Richard Jefferson and Harrison Barnes are gunning for the same spot in the Golden State Warriors’ starting lineup. There ought to be a healthy rivalry between the two small forwards once training camp gets rolling in October. And although Jefferson’s career is winding down, he’s got a pretty good shot of winning the battle for starter’s minutes against Barnes. If Barnes wants to make things interesting, he could take a page (or three) out of Jefferson’s book. Here are three things Harrison Barnes should borrow from Richard Jefferson’s game:
1. The Corner Three
The smartest teams in the NBA shoot the most corner three-pointers. The reason is pretty simple: it’s the most efficient shot on the court. Here’s an example of how the San Antonio Spurs (and Jefferson, when he was in San Antonio) utilