Montrezl Harrell still has until July 31 to decide whether or not he wants to opt in to the second year of the two-year deal he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers last offseason, but as of Thursday, we know which way he’s leaning.
According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, Harrell will likely be picking up his player option for the 2021-22 season. Pincus reported as much in his breakdown of what’s next for Chris Paul, but no matter where Paul decides to go next, the below reporting (emphasis mine) is relevant as it pertains to the Lakers:
Schroder will decide his fate as an unrestricted free agent, regardless of what L.A. might prefer. The Lakers could try to executive a similar move with Caruso or Horton-Tucker, or one for Paul without a sign-and-trade built around Montrezl Harrell, Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope. That would require Harrell to pick up his $9.7 million player option, which might not be an issue. The most recent intel on Harrell suggests he may be leaning toward opting in.
If you want to listen to more from Pincus on this topic and other Lakers stuff, you can do so here:
This is a really good listen for Lakers fans, an off-season preview— Ralph Mason (@Ralph_MasonJr) July 22, 2021
Pincus: "My intel is that Trez is leaning towards opting in" https://t.co/JODyoQTdpr
But that reporting is extremely notable, as our own Jacob Rude wrote about in his season review on Harrell this morning. Harrell had nearly as good of a season as he did for the Clippers while winning Sixth Man of the Year (better, in some ways), but he did not appear to be a great fit on a Lakers team that does not frequently prioritize him as the roll man in pick and rolls. He is a luxury for this team, but not a necessity.
All that noted, Harrell’s limitations and postseason benching, combined with very few teams having a ton of money to spend this summer, likely mean that he would not be getting $9.7 million annually on the open market. And while his comments about his, shall we say, dissatisfaction, with the Lakers’ coaching staff’s usage of him — or lack thereof — left his decision a little more up in the air, it always appeared more likely than not that he’d opt in to his deal rather than test free agency. He just wasn’t going to get enough money this year to make it worth it, not when there will be more teams with cap space next summer, following a year with (likely) more normal revenue streams for the league.
But just because Harrell is opting in doesn’t mean he’ll be back. Just like at the trade deadline, the team will likely shop him around this summer, and his contract could be useful in salary matching for some of the players the Lakers have already been linked to (Russell Westbrook, anyone?). Given that Harrell is represented by Rich Paul of Klutch Sports — who also reps LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Talen Horton-Tucker — we can expect that even if he opts in, it may be with the understanding that the team will work with him to try and find a new home where he can showcase his skills and get paid next summer.
Harrell opting in would give the Lakers seven players under contract for next season, with James, Davis, Caldwell-Pope, Marc Gasol, Kyle Kuzma and the non-guaranteed contract of Alfonzo McKinnie currently on the books for 2021-22. He still has time before making his final decision, but we can all probably move forward safely assuming that he’ll at least be under contract for next year. Whether or not he’ll be on the Lakers’ roster on opening night is a different question entirely.