounds, but the Sixers should have enough length and two-way talent to not have that be a huge factor in the regular season. Some of this also falls on Doc Rivers, who needs to be more willing to adjust on the fly (where have you heard this before?).

The main concern with Harrell is Rivers overplaying him in the postseason, which is something that we all saw back in the NBA bubble. It ultimately led to the Clippers imploding, with Rivers getting fired as Nikola Jokic torched Harrell relentlessly.

Harrell’s postseason stats and defense are valid concerns, but the Sixers shouldn’t have to lean on Harrell as much as the 2020 Clippers did. The Sixers have Joel Embiid, who will hopefully be playing 35-plus minutes per game at that point in the season. No disrespect to Ivica Zubac, who is a very solid player, but the talent gap is much wider between him and Embiid. The Sixers simply have to hope Harrell can hold his own in the postseason for 15-ish minutes, or that Doc is willing to turn to Reed for defensive purposes.

Season outlook: It’s safe to assume Harrell will be the Sixers’ main backup big off the bench throughout the regular season. Harrell’s proven regular-season track record makes him a great value signing at a minimum deal. He’ll be a perfect fit offensively with this team and should consistently produce double-digit points per game off the bench — which is a luxury the Sixers haven’t had in awhile.

The postseason concerns are real, but they’ll matter less if the Sixers have a healthy and fresh Embiid come playoff time. Until then, the Sixers should rest Embiid regularly throughout the season, as they have a great combination of backup bigs between Harrell and Reed. Montrezl Harrell is a talented player at a budget cost. Both factors make this signing a no brainer, but it ultimately falls on Doc Rivers to use him correctly.

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