We have a hard time getting away from preconceived notions. It took months of sustained excellence for Derrick Rose to be considered to have made "the jump." But the biggest hurdle for players to climb is the perception that they're poor defenders. That's what Al Harrington is facing, as he's quietly putting together a tremendous season for the Nuggets off the bench... on both ends of the floor.
Harrington joined the CBSSports.com NBA podcast to discuss his offseason training, which included, among other things, MMA training and a Spartan race, which was an obstacle course that involved jumping over fire (just a tiny bit, but still), as well as where the Nuggets stand this season and his approach to defense this season.
After Denver's Wednesday night win over the Nets, Harrington ranked in the 94th percentile in overall defensive points allowed per possession, according to Synergy Sports. Those numbers can be complicated, so let me follow it up with the fact that Harrington has been everywhere for Denver. He's stuck his man in the post, and his work in passing lanes has been brilliant. The Nuggets love to get out in transition and forcing turnovers is a big part of that. The Nuggets are third in opponent turnover percentage, with Harrington averaging 1.3 steals per game.
The truth is, if the Nuggets and Harrington keep up this pace, and if James Harden takes his rightful place in the Thunder's starting lineup (Harden is arguably the best playmaker on Oklahoma City), Harrington's going to be in line for Sixth Man of the Year. His ability to stetch the floor is balanced this year with an aggressiveness towards the rim. He's attacking and being a difference maker on a team loaded with weapons.
Harrington is in his 14th season, and incredibly, is putting in one of the best years of his career on a team that loves to share the ball and doesn't have a primary scorer. Maybe most importantly? Harrington is winning games.