Los Angeles Lakers: Denver just called checkmate on Montrezl Harrell

Montrezl Harrell of the Los Angeles Lakers - Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Montrezl Harrell of the Los Angeles Lakers - Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /

The Los Angeles Lakers are likely going to have to square off against the Denver Nuggets at some point in the NBA Playoffs to win the NBA Championship.

If the playoffs ended today the Lakers would square off against the Nuggets in the first round as the fourth and fifth seeds, respectively. But with LeBron James joining Anthony Davis on the injury report and Nikola Jokic playing at an MVP level, the two parties are likely going to be different seeds when it is all said and done.

Regardless, we have seen how hot the Nuggets can get in the playoffs. The Lakers should be geared up to play anyone, particularly the Denver Nuggets.

And unfortunately for the Lakers, a tough matchup against the Nuggets just got even worse. Denver made a seemingly small move that has a direct impact on how the Lakers are going to have to play them in a playoff series.

The Denver Nuggets called checkmate on the Los Angeles Lakers using Montrezl Harrell.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Nuggets acquired former Laker Javale McGee in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The idea of reuniting with McGee was floated around this season as the Lakers’ biggest need heading into the NBA Playoffs is the center position.

There are still options for the Lakers to add and fix this problem, but at this point, they are really hoping that the likes of Andre Drummond or Hassan Whiteside get bought out and are interested in being Lakers.

The Nuggets are an absolute matchup nightmare for the Los Angeles Lakers now that they have even more center depth.

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Look, I have been defending Harrell as a defender all season. There were a lot of misconceptions that he was a terrible defender after he was severely misused in the NBA Playoffs last season. In the right situation with a proper center next to him, Harrell is just fine. 

He is not fine as the team’s number one option at the five. Yes, Marc Gasol starts when healthy, but he plays 20 minutes per game and who knows where his body will be by the time the playoffs roll around.

Luckily for the Lakers, they can get away with this against most teams. They cannot get away with this against the Denver Nuggets. Nikola Jokic notably torched Harrell in the NBA Playoffs last season and that is the main reason why I have been advocating for center help all season.

What are the Lakers going to do if Gasol is still banged up and cannot play much in the NBA Playoffs, or if he gets into early foul trouble and is yanked from a game, forcing Trez to play more of the five?

Before you could at least pick your spots with Trez with Anthony Davis on the floor to guard Jokic or when Jokic was on the bench. Now, with McGee, it is hard to find a proper role for Harrell against a team like the Nuggets.

Because even when Mcgee is in, while not being a big scoring threat, he is going to be able to limit the scoring bursts from Harrell down low and is going to out-rebound him significantly. It is a problem.

Oh, and at the time of writing this it has also been reported by Shams that the Nuggets are also acquiring Aaron Gordon, which brings another aspect of athleticism that the Lakers would have to deal with in a playoff series.

Does this mean that the Los Angeles Lakers cannot beat the Denver Nuggets in a playoff series? Absolutely not.

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But the fact remains that the Los Angeles Lakers desperately need size to match up properly with a team like the Denver Nuggets. Montrezl Harrell will not be the answer.