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What Happened to Montrezl Harrell?
I know the Lakers won last night, but I just simply can’t wrap my head around Montrezl having two straight DNP’s. And it’s not just that he had two straight DNP’s; that would be normal, for example, if the Lakers were playing AD at the 5 and then subbed in Drummond for those bench C minutes (I would still attempt to find Montrezl some minutes in that case, but it would at least be understandable that he would sit). But, that’s not what the Lakers are doing. Instead, they’ve been starting BOTH AD & Drummond and have been giving the bench C minutes to Marc Gasol. Yes, I’m as confused about that as you are.
Potential Rationale (?)
I’m not in Frank Vogel’s head, but it seems that he’s trying to take advantage of the lack of size that Phoenix has in their starting lineup. By starting both AD and Drummond, they get AD matched up on either Bridges or Crowder, 2 guys who he can shoot over with ease. Ayton is forced to guard Drummond, because if Drummond had Crowder or Bridges on him, he would dominate down low. This big lineup also theoretically allows them to excel on the glass (However, the Lakers have only outrebounded the Suns by an average of 3.3 rebounds per game in this series). I’m with Frank Vogel up until this point in his thinking; I wouldn’t do it myself, but two reasonable basketball minds can differ about whether Drummond or someone else should get that 5th starting spot, depending on what you want to take advantage of as a team. Where Vogel loses me, though, is where he plays Marc Gasol instead of Montrezl in those bench forward/center minutes. In these last 2 games that Montrezl has sat, Marc Gasol has averaged 18.3 minutes and has been a -17. In the context of the Lakers winning both of those games (by a combined 21 points), Gasol’s plus-minus is embarrassing, and it’s the worst on the entire team by a 5 point (!) margin (the next closest is THT with -2.5). I would have to guess that the rationale here is spacing the floor while still having some size and defense underneath. But, Gasol has gotten completely obliterated in the paint (by multiple guys on multiple different occasions) and has offered up virtually no resistance, so that essentially throws his height advantage out the window if he can’t be anything close to a rim protector or a paint presence.
Did Vogel Forget?
So, this is the part that I’m struggling with most: Frank Vogel has one of the most dominant bench sparks in the league, and he’s opted only to use him in one game this series. This was game 1, in which Harrell put up 12 and 3 on ⅘ shooting from the field and ⅘ from the free throw line, so it’s safe to say he was extremely productive in that first game, especially when you consider he only played 15 minutes. During the regular season, Trez put up 13 and 6 per game in 22 minutes, all while shooting an efficient 63% from the field. This doesn’t even tell the full story, though. Last year’s playoffs were tough for Trez because he came late to the bubble and could never really get his feet under him. The year before, however, he put up 18 and 5 on 73% shooting from the field IN THE PLAYOFFS. He’s just a flat out beast in that painted area; he can take you one on one and has a variety of flip shots around the rim that are very tough to defend when you have an athlete like him coming at you downhill. He’s also great at moving without the ball and finding gaps in the defense, all within the flow of the offense. We saw him do loads of this on the Clippers with Lou Williams, and I find it hard to believe that Lebron couldn’t utilize him effectively in a similar way. Unless Harrell’s game has regressed significantly (which I just don’t see), there is absolutely no reason why he couldn’t regain some confidence and get back to what he did just 2 years ago for the Clippers in the playoffs (not to mention last regular season when he was a 6th MOTY finalist). My case for Trez would be simple: he’s more of an offensive threat than both Drummond and Gasol, and you’re certainly not gaining enough out of Gasol (or Drummond for that matter) on the defensive end to justify having Harrell spend the entire game on the bench.
Another thing I want to note is that a large focus of this series should be saving Bron and AD’s energy, especially considering the injuries that they’re battling. That doesn’t mean they should risk losing this series, but Vogel should find those guys some rest whenever he can, and I don’t just mean rest on the bench. These guys are both having to create too much while they’re out there. I would like to see Lebron/AD on the court with Trez; Harrell is a guy you can give the ball to, get out of the way, and say “go get a bucket”, and the only other 3 players that can do the same on the Lakers right now are Schroder, Bron, and AD. Trez’s ability to create for himself would allow AD and Bron to get some valuable ON-COURT rest, so you mean to tell me you can’t find room for THAT GUY to make his way on the court for at least 10-15 minutes a game? Cmon now...
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