Originally written on NBA 24/7 365  |  Last updated 11/18/14

Not only has Al Harrington come off the bench to provide the Nuggets with an offensive boost this season, but he’s played some surprisingly solid defense as well.  I’ve never thought of Al Harrington as a guy who really gets after it at the defensive end, but I’ve noticed that he’s been aggressive in trying to force turnovers this season (averaging a career-high 1.5 steals thus far), and he’s also been playing good, fundamentally-sound man-to-man defense on some pretty tough post players.  After the Nuggets beat the Bucks I remember pointing out his defense on Andrew Bogut that helped the Nuggets win by going small, and last night he made Paul Millsap take some really tough shots down the stretch.  Unfortunately for him, Millsap made those tough shots.

Paul Millsap scored 16 of his 26 in the fourth quarter as the Jazz beat the Nuggets 106-96, driving them ahead of both the Nuggets and the Lakers in the Western Conference standings.  With the game far from over, Millsap poured in 14 consecutive points between the ten and five minute marks, taking it from a two-point nailbiter to a ten-point cruisecontroller.  In the video below you can watch him drop a tough hook and a contested jumper in the grill of the aforementioned Al Harrington, who, like I said, did everything he could.  The fourth quarter starts at 1:45…

As you can see, he stuck some pretty tough looks from about 15 feet.  I imagine that this will strike some people as a surprise because Millsap came into the league as a scrapper.  However, as he’s proven to be a steal of a second round pick since day one, he’s turned himself into so much more than a hard-working rebounder.  This guy is proving to be a player who can flat out get buckets, with a tendency to do so in key situations.  Last night’s 16-point explosion against Denver was nothing new.  Just days ago he came up huge in that tough overtime loss to the Lakers, and he showed the Miami Heat what he’s all about last season.  He’s got his season average up to 15 PPG with 29, 18, and 26 over the last three.

Millsap is one of the league’s tougher players to rank.  That’s partly because power forward is such a deep position, but also because of these offensive outbursts that Millsap has.  Based on that fourth quarter last night you’d think he was a number-one scoring option… but I wouldn’t say he is.  That being said, there’s got to be some value in his ability to adapt to different situations.  Millsap has performed off the bench, in the starting lineup, and next to different players.  I think it’s safe to say the Jazz are happy they chose him over Carlos Boozer, and at age 26 he’s probably still got his best years in front of him.  He shares his touches with a great teammate, Al Jefferson, another excellent big man who possesses some of the league’s finest post moves, but don’t get it twisted; Paul Millsap is in the second tier of PFs.  You’ve got the proven number-one option type guys like Dirk Nowitzki (who is really on a level of his own as he’s the only elite player of the bunch), Chris Bosh (not anymore, but think back to Toronto), and Amare (again, think back to Phoenix) along with the young beasts, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Blake Griffin, but after that it’s got to be Paul Millsap… and the thing about him, as I stated earlier, is that he’s a guy who can adapt to any situation.  His ability to perform next to Al Jefferson is a big reason why the Jazz are one of the league’s most surprising teams right now.  Throw in his clutch tendencies and you’ve got a 15-point scorer who’s impact feels more like that of a 20-point scorer.  And yes, I left Pau Gasol out on purpose.  He’s been playing like a chump since last season. 

My point?  don’t sleep on Paul Millsap, the 47th overall pick in ’06 draft who was passed on by every single team in the league.  The power forward position is very strong, and this man is one of the better ones.  So, if you’ve been napping, wake up!  …or Paul Millsap will wake you up.

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