WALTHAM, Mass. — For many NBA draft prospects, the pre-draft process presents a time to show potential future employers how hard they’ve worked to improve in any areas of weakness they might have.
Montrezl Harrell is taking a different approach.
To the Louisville forward, pre-draft workouts are all about accentuating the positives.
“(I was) basically just looking to come and play hard, compete and just get out there in the drills,” Harrell said Thursday after completing a workout with the Boston Celtics. “I didn’t try to come in here and try to show them that I can shoot the ball or show that my ballhandling is great or anything like that. I just came in here and tried focus on what I do best and make sure that they see it.”
What Harrell does best is fly around the court. With the Cardinals, he was known as a tenacious defender to whom all the typical intangibles cliches — “great motor,” “high-energy,” “passionate,” etc. — perfectly apply.
What he’s not known for is his perimeter game, which for his first two collegiate seasons was nearly nonexistent. In 77 games as a freshman and sophomore, he attempted just three 3-pointers. Harrell did diversify his shot selection upon deciding to return to school, but midway through his junior season reverted to what had worked for him in the past.
After putting up 31 threes over the first 18 games of this season, he attempted just six over the final 17, including zero in Louisville’s four NCAA Tournament games.
“In the beginning of the season, I think I did (try to showcase my range),” Harrell said. “I took a lot of threes in the beginning of the season. … But midway (through) the season, I went back to doing the things that I did best. I knew the scouts didn’t love me because I was able to step out and shooter the 3-pointer. It was great that I was able to showcase that in some games coming back to the University of Louisville, but I just stuck with what I was known for.”
Harrell is well-aware of the NBA’s trend toward big men who can step out and shoot the jumper, and he has worked to improve his own. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer noted seeing a “smooth, mechanically sound jump shot out to about 20 feet” during Harrell’s workout with the Hornets earlier this week.
Still, the 21-year-old knows shooting prowess isn’t what made him a projected first-round draft pick.
“Yes, I have heard (I have to develop my range),” he said. “But the crazy thing is, even though they’re saying that, that’s not why the NBA scouts love me. They definitely love my high energy, the passion I play with every possession and the high intensity and high motor I play with every game. As crazy as that may be, I’ve definitely heard it, but it’s not what they’re looking for me to do right now.
“When I get to an organization, you see everyone transform into being able to hit the jump shot, and that comes along with work. But that’s not what they’re looking at me to do right now.”
One organization evaluating Harrell is the Celtics, who were projected to select the 6-foot-8 forward with the 28th overall pick in ESPN.com’s latest mock draft. Boston typically favors bigs who can shoot, but director of player personnel Austin Ainge said 3-point range isn’t a prerequisite for every power forward.
“He tried to shoot more threes this year, and he’s worked on it,” said Ainge, who sees Harrell as “a four who can play some five” in the NBA. “He knows. But he actually can handle the ball pretty well, so he can play some out there. But I don’t think every power forward in the league needs to be a great 3-point shooter. There is room for other strengths, and there are good players in the league that aren’t stretch fours and are fours that are good players.
“Blake Griffin doesn’t shoot a lot of threes. I’d take him.”
Thumbnail photo via Jamie Rhodes/USA TODAY Sports Images