Can Harrington Really Be A Center?
Friday, Sept. 29, 2006
OF THE DAY
Q. Although it's intriguing to get more minutes for Al Harrington at center, being undersized as a starter may hurt when he goes up against scoring centers from Miami, Cleveland, San Antonio, Phoenix, Houston, and a dozen other teams.
I see only a third of the other teams not having an offensive threat at center. Jeff Foster's positives as a starter not only includes protecting Jermaine O'Neal and Harrington regarding fouls, thereby improving the chances that O'Neal, Harrington, and Danny Granger can finish games together, but also he complements the scoring ability of the other four starters with his rebounding and athleticism.
Granger's impact as a sixth man, along with Marquis Daniels, includes a better combination of scoring and defense, compared to a bench featuring Daniels and Foster. Sarunas (Jasikevicius) would be the only shooter off the bench in a 10-man rotation if Granger starts. Has Foster's time come already to be relegated to the reserves considering also that it's likely David Harrison will earn increased playing time at this position? (From Joe in Indianapolis)
A. Harrington may well be listed in the box score at center, but that doesn't mean the Pacers expect him to match up with Shaquille O'Neal, Yao Ming, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, et al. The fact of the matter is, beyond those three, there really aren't that many threatening true centers in the league these days.
The primary post scoring threats are predominantly players that would be most accurately described as power forwards. It has become commonplace for a team to use two post players in the frontcourt rather than a true power forward-center tandem.
Detroit won it all with Ben Wallace, liberally listed at 6-9, in the middle. Phoenix won 54 games with 6-8 Boris Diaw – who played point guard for Atlanta – playing a hybrid form of the position.
Frankly, designating Harrington as a center isn't even a philosophical divergence for the Pacers. Though listed as a power forward for the balance of his career, O'Neal performs many of the jobs of the traditional center, including low-post scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking.
Though listed as a center, Foster really is a power forward in disguise. While it has been true Foster relieves defensive pressure from O'Neal, Harrington would do the same on the offensive end, forcing defenses to make a difficult choice: double-team O'Neal and leave Harrington (or Granger, etc.) open, or play straight-up, a situation that would play into the Pacers' hands.
Since Harrington was acquired, it's been widely assumed he would start in the frontcourt with Granger and O'Neal. That still is the case. The positional assignment is almost irrelevant because it only applies to where he'll be listed in the box score, not necessarily how he, or his teammates, will be deployed on the floor.
Foster will continue to play an important role, and probably the same number of minutes, and Harrison will get another chance to show what he can do. When you really look at it, all that would change is the semantics.
On days like these, I half-way think Bruno asks himself the Question of the Day.