Once thought to be a memory of the past after declining his player option, free agent big man Montrezl Harrell is back.

Harrell is signing a one-year deal to return to the Sixers, a team source confirmed to 97.3 ESPN. Adrian Wojnarowski was first to report the deal.

The deal will pay Harrell the minimum for a veteran with eight years of experience, $2,891,467.

To remove competitive advantage for younger players on the veteran minimum scale, the NBA reimburses teams for the difference between the respective veteran minimum deal and the veteran minimum salary for a player with two years of experience. Therefore, only $2,019,706 counts towards Philadelphia's salary sheet for 2023-24.

The Sixers are approximately $1,165,452 below the luxury tax line, $8,165,452 below the first apron, and $18,665,452 below the second tax apron. Philadelphia has three roster spots left to fill.

Harrell declining his player option for this season at $2.76 million and re-signing for a raise of $131,441 effectively helped lower his cap hit and maintain that much more flexibility for team construction purposes.

Over the course of 82 games last season, Harrell and Paul Reed essentially platooned the backup center spot. In Harrell's case, former head coach Doc Rivers conceded that the veteran big man wasn't playing well enough to keep his spot in the rotation in the final third of the season. So, Reed became the permanent backup big man.

Harrell had a good moment or two last season, but it was very clear that he couldn't play meaningful minutes in the playoffs. He just doesn't move well enough in space and is mostly apathetic on defense. It might be a different story if his scoring inside approached even his career averages. But, he saw a significant drop-off in efficiency at the rim.

Frankly, there are only two ways this makes sense for the Sixers, and both are uninformed opinion. One would be that Harrell opted out under the agreement that he would re-sign for the veteran minimum. As outlined above, that would lower his cap hit and help the Sixers. The other would be that this is a move to help convince a disgruntled James Harden to play out his player option in Philadelphia instead of demanding a trade.

Regardless, the decision to sign Mo Bamba on Wednesday drew questions about where Reed fits into the plans. This one bolds those questions with yellow highlighter. Reed would ostensibly be the favorite to win the backup big man job over Bamba and Harrell. Yet, are the Sixers really going to use four roster spots on centers when the starting big man is going to play 34-38 minutes per game?

Sources maintain that these signings do not change their desire to keep Reed. But, unless Nick Nurse plans to play Reed at power forward, we can file this signing under bizarre.

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