After I trashed the Nuggets signing of Al Harrington there was a glimmer of hope that the 5 year, $33.437 million contract was not as bad as first thought. John Hollinger reported that he heard the final two seasons were only partially guaranteed. It appears that is not the case as Chris Tomasson had this little blurb in his article on the signing:
While Dallas, like Denver, offered Harrington the full mid-level exception starting at $5.765 million, Harrington didn’t want to talk about whether the Mavericks were willing to offer him the five fully guaranteed years that Denver did.
Five fully guaranteed years. Once again we are faced with the specter of this deal weighing the Nuggets down in the near future.
The most frequently used argument in favor of bringing Harrington to Denver is that his outside shooting ability will prevent so many double and triple teams from converging on Carmelo Anthony. There are several issues I have with that assertion.
First of all, Harrington will have to greatly improve on his outside shooting in order to protect Melo. He is a solid shooter, but certainly not a deadly one. Last season he only converted on only 35% of his shots from 15 to 23 feet and was slightly worse from behind the arc converting on 34.2% of his threes. He has shot better in the past converting on 42% of his midrange shots two seasons ago, plus he made 43.4% of his threes in 2006-07. He has the potential to shoot well, but seeing as how he is on the downside of his prime seasons I would not expect a repeat of his career highs. I doubt many teams will choose to play man to man against Carmelo because Harrington is setting up from the perimeter.
Secondly, since when are double and triple teams a bad thing? When a team commits more than one defender to an offensive player, they are putting themselves at a disadvantage. A well drilled offensive team will make defenses that double pay a stiff price. Denver has excellent three point shooters in Chauncey Billups, Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson. J.R. Smith had a horrid season from distance, but I would expect him to bounce back strong next season. Those four are all much better three point shooters than Harrington and teams still sent extra defenders at Carmelo at will.
Third, the argument is teams used Kenyon’s man to double Carmelo and they will not leave Harrington like they did Kenyon. My response is how many times did you see Kenyon cut through the lane and receive a pass from Carmelo because he was left uncovered? Again, a double team is not necessarily a bad thing. Plus even poor defensive teams are prepared to rotate and protect themselves from giving up a wide open shot off of a single pass after a double. It is usually a shooter on the weakside who gets the open shot off of a swing pass, not necessarily the player whose man left him to double. I would much rather have Afflalo, Chauncey, Lawson or J.R. sitting off the ball to take these shots than Harrington.
Harrington does provide another offensive threat at a position where they have lacked offense, but he is not some magic elixir that will make Denver an offensive juggernaut. He is a perimeter oriented volume shooter. While he played in systems that called for him to shoot a bevy of threes every night in New York and Golden State, even going back to his last half-season in Indiana he attempted more shots from outside ten feet, 7.3, than from inside ten feet, 6.2. For a team that frequently forgets to work for good shots he is another player who likes jumpers and will only exacerbate those stretches when the Nuggets make one or fewer passes and jack up a long range heave.
I was also a little bothered by the timing of the deal. With the Raptors having signed Linas Kleiza to an offer sheet Denver could have convinced them to rescind their offer and agree to a sign and trade (as the Nets and Warriors did with Anthony Morrow). In order to do so Denver would have had to provide a credible threat to match the offer sheet. With the announcement of the Harrington signing Toronto knows Denver is not going to match and thus has no reason to do a sign and trade which could have brought a valuable trade exception. It is certainly possible Denver did their best to work out such a trade and Toronto rebuffed them. Plus even though Harrington agreed to the contract there is always the chance he backs out if Denver asks him to wait a couple of days so they can keep the pressure on Toronto. Even so, you never want to lose an asset for nothing, but that is what will happen to Denver with Kleiza.
I have had 24 hours to cool off after hearing about this signing, but even a day later I stand by my assessment that this is the wrong player and the wrong contract for Denver. It is not an indictment of Harrington, who is undoubtedly a talented player, his addition simply fails to address the Nuggets’ largest shortcomings of interior defense and rebounding.
I hate to be all gloom and doom. Keep in mind things could be worse. At least Denver did not just hire Billy King to be their General Manager.