Denver Nuggets Sign Al Harrington

My post about how Denver was one of only two teams yet to add a player to their roster since the end of the 2009-10 season (Cleveland is the other) was interrupted by the announcement that they had come to terms with Al Harrington on a five year, $34 million contract which appears to be a full midlevel exception deal (which has been confirmed by Marc Stein in a new edition of the article).

My response is taking action for the sake of taking action is not always the right thing to do.

This move reeks of a panic signing by Denver. With no teams coveting large expiring contracts like Kenyon Martin’s, Denver’s biggest asset was their midlevel exception. They used it entirely on Harrington who is the wrong player with the wrong contract. Denver is going to regret this contract possibly even as early as the 2011-12 season.

The Nuggets certainly made the most of their limited assets over the previous two summers. They have done a great job of signing players to reasonable contracts who fit a need and contributed to the team. Instead of sticking to their guns and working to acquire a reasonably priced big man who could help fill a need they have signed Carmelo Anthony-lite in Harrington.

For those of you not familiar with Harrington, he can play small forward or power forward, does not rebound particularly well, does not defend and is a high usage rate player who like to shoot jumpers. Over the next few days we will look closer at his strengths and weaknesses, but he has one major shortcoming. He is not a center.

The name of the game in the Western Conference is size. We have seen how the long and talented frontline of the Lakers has dominated on the way to back to back championships. Dallas has retained Brendan Haywood and added Tyson Chandler (plus they added Alexis Ajinca in the Chandler trade and also reportedly have signed Ian Mahinmi). Portland who added Marcus Camby last season is hoping for the chance of getting a full season out of Greg Oden with Houston, who added Patrick Patterson, is hoping for the same with Yao Ming. San Antonio has finally brought over Tiago Splitter to play alongside Tim Duncan. Utah has swapped a 6’8” Carlos Boozer for a 6’11” Al Jefferson. Golden State brought in David Lee. Sacramento acquired a mountain by the name of Derrick DeMarcus Cousins in addition to Samuel Dalmebert. The Thunder came out of the draft with Cole Aldrich. Even the Clippers have brought Sofoklis Schortsanitis over from Greece (I swear to God I got his first name and the first six letters of his last name right without looking).

Conversely, Denver has gotten much smaller with Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen dealing with surgical procedures which may cause them to miss time in the regular season, seeing Johan Petro sign with the Nets and now adding Harrington.

Denver did attempt to add some size as they tried to trade into the draft to select Derrick Caracter and they made midlevel exception offers to Jermaine O’Neal and Udonis Haslem. O’Neal chose to sign with the Boston Celtics, who you may recall were just a few minutes away from an NBA championship last month and Haslem took less money to remain with the only NBA team he has played with who just happened to sign the top three free agents on the market. As frustrating as it is to lose out on these two big men, you cannot blame the Nuggets for losing out on players to two championship caliber teams.

With the addition of Harrington Denver has basically given up on acquiring a quality center and committed to playing small ball. Harrington can score; we have seen him do that for years, especially when he plays power forward. He is quick enough to drive by most fours and has a good enough outside shot that he can make them pay if they play off of him.

We also know he will struggle to defend and with Carmelo playing 35 to 40 minutes a night at small forward Denver is going to be playing Harrington at power forward quite a bit, especially early on if Martin and Birdman are not healthy enough to play. I shudder to think of watching the Nuggets’ defense when Harrington and Melo are on the floor at the same time. I fear this trade signals the end of any hope that Denver might be able to return to the solid team defense they displayed two seasons ago.

Denver can win some regular season games with Al Harrington playing 20 or 25 minutes a night at power forward, but barring a midseason trade miracle come playoff time Denver will once again be one and done. In fact, with teams like Houston, New Orleans and possibly even the Clippers and Kings improving next season Denver might find themselves fighting for a playoff spot.

Even if I am wrong about how Harrington fails to fill a need for Denver, the contract he has signed makes this deal a nightmare. Harrington is 30 years old and as a preps to pros player has 12 full NBA seasons on his legs. By the time this contract ends he will be 36 making $7.6 million.  Denver is locked into all five seasons as Chris Tomasson is reporting there are no option years in the contract.  I have been preaching fiscal responsibility with the NBA on the eve of a new, more financially stringent collective bargaining agreement. Denver was in the position of having a clean slate entering the new CBA, but should Carmelo agree to the extension that is currently on the table, with this contract Denver is going to be locked into a mediocre team with little room to maneuver.

I never thought I would say this, but now knowing this is the alternative, I wish the Nuggets would have just matched the offer sheet to Linas Kleiza. He could provide some mediocre outside shooting and rebounding at a much lower cost.

I also think this move signals the end of the Mark Warkentien era in Denver. I may be wrong, and this is pure speculation based on his track record in Denver, but the way he has functioned under the financial constraints that were placed on him and how he found values from Chris Andersen to Dahntay Jones and Arron Afflalo I do not think Warkentien is the man who pushed this deal up the chain. His contract is up in a matter of weeks and Denver has given him permission to seek employment from other teams. We knew he was on his way out, but I have to think if he was still heavily involved Harrington would not have been offered this contract. (I do not mean to diminish the contributions of the other members of the Nuggets’ front office in their ability to find affordable rotation players, but it seems to be more than a coincidence that as Warkentien is seemingly on his way out Denver agrees to their first truly horrible contract in years).

