You can find the rest of Trevor's Prospect Profiles here.
There are a ton of power forward and center prospects who could go at the end of the first round in this year's draft. Of the middle 20 picks in Draft Express's latest mock draft, 13 are projected to play the four or five. Among those, projected to the Cleveland Cavaliers at pick number 24, is Louisville power forward Montrezl Harrell. Harrell was a player who briefly considered entering the 2014 NBA Draft, but instead decided to come back for his junior season at Louisville. The general perception of Harrell still hasn't changed; that he's an energy bench big with few finesse skills. But has he improved, and is he someone the Cavs should be looking at?
Who is Montrezl Harrell?
Harrell, a power forward from Louisville, was one of the more fun college players to watch this past season. He was the Cardinals' second-leading scorer and leading rebounder, averaging 15.7 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. A great athlete who played above the rim on offense and created havoc on defense, Harrell made at least a few jaw-dropping plays per game, including my absolute favorite from this season:
Harrell doesn't have the greatest size for a power forward prospect, but he makes up for that with a combination of athleticism and motor. The draft combine was a mixed bag for Harrell, as he didn't participate in shooting or testing and measured in at just 6'7", but did weigh in at a solid 250 pounds and he has a 7'4" wingspan. It's a shame he didn't at least do the vertical jumps and agility testing, because from watching Harrell, it really seems he's quite explosive and agile. However, we can't really compare him to similar prospects or project how that'll translate as well as we'd like. Still, Harrell appears to be a solid athlete, an explosive leaper who can throw down dunks and contest shots, and a guy who's quick enough to defend on the perimeter a bit and take opponents off the dribble. He may have trouble as a rebounder at the next level, because he's not very tall and lacks ideal strength to be able to battle with bigger centers, but if he can get stronger, that wingspan will help negate that, and Harrell can become an effective player despite his height disadvantage.
Harrell isn't a very polished offensive player, but he should be an acceptable outlet as a fourth or fifth option in an NBA lineup. Harrell shot 56.6 percent from the field as a junior because he did most of his damage around the rim, via dump-off passes and post-ups. Length doesn't bother him much here, and he can finish and draw contact well inside. He's also a very good offensive rebounder, grabbing 3.6 offensive boards per 40 minutes, and he's not afraid to battle inside for positioning. His post game is developing, as he's got a nice righty hook and a variety of solid face-up moves, but he's far from polished here, and it's hard to envision him doing much damage with the ball in his hands offensively. When an opponent sends a double-team, he too easily gets swallowed up and doesn't think quickly to find a way out, which helped lead to a high turnover rate out of post-ups. He also really doesn't have a future on the perimeter; he's not much of a shooter, with a bad shot release (53 percent career free throw shooter) and flat jumper. Harrell has gotten better as a passer in the past year, but he's still not really what you'd call a playmaker. Overall, Harrell's going to be a very limited offensive player even if he does improve as a post-up threat or evolve as a pick-and-roll big. But as an offensive rebounder and finisher, he can still survive in an offense without completely nuking spacing.
Defense is where Harrell will make his most impact. He's not that fundamentally sound right now, but thanks to his drive and athletic ability, he causes a fair amount of havoc on this end. Harrell was great at prowling the weak side of the defense and getting blocks and steals as a help defender, even by Louisville standards. He should be able to do this at the next level, too, because he has the wingspan to get into passing lanes and he loves to try to disrupt shots. Harrell can stay with quicker opponents on the perimeter too, but he does have work to do here to become an overall plus defender. He often gets happy feet trying to anticipate movement on the perimeter, and more talented scorers can catch him off guard and get past him.
Harrell isn't a great defensive rebounder either, which is concerning for a player who has the best chance to make a mark in the NBA as a warrior in the paint. He only posted a defensive rebounding rate of 19.1 as a senior (not cracking the top 10 in the ACC), and there are multiple things he'll need to correct to realize his potential on the defensive glass. This is where Harrell's strength needs to improve most, because he can get pushed around inside by bigger guys, and he really struggled to contain power forwards with NBA size, as you can see in the above video from the Kentucky game. Harrell also takes himself out of position trying to block shots he has no business trying to contest; Harrell was a decent collegiate shot blocker, but at times he almost looked like a young Serge Ibaka with the way he disregarded everything else defensively trying to protect the rim. That's a habit he'll have to break in the NBA, because he's not going to be getting his hands on as many shots against NBA competition, and would be better served trying to end possessions with rebounds rather than swatting at floaters.
Harrell's a non-stop motor guy, which is always going to help when you're at a size disadvantage for your position. But he can be a little erratic at times, playing with a great energy but sacrificing more technical skill development in order to make plays. It's this balance that Harrell's going to have to get better at managing in order to be an effective player at the next level. It's nice to be a disruptive defensive player and highlight machine offensively, but if you can't execute simple plays on either end consistently, it really limits your effectiveness as an overall player. I worry about how Harrell will make that transition, especially because he didn't seem to get more technically sound in his return year at Louisville, and now he's entering the NBA as a raw 21 year old.
Harrell's erratic play and athleticism make a player like Hakim Warrick a good comparison. You may remember him as Carmelo Anthony's teammate at Syracuse, but Warrick was a decent rotation player for the Grizzlies, Bucks, and Bulls. Warrick's first three years in the NBA progressed in about the same ways you'd want Harrell to: he went from an athletic, raw project and became a better defender, got stronger and improved on the offensive glass, and fixed his shot a tad and became a threat from 18 feet. Warrick's career didn't last long, of course, but he was a decent rotation player for a few years, and I think that's what you're asking of Harrell if you draft him.
How Does He Fit on the Cavaliers?
Harrell really doesn't fit on the Cavs, simply because his skill set overlaps with Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov too much. There's already more than a small logjam at the four with Thompson, Kevin Love, and LeBron James deserving minutes, and while I think the Cavs can draft a guy who will take minutes at the four, that player needs to be able to fill a weakness for this team, either by being able to step out to the perimeter next to LeBron in small-ball lineups like Jonathan Holmes or project as a definite shot-blocking threat like Christian Wood. Harrell doesn't do much that the Cavs can't already rely on from Thompson or Mozgov, and he probably can't shift down to the five ever. Harrell's a better fit on a team like Memphis or Brooklyn, who have potential frontcourt minutes and culd use a rebounder/finisher type. Cleveland just doesn't seem like a good option for him.