Montrezl Harrell Wins 2019-20 NBA Hustle Award
By Brian Martin
LA Clippers forward-center Montrezl Harrell has won the 2019-20 NBA Hustle Award, which honors the player that makes the energy and effort plays to help his team win throughout the season.
What were often referred to as intangibles – diving on the floor for loose balls, sacrificing your body by taking charges, boxing out, setting great screens, deflecting passes and contesting shots – are now measurable stats. While these actions may not appear in the traditional box score, they are imperative to team success on a nightly basis.
Harrell is a player that has exemplified hustle since he first entered the NBA in 2015. He plays with an infectious energy and uses his combination of strength, athleticism and determination to outwork his opponents. Standing 6-7 and 240 pounds, Harrell has frequently been called undersized for his position and used the criticism he heard about his game as motivation.
“It still drives me to this day because I hear all the outside noise of what I can't do every day,” Harrell told the Inside the NBA crew after being named the Kia NBA Sixth Man as the top bench player in the league. “I fuel and feed off of things like that and if people haven't really realized that then keep adding fuel to the fire. I come into the game looking to just work and do everything I can to put myself in a position to not only better myself, but better my teammates and better the people that surround me. My work speaks for itself.”
Harrell’s work has brought him from a seldom used reserve player, that requested to be sent down to the G League in order to get some playing time and work on his game, to an integral piece on a team with championship aspirations in the 2020 postseason.
This season, Harrell averaged career highs in points (18.6 PPG), rebounds (7.1 RPG) and minutes played (27.8 MPG). But it is the numbers that don’t appear in the traditional box score that earned him the fourth-annual NBA Hustle Award.
All stats referenced below are from the start of season until March 11, unless otherwise noted. The seeding games, which were played July 30 – Aug. 14 as part of the season restart, did not count toward the NBA Hustle Award or the league’s other traditional end-of-season awards.
|Hustle Stat||Per 1 Minute||Rank (Overall)|
|All Box Outs||0.208||4th|
|Box Out Team REB||0.119||3rd|
|Box Out Player REB||0.04||27th|
|Offensive Box Outs||0.015||31st|
|Defensive Box Outs||0.193||1st|
|Loose Balls Recovered||0.026||166th|
NOTE: Minimum 1,000 minutes played (228 players eligible); All hustle stats are measured on a per-minute basis as to even the comparison among players that play varying amounts of minutes per game.
Harrell finished with 30 charges drawn during the regular season (as of March 11), which tied him with Toronto’s Kyle Lowry for the league lead. Harrell gets the edge over Lowry in charges drawn on a per-minute basis as his 30 charges came in 150 fewer minutes than Lowry.
Drawing charges requires a combination of skill and sacrifice that not all players possess. The skill comes in having the awareness to see the opportunity to take a charge, put yourself in position to get to the spot first, make sure you’re outside the restricted area so it’s not a block and all of these decisions have to be made in a split second.
The sacrifice comes in putting your body on the line in order to draw the charge. Players like Harrell and Lowry seem to thrive on that contact rather than shy away from it, and their teams benefit from that mindset.
BOX OUTS / CONTESTED REBOUNDS
Harrell averaged a career-best 7.1 rebounds in 2019-20 and put in plenty of work to help himself and his teammates clean the glass this season. Through March 11, the Clippers ranked third in rebounds per game (48.0) and rebound percentage (51.5%).
Nearly half of Harrell’s rebounds were contested; his 49.4% contested rebound rate ranked 8th among the 88 players with at least 300 rebounds in games played through March 11.
Harrell ranked fourth in overall box outs per minute (0.208) and first in defensive box outs per minute (0.193). Harrell’s box outs not only helped him grab rebounds, but it cleared the path for his teammates to grab them as well.
Harrell ranked 27th in securing a rebound when he boxed out, but ranked 3rd in his team securing a rebound when he boxed out. The fact that Harrell’s box outs led to more rebound opportunities for teammates than himself highlights the selflessness of a hustle player.
CONTESTED SHOTS / RIM PROTECTION
Harrell established himself as one of the league’s top rim protectors this season. Through March 11, Harrell ranked 21st in blocks at 1.14 per game, but his ability to contest and alter shots – even without necessarily coming up with a block – helped him hold opponents to just 51.4% shooting at the basket. Of the 50 players that contested at least 250 shots at the rim this season, Harrell ranked 8th in lowest FG% allowed.
But Harrell did more than just patrol the paint. Whether it was big men looking to stretch the floor, or guards and wings that he got switched on, Harrell proved he could defend on the perimeter as well as in the paint. Of the 216 players that defended at least 100 spot up possessions this season, Harrell allowed the lowest points per possession (0.70) and effective field goal percentage (35.6%).
Over the entire season, the Clippers ranked 4th in both percentage of plays (22.6%) and points per game (23.8) coming off pick-and-roll ball handler plays. The Clippers ranked 8th in efficiency on these play types, scoring 0.92 points per possession overall.
Harrell was not only the Clippers’ best ball screener, but one of the best in the entire NBA. Of the 115 players that averaged at least 10 screens per game, Harrell ranked 9th in points per possession as ball screener (1.17).
Harrell set 833 screens for Lou Williams – his off-the-bench partner who presented Harrell with the Kia Sixth Man Award after winning it the past two seasons – which were the 6th most screens for a teammate duo in the league. Those screens led to 1.14 points per possession for the Clippers. But Harrell’s screens were effective for all of his teammates, with only Landry Shamet being held under one point per possession off a Harrell screen.
|Lou Williams||Montrezl Harrell||833||1.14|
|Kawhi Leonard||Montrezl Harrell||299||1.28|
|Paul George||Montrezl Harrell||185||1.24|
|Patrick Beverley||Montrezl Harrell||77||1.00|
|Landry Shamet||Montrezl Harrell||67||0.92|
|Reggie Jackson||Montrezl Harrell||55||1.48|