Thursday, October 09, 2008

Yao's 5 Toughest Matchups: Al Harrington (No. 4)

4.) Al Harrington | 6-9, 250 lbs | 10 yrs

Head-to-head ‘07-’08*
AH: 16.5 ppg, .439 FG%, .409 3FG%, 8.3 rpg

YM: 20.7 ppg, .487 FG%, 11.7 rpg, 2.3 bpg

*Harrington played one more game than Yao but's Game Logs is not working at the moment so stats have been taken from Game Splits.

DIAGNOSIS: When you look at the numbers, they're not too shabby, 20 and 10, can't ask for more, but when you consider Yao's considerable size advantage up and down the roster, the fact that Yao doesn't always completely dominate the Warriors is why Harrington makes the list.

Richard Justice has a nice story on Joey Dorsey and how he "has given Yao Ming fits in practice." As Justice observes, Yao dominates true bigs, it's the smaller, more athletic post players who have sometimes done better against him. Al Harrington falls into that category but not so much with Dorsey's Ben Wallace-like physique and athleticism but with his versatility. Harrington is strong enough to make Yao work to get position on the low-block and fast enough to beat him down court in transition.

The Warriors ran a defensive scheme somewhat like the Phoenix Suns used to in that no matter who guards Yao in the low-post, everyone in the vicinity is going to harass him and go at him hard once he touches the ball. And when they get it, they run. Harrington will almost always beat Yao down the court; and in half-court sets, he uses his 3-pt range to pull Yao out of the paint. The Warriors come at you so fast that it's often make or break with a player like Yao.

In the days of true big men, a center could get a few touches, get it going, get his timing but with the speed of some teams now, a big man like Yao has to be on his game from the tip off. He has to be quick, decisive and dominant. And he was in some games and not in others. The point is, increasing the speed of the game against Yao and throwing double and triple teams at him diminishes his ability to settle into a game. The scheme worked well for the Warriors.

PROGNOSIS: With Rocket-killer Baron Davis gone it's difficult to tell how effective the run & gun style of the Warriors will be this season. As much criticism as Davis may have gotten in the past as a leader, he was the perfect kind of explosive, do-it-all guard to lead the Warriors' offense. Monta Ellis could develop into this kind of guard but he's still unproven as a leader. The lack of offense should translate into a slower pace, which will benefit Yao.

With the Rockets more versatile line-up this season, they can go with Yao when he is on his game and sub for him when he's not. I'll take Ron Artest on Al Harrington any day. Count on the Warriors to go at Yao hard again with a swarm and force him to make quick decisions from the low-post but again, with the Warriors' offense likely not as potent as it used to be, Yao should get plenty of looks if the Rockets dictate the pace. Then again, you never know what Nellie is going to come up with. He has a knack of keeping the unlikeliest of teams competitive.

Originally posted at Yao Central 2008-10-09 09:41:55

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