After numerous hints and John Wall’s desire for a stretch 4, something Washington has been missing for quite some time, the Wizards went out and signed Al Harrington with hopes of filling the void.
Throughout his 15-year NBA career, Harrington has earned a living shooting the ball well from the perimeter. At 6’9, big men that stretch the floor have become a commodity and for a team like the Wizards that depend on their slashing guards, Harrington’s role with the club could become very important.
This past season, the Wizards had trouble finding open lanes for John Wall, especially in the half-court with both Nene and Emeka Okafor clogging the paint. Both bigs will continue to take up most of the floor time in the front court, but Washington finally has someone to help John Wall exploit some of the biggest threats he brings to the table. Nene was a below average shooter from mid-range (partially due to his foot issues), which severely affected the teams’ ability to run pick and pop plays with John Wall. Washington even tried to utilize Okafor as a pick and pop player from time to time, and his shooting percentages from 10-15 feet were just as bad as Nene’s (Okafor shot just over 33% from 15 feet).
Although Al Harrington won’t light the league up from three, he’s still a good enough shooter from the perimeter to cause defenses to think twice about leaving their man. Teams with good shooting forwards usually have point guards that rack up tons of assists. For example, Greivis Vasquez of the New Orleans Pelicans was third in the league in assists per game (9.0 APG), which could largely be credited to Ryan Anderson’s ability to shoot the ball from three. Now, will Al Harrington lead the league in three point shots made like Anderson did just a few seasons ago? Probably not. But he’s still a capable enough shooter to give Wall another offensive weapon to work with.
Harrington’s ability to stretch the floor and open up lanes will help John Wall’s game grow exponentially. Wall, who has built a reputation as the fastest penetrating guard in the NBA, forces opposing teams to collapse on him, leaving the forward open in the perimeter. When paired up with Ty Lawson in Denver, Harrington shot nearly 36% from beyond the three point arc. With Harrington on the floor, teams will now become more reluctant to collapse on Wall, leaving Harrington wide open from three, as seen in the picture above.
Washington was the worst offensive team in the league last season, but with spacing, the Wizards’ offense has the potential to certainly improve. Some of the best offensive teams in the NBA this past season, also led the league in three point shooting. The Oklahoma City Thunder were second in the NBA in offensive efficiency behind the Miami Heat, but were also ranked top five in three point shooting. Serge Ibaka’s improved jump shot gave Russell Westbrook the opportunity to display his ability to attack the basket, which increased their shooting percentages substantially last season.
Even though it’s a simple, yet underutilized part of the game, having someone spread the floor for elite guards like John Wall and Bradley Beal is very important. It isn’t a long term solution, but we’ll definitely see improvement in Washington’s offense with Al Harrington on the floor.
A lineup of Wall-Beal-Webster-Harrington-Nene would cause nightmares to defenses. It’s virtually impossible to stop John Wall from getting to the basket, but with shooters lurking everywhere, it’ll make the defenses job that much more difficult. If Washington’s offense improves next season, but their defense remains elite, I can’t see how they won’t win enough games to make the post season.
All stats credited to HoopData and NBA.com/Stats