I know. I know.
But hear me out.
Clearly, the mechanics of their games are different. There’s also a big personality difference. Al has got more of a happy-go-lucky, “Hey-let’s-all-go-get-ice-cream-my-treat!” kind of vibe. Whereas Tyler is closer to the “If-this-NBA-thing-doesn’t-work-out-I-can-always-live-in-a-cabin-in-the-woods-and-dance-around-on-Saturday-night-wearing-the-skins-of-my-victims” aesthetic.
But I’m thinking more in terms of what they are.
Here are four thoughts:
1. Both are what I’ll call “middle of the game scorers.” Yes, I did just make that up. Basically, they’re guys who can come off the bench, put some points on the board and occasionally carry the team even. However, you don’t want to start them, because they’ll disrupt any unit coherence that you’re trying to develop. You don’t want to finish with them, because they’re stoppable, relatively inefficient, and indiscriminate in their shot selection.
2. Both are “affably selfish.” They’re borderline black holes, but it’s OK, because everybody knows that’s who they are, that’s sorta their job, and they really don’t mean anything by it. They’re good teammates in that they do want to win, but they don’t really know how to fit within — or more accurately, conform to — a team or a scheme, so they just do what they do.
3. I’m not sure how to put this one politely, but let’s just say that neither will write any treatises on basketball strategy or tactics. It’s not that they’re dumb. They’re just seemingly incurious in a Popeye “I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam” sort of way. Today, you can occasionally look at Tyler’s scoring, his work on the boards, and his individual defensive tenacity, and think, “Man, he could be a pretty good player, if he ever learns how to play within the offense and, more importantly, make the right rotations defensively.” Five years from now, I bet you will still be wondering why he busts plays and blows defensive rotations all the time.
4. Both have enough qualities to belong within the league — and on the floor — in general, but will probably struggle to find a specific home. Teams will find them attractive enough to want. Then teams will find them flawed enough to look for something better. Harrington has bounced around in generally unsatisfactory situations, and Tyler could end up following a similar career path. If the Pacers land a true 36-minute-a-night power forward, then Tyler will be relegated to bench minutes, which will (understandably) grind on him. Neither seem to take constructive criticism well, and as a result, are prone to stay stuck “in-between,” limited by their own mental and physical flaws.
It is an open question whether either will contribute significantly to a championship-level team. It depends on the CBA, because really, both will do enough things noticeably well (specifically scoring), and both will be better than enough rotation players — and even plenty of starters — to demand more money in this market than they’re actually worth. Both will think they should be more important than they really are. Or worse still, they will be more important than they really should be. And I question whether either will be willing to sacrifice significant portions of either money or role to fit in with a top team.
But … that last paragraph is true of a lot of other good basketball players in this league.
[Big thanks to Zach Harper of ESPN Daily Dime Live fame for the Al Harrinton/Dinosaurs Photoshop.]