The big offseason acquisition for the Denver Nuggets was Al Harrington. With Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen out of the lineup for a month or two to start the season Harrington is expected to play big minutes for Denver. Despite the fact that fellow newcomer Shelden Williams has been tabbed as the opening night starter alongside Nene, I expect Harrington to play some big minutes.
In anticipation of that we have dedicated two editions of the Roundball Mining Company Film Room to Al’s abilities. We analyzed Harrington’s offensive game a couple of months ago. Now we present to you the highly anticipated film room session on Harrington’s ability as a defender.
Early in his career with the Indiana Pacers Harrington actually played the role of defensive stopper as he fought to find a role on a stacked squad. Now entering his 13th season Harrington has established himself as a prolific scorer, but what impact as age and role played on his defense?
As you can see, Harrington seems to have a decent understanding of team defensive concepts and applies them well in the half court. He is eager to help his teammates and regularly is in the correct position to do so. As a pick and roll defender he leaves much to be desired. There were two clips in the video where he was asked to sag off the ball handler with depressing results. Nuggets fans have seen that failed tactic far too often prior to Harrington’s arrival. I would not expect him to suddenly turn over a new leaf.
As a rebounder Harrington is inconsistent as well and seems to care more or less about it depending on who else is on the court with him. That be alright when David Lee is your front court partner, but when it is Nene, that is not a recipe for cleaning the glass.
Physically, Harrington is still able to move his feet, but there did seem to be occasions where his legs looked a little heavy and he did not react well to direction changes when defending the drive. However, he did a decent job of getting back on defense in transition which is an area the Nuggets could always use help in.
It also warrants mentioning that this was the game where he scored 43 points. It was not like he was putting all his energy into offense, or taking the Dino Radja approach that he scored enough points that it does not matter how many he gave up.
The truth is Denver did not sign Harrington for his defense and despite the fretting of how Harrington could help make a weak half court defense even worse, which I took part in at the time of his signing, I do not think his addition is necessarily a terrible thing for Denver’s defense. He knows what he is doing and hopefully with the right kind of coaching, he can recapture some of the solid all around defense he provided the Pacers many moons ago.
Ultimately, I believe the Nuggets have added another big man who will make a spectacular play one time down the court and follow it up with an inexplicably horrible one the next time down the floor. In the end, Harrington should fit right in.