The first memory most Nuggets fans have of Warkentien was when he claimed that he was not playing checkers, but chess when Denver traded Marcus Camby to the Clippers and he proved to be correct. Denver might have more tricks up their sleeve, but sadly the addition of Harrington cannot be characterized as anything other than a checkers move.

  • Kyle

    The only good that can come from this is possibly to just outscore the opponet every night. The nugs have always ranked in the top in scoring and that is with K-Mart and Birdman and Nene all rotating in the 4 and 5 spots (K-mart and Nene can both score in bunches on any given night), but none of these three bigs can be a significant scorer every single game. Playing Harrington at the 4 and then rotating the other guys in will give Denver more offensive weapons as well as rest the ailing knees of the three bigs. The positive on the defense can be that Nene, Bird and Kenyon each play different distinct styles of defense which could be utilized by more minutes in a particular game depending on the opponent.

  • Luis

    I was waiting for Bosh, after was David Lee and after was Al Jefferson and at the final I see Denver sign with Al Harrington. I’m a stupid dreamer…

  • Beefy

    Jeremy…

    Ugh. Just ugh. I totally agree. Harrington is a sieve on defense, and I highly doubt he’s going to significantly increase the Nuggets chances in the postseason, assuming we even get there.

    We needed size and we went small. We needed a center and signed a PF. We needed defense and we signed more offense, to a bad contract.

    I don’t know what to think anymore, other than that it seems like we are on the downslope from the mountain.

  • drewjay

    Is Denver still able to sign another forward / center to a contract? Even for the minimum?

    Also, and this might be the lack of signing anyone this summer, but I am really excited that the Nuggets got Al Harrington. But that’s just me.

    (Side-note: When you were talking about the Kings drafting Derrick Cousins, I think you meant Demarcus)

  • Bill

    The biggest thing I see out of the Harrington signing is that the Dallas Mavericks don’t get him

  • http://www.andrewwoodward.com Andrew

    Keep the faith! He may not be Bosh but good things will come…

  • Colin

    So I take it there is no shot on Louis Amundson or Luis Scola?

  • Joe

    Could they still afford a guy like Anthony Tolliver from Golden State? He’s a bit undersized but he can rebound and play center. Combining a guy like that with Harrington makes more sense than Harrington on his own.

  • http://www.chazkemp.com Chaz

    I don’t think that the Nuggets are done guys. Carmelo & Billups needed more help with scoring and Harrington brings that. Coach Karl will be back and he can get them to play D no problem. I see this as a good signing because they needed to show Melo that they were serious about signing big men.
    Now to be fair – they tried very hard to get a center and they just haven’t found one yet – they will though, mark my words. :)

  • Othe33

    If this takes us out of the discussion for Louis Amundson then it’s an awful move. We need a grinder who can bang in the middle and create havoc on the defensive end…and Harrington isn’t it.

    Now, if we add Amundson on top of this, I like it a lot. I don’t see how that can happen, but if we have the capability to come off the bench with either a scorer or a nuisance we become very difficult to contend with.

  • http://n/a Conor

    I like the move. Outside of Melo we had no real scoring presence from the outside from anyone above the 3 position. He will definetly free up Melo. On the defensive side of things you may be right. In my opinion Birdman is on the way down in his career. If it were my I would try and shop him for a second round pick of possible. If not, I would try and trade him/J.R. for a quality big. This would give us $$$ to work with and an option to attain a true 5.

  • http://twofishandbread.blogspot.com/search/label/nuggets Hoss

    Offensively its a good move. We have cover for KMart in the first few months of the season. And now we have a big coming off the bench that can score. But defense and rebounding have to be concerns for this team. Who is going to do the dirty work? Age is a concern, but Harrington has been fairly healthy historically. Does this move signal the eventual exit of KMart from the team?

  • http://espn.com Chris

    I still want T- Mac for A resonable price, Jermey Can we stil get him.

  • Josh

    Hey, at least it’s not shaq. We wouldn’t have had the money for Scola, and after that there isn’t much left. Wish this was a three year deal though, that’s what makes it tough to like.

  • JT

    This is not too bad of a move, seeing that now we will have another scoring threat when Melo gets traded to the knicks. We all know it is going to happen so hopefully we can get some good draft picks and rebuild.

  • http://www.nobloodnofoul.com/2010/07/11/nuggets-will-rebuild-february/ Jason Lancaster

    I don’t think Harrington’s contract is really all that expensive. First of all, it’s important to remember that a PF who rides the bench is worth at LEAST $2 million a year…so Denver is really only paying a $4-5 million dollar premium for a guy that can start at both the 3 and 4. He’s a decent shooter, and who knows what he might be able to accomplish when he’s wide open in Denver.

    There’s also the fact that Denver needed a scoring big man.

