SQ #24--Hung Up On Harangody

Summer Quandaries #24
Aug 24—37 Days to camp

Hung Up On Harangody

In the enforced leisure of the August basketball drought, my thoughts keep coming back to Luke Harangody. All the knee jerk reactions trend toward discounting the undersized big man, or is that an oxymoron? Yet he has been a surprisingly effective player, certainly in college and at least in summer league as a pro. Scores inside and out, rebounds, pesky defender with quick and strong hands. He doesn’t impress walking onto the floor, he looks short and slow. It doesn’t get any better in the lay up line. He can dunk but hardly soars. Once the game starts, however, he keeps making plays. The outside shot is ugly but gets “prettier” at the basket where is finds the twine time and time again. He doesn’t jump much, or at least very high, but swallows up rebounds like he understands that position, attention, and will are the keys to tortoise’s victory over the jumping jack rabbit. He doesn’t contest shots at their release point up top but rather as the arms are raising the ball, and he always just seems to be in the way of the opponent trying to attack the basket. I get the feeling that at the end of the game each opponent is saying “I can’t believe this guy beat me.”

That outside shot is released at what seems to be about waist level. Already short, how can he get away with an abnormally low launch?
I must have studied his predraft measurements a dozen times. Yes he is short and his wingspan is good but not great; but his standing reach is quite good, outstripping most of the other short power forwards and many of the mid-sized ones. O.K. if he is releasing that shot just above his shoulders (it only looks lower) then at least those shoulders are mounted pretty high on his body. That three-point “jumper” is really more of a set shot, but then again his vertical (standing and max) are among the poorest of all the players listed from the predraft camp. So is the set shot good news or bad news, or just reality? Maybe it doesn’t matter. Let’s just say that he will be shooting only open shots from deep and won’t be creating his own shot. Similarly the mid-range shot will have to be wide open chances.
Then again if he finds his way on to a team with a drive and dish guard, or one with willing and able passing ball movement—oh wait, didn’t I just describe the Celtics?

Now about that rebounding, Paul Silas and Moses Malone made careers of gathering in rebounds using about two inches of jump and miles of positioning, boxing, and desire. I suspect Big Baby and Luke find themselves in the same lower strata of the leap-o-sphere and Davis has proven to be a surprisingly effective rebounder. Anticipation allows position, desire allows boxing, the result is gathering in the rebound when it falls far enough to reach the nearest upraised hands—you just have to make sure they are yours.

Glen Davis is probably a good comparable for undersized big men trying to convert around the basket. In summer league at least, Luke proved surprisingly effective getting it done around the hoop. Certainly this didn’t happen because he was rising up and imposing his will by flying over the opposition. Like Davis he has a number of cute moves around the paint, uses the basket to screen the challenge, and gets it up before the defender can react. Like Davis, how effective he can be will depend a lot on how well he recognizes the difference between an opportunity and an ambush.

Other “slowcomings” of Harangody are his foot speed and agility. He does seem to blend effort and smarts into good positioning and timely arrival in transition. He’ll never be a star but might become a very effective role player. Doc described him, to Shaq who found his teammate an unknown stranger, as a big man but there is an intriguing question as to whether he might be able to play some three. I’ve seen weights listed anywhere from 240 to 255 and he is maybe a half inch taller than Pierce who is 235 and also strong. The comparison stops there, however, as he lacks Pierce’s hops and quickness, and Paul is not noted for either. Let’s just leave it at he will probably be better at the SF in a pinch than Scal was. I have a feeling that Luke, like Scal, will be using his head to compensate for a lack of athleticism, hopefully with better results.