“If you had an MVP right now,” Nuggets coach George Karl said, “this season it would be Al.”
There’s more than a few issues with that statement. Let’s review.
Despite his good season Al Harrington is nowhere near the best Nugget
Using the 2011-2012 Wins Produced numbers from the NBA Geek here’s how the Nuggets shake up production wise:
|2011 – 2012 per-48 stats|
If we look at the players topping the Nuggets in production we see Al Harrington comes in at a distant fifth. It we go by WP48 and limit it to players with at least 50 minutes then Al Harrington drops to seventh. The one category the Harrington is excelling in is points per game and sure that’s useful. However that’s not all that goes into being a great player. Although, given his high minute allocation to Melo it’s possible Karl thinks that’s what makes an MVP.
Al Harrington is having a career year and he shouldn’t be
Al Harrington is indeed having the best season of his career so far. Of course, other than 03-04 this is the only season Harrington has been an above average player. Al Harrington is putting up the most rebounds he has since he was a rookie and is shooting an insane 62.7% true shooting percentage.
The first takeaway I have is that it’s likely neither of these will last. Harrington is probably on a hot streak. The real question is: how on earth did Harrington get the minutes or opportunities to do this?
Last season after the Melo trade the Nuggets were playing the best basketball in the league. In that time Harrington averaged less than 18 minutes a game. This season Al Harrington is at 24.4 minutes a game. Harrington is also taking over 10 shots a game (up about one attempt from last year).
Somehow Harrington, who has not been very productive in his career and has been an average shooter was able to get more minutes and more shot attempts this season from Karl. Karl may be calling Harrington the MVP as a means of such a bone headed move as playing a 30 year old that’s never been good more minutes in front of younger better options. Which is of course, the next point.
Does Karl even know how to judge players?
The NBA Geek currently has Gallinari listed as PF, which is apt because George Karl has been playing him as a PF. With Gallinari jumping into the big men arena for the Nuggets here’s how their front court looks in terms of minute production.
|2011 – 2012 per-48 stats|
Let’s throw out some easy names first. Faried has not been given playing time so his insanely high WP48 doesn’t mean anything. Of course after a brilliant showing on the January 4th you might think a sound coach would play him more. However, he’s recorded 0 minutes in the Nuggets last three games.
Nene has had injuries and has been off this season. Gallinari has been playing above average as a power forward but his natural position is small forward. Again, you’d think a sound coach would play him there.
Our remaining four bigs are Andersen, Koufous, Harrington and Mozgov. What’s truly interesting is that the two best bigs in Andersen and Koufous are getting the least playing time. In short, George Karl is playing the wrong players and this is a familiar story. It’s very hard to take Karl’s opinion of players seriously when his playing time is so out of touch with reality.
This season Karl has a plethora of big men. In them he has two proven talents in Nene and Andersen. He also has a rookie with plenty of upside in Faried. Koufous and Mozgov have never been that great but Koufous is playing surprisingly well. He also has Al Harrington who has traditionally been terrible and Karl himself limited his minutes last season.
For some reason Karl has decided to play Harrington more and let him take more shots. Surprisingly Harrington has shot very well. In fact Harrington is shooting so well no one could have predicted this. In response Karl is calling Harrington an MVP candidate ignoring all other aspects of the game. This is surprising as his team is actually good at things other than scoring and Karl apparently cares about defense.
Karl’s behavior as a coach has been to play the wrong players. In Stumbling on Wins they showed that coaches don’t improve player performance (well a select few do, but Karl isn’t one of them). A coach’s only job to do is to play the right players and Karl has failed abysmally this season. Of course, his bad move has resulted in surprising play out of one of his players. Karl’s response to this is to ignore the rest of his team and call Harrington an MVP. Unfortunately my only response is to call Karl an idiot and hope for a different coach or a change of attitude from our coach.
p.s. While I was writing this Patrick Minton (@nbageek) at the NBA Geek also wrote up a fantastic piece on what is wrong with the Nuggets. He goes even more in depth than I do, so check it out if you need even more Nuggets news.