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After declining the option, Harrell ultimately came back to the Sixers

After declining the option, Harrell ultimately came back to the Sixers originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Montrezl Harrell will return to the Sixers after all.

When Harrell declined his player option last month and became an unrestricted free agent, it seemed fair to assume that he wouldn’t play a second straight season in Philadelphia.

However, Harrell and the Sixers have agreed on a new one-year deal, a source confirmed Thursday night to NBC Sports Philadelphia. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the news.

Harrell’s contract is for the veteran’s minimum and the move does not change the Sixers’ desire to bring back restricted free agent Paul Reed, a team source told NBC Sports Philadelphia.

We’ll see whether the Sixers actually retain Reed, who performed well for them last postseason as the main backup center behind Joel Embiid and also stepped up impressively in two spot starts. Keeping the 24-year-old Reed certainly looks to be a worthy priority, especially given many of his strengths — defensive versatility and disruption; offensive rebounding; constant hustle and energy — mesh well on paper with new Sixers head coach Nick Nurse’s style.

Harrell, 29, played 57 games last season for the Sixers and averaged 5.6 points and 2.8 rebounds. With Reed earning the backup center job, Harrell was not part of the team’s playoff rotation besides a brief Round 1, Game 4 stint when Embiid was sidelined by a right knee injury.

Although Harrell had pre-existing chemistry with James Harden from their days together on the Rockets, the 2019-20 Sixth Man of the Year could not maintain his place on the Sixers’ second unit. Harrell is well-credentialed offensively as a screener, roller, and rebounder, but his defensive deficiencies limited the Sixers. The team regularly played zone defense with him on the court. Although the Sixers often did so effectively, Reed was superior on defense by a wide margin.

Doc Rivers indicated in mid-April that Harden initially preferred Harrell over Reed.

“Early in the year, James wanted no one else on the floor but Trez, because he felt he was the better offensive player,” said Rivers, who the Sixers fired following their second-round defeat to the Celtics. “We’ve tried to convince him that we need defense too with that group.”

Harden exercised his $35.6 million player option last week. The Sixers have explored potential trades centered around the 10-time All-Star.

Since free agency began, the team has added two centers in Harrell and Mo Bamba. The Sixers have also agreed to a one-year deal with 34-year-old guard Patrick Beverley, who was previously teammates with Harden, Harrell, and Tobias Harris. Georges Niang, Jalen McDaniels, and Shake Milton have headed elsewhere.