    My suspicion is that Denver has decided to move Kenyon. There’s no way Harrington agrees to this deal unless he’s under the impression K-Mart is leaving…where he’ll go? Who knows. Maybe the often-discussed Okafor for K-Mart deal?

  • Beefy

    Deal is actually for 3/26 instead of 5/34 as proposed according to Hollinger. Really changes the complexion of the deal and allows the Nuggets flexibility moving forward.

  • q

    You said we shouldn’t make a move just for the sake of making one. the same could be said for getting a center besides shaq there wasn’t a center worth having. If K-mart career in denver is nearing the end, we trade at the deadline get a legit big man and bringing Al off the bench. there only so much you can do if you don’t have money or championship team in place

  • Cole

    I see this signing as being a good thing Harrington provides a good scoring 4 that can fill in while K mart is out. When K mart comes back we can trade him or he can be used off the bench as a descent scorer and high energy defender. I am hoping however that after the season is over the Nuggets can move Kmart and his contract and possibly JR if his attitude doesnt change and get Marc Gasol from Memphis.

  • DH

    I agree with just about every word Jeremy said. I would compare Harrington more to J.R. than Melo, though (other than the position he plays). He jacks up shots, he’s very inconsistent, and he doesn’t seem to get along with his coaches. But, like Jeremy, my biggest concern is the salary. With the new CBA, anything is possible. Teams should be trying more than ever to be financially responsible. If there are no good options, then you make no major moves – even if the fans go crazy. Then you can make the right move at the right time for the right price. Just my two cents.

  • NE Nug Fan

    I’ll throw this out there for discussion… Apparently, Orlando was interested in Harrington. They love tall shooters. Who, besides me, would like the Nuggets to pursue a Harrington (probably with other pieces) for Gortat trade? I wonder if we have anything else that Orlando would want?

  • mattmo21

    Jeremy, the same guy who was creaming over the idea of getting Beasley is bitching about picking up a proven NBA player in Al Harrington. This is a great move, Al gives us options he can start but he is used to being a bench player. Worst case scenario, he backs up Kenyon upon his return. Kenyon is a great defender while Al can light it up from ANYWHERE on the floor. Remember when he roasted the Nuggs for 41 points last season? Best case we trade Kenyon and J.R maybe a pick or two for a decent starting center, moving Nene to the 4 and move Harrington to a 6th man role (where he would thrive). Al is a proven scorer who will at least take the double team away from Melo.

    Side note. What if we signed Kleiza and traded him to Toronto (his desired destination) with Kenyon or Jr or both (who really gives a shit at this point) and made a move at Andrea Bargnani. He’s 7″ and can play ball. Bargnani, Nene, and Harrington would give us a great amount of size, and offensive skill. If you can score 150 points every night you don’t need defense, I don’t agree with that mind set but I’m a Nuggets fan, and I understand how we win games.

  • Steven

    Harrington’s addition reminds me of the saying that one unstable character guy can be contained by a team of good veterans but two can’t. Replace unstable character for chucker and you get the Harrington dilemma on a team already including JR Smith.

  • asdqqq

    Harrington is, by all accounts, a great locker room, all effort every night guy. And he had a minor falling out with D’Antoni last year because the coach was not allowing him to play in the post more and telling him to take so many perimeter shots. He may have been a chucker last year, but it doesn’t sound like it was by his choice. He’s also been recently described by scouts as a solid on-ball defender. Just trying to throw out some additional info to temper all the broad, doom & gloom generalizations.

    I can provide links if anyone is curious where I am getting any of this stuff from.

    Also, Boozer measures 6’7.75” w/o shoes, Jefferson, 6’8.25”. I’m not sure a 1/2″ qualifies as a significant increase in length. And I always though Jefferson played shorter than Boozer b/c Jefferson’s game is so ground-bound. The best height I can get for Al Harrington is 6’8”.

  • buddy

    mattmo21 says:
    July 14, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Jeremy, the same guy who was creaming over the idea of getting Beasley is bitching about picking up a proven NBA player in Al Harrington. This is a great move, Al gives us options he can start but he is used to being a bench player. Worst case scenario, he backs up Kenyon upon his return. Kenyon is a great defender while Al can light it up from ANYWHERE on the floor. Remember when he roasted the Nuggs for 41 points last season? Best case we trade Kenyon and J.R maybe a pick or two for a decent starting center, moving Nene to the 4 and move Harrington to a 6th man role (where he would thrive). Al is a proven scorer who will at least take the double team away from Melo.

    Side note. What if we signed Kleiza and traded him to Toronto (his desired destination) with Kenyon or Jr or both (who really gives a shit at this point) and made a move at Andrea Bargnani. He’s 7″ and can play ball. Bargnani, Nene, and Harrington would give us a great amount of size, and offensive skill. If you can score 150 points every night you don’t need defense, I don’t agree with that mind set but I’m a Nuggets fan, and I understand how we win games.

    —————————————————-
    By far the most ignorant and delusional comment here, and that’s saying a lot considering nUGGit fans!! Anyone delusional enough to make such an asinine statement as “If you can score 150 points every night you don’t need defense” just proves s/he is totally clueless when it comes to this game and sports in general.

    LoL