Assuming everyone stays healthy, the Golden State Warriors have four bona fide starters in their lineup in Stephen Curry (PG), Klay Thompson (SG), David Lee (PF) and Andrew Bogut (C).
So what about the fifth starter, the small forward? That is a question that might remain all the way until opening night on Halloween.
As of right now, the Warriors have three possible candidates for the starting SF position: sharpshooter Brandon Rush, rookie Harrison Barnes and veteran Richard Jefferson.
Let’s analyze the pros and cons of putting each player in a possible starting role.
Rush had a real breakout season in 2011-2012 in his first year with the Warriors. He was lights-out coming off the bench, averaging 9.8 points per game and shooting over 45 percent from three-point range.
Pros – As a premier three-point shooter, starting Rush at SF gives the Warriors three legitimate threats from long distance (Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry both shot over 40 percent on threes as well). In Rush, Bogut and Lee will have another option to pass to should they be double-teamed down low. I expect the Warriors to play an offense similar to the Orlando Magic: get the ball down low to a big man, and if a double-team comes, kick it out to a wing player for a wide-open three. I’m pretty sure that Brandon Rush wouldn’t mind staying in the corner and make threes all game long.
Cons – Let’s face it. Out of the three candidates, Rush is the least likely to land the starting job. Yesterday, Rush publicly stated that he wanted to be a starter this season, which is the only reason why he is on this list. He is much better off in a bench role, where he is not faced with the pressure of being in the starting lineup. Look for him to back up Klay Thompson and provide a spark off the bench. Plus, with all the threats that the Warriors now have, Rush can be that unnoticed “X-Factor” that nobody saw coming.
The Warriors selected Barnes with the seventh pick in the 2012 NBA Draft to be their starting small-forward of the future. The only question is, should he start now?
Pros – If called upon, Barnes would be a more than capable NBA starter. He has a well-rounded game, with the ability to guard multiple positions. He is an explosive player on the offensive side of the ball, as he can drive to the rim or pull up or knock down the jump shot. Barnes’ potential is sky-high, and if the Warriors plan for him to be their future superstar, why not put him in the starting lineup now?
Cons – Barnes is just 20 years old and is a rookie. Obviously, his lack of experience is the only reason why the Warriors would hold back on making him their opening day starter. It is quite possible that they have Barnes come off the bench to start the season, just to avoid putting a tremendous amount of pressure on the young man’s shoulders. But make no mistake, this guy will be the Warriors starting SF by the end of the season.
Jefferson, and 11-year veteran, was acquired in a trade that sent Stephen Jackson to the San Antonio Spurs at the trade deadline. In 22 games with the Warriors, he averaged 9.2 points and 3.5 rebounds.
Pros – All the arrows are pointing towards this guy. Richard Jefferson is the most polished and experienced player on the Warriors’ roster, and unlike Barnes, he will definitely not be fazed if he is their opening night starter. Of course, he is nowhere close to the form he showed with New Jersey several years ago, but RJ is still a solid NBA player. Starting him at SF to begin the season gives Barnes a chance to learn from a seasoned veteran.
Cons – The pros really outweigh the cons here. The only con I can think of is that starting Jefferson can take away confidence from Barnes, but I highly doubt that Barnes expects to jump into the starting lineup right away.
So there you have it, those are your three candidates vying for the starting small-forward position in the Warriors’ lineup. I suspect they’ll start Jefferson to begin the season, then once they feel comfortable with Barnes, give the rookie a chance to shine on the big stage.
Talk to me, what do you think? Answer the poll and comment below on who you think should be the Warriors’ starting SF on opening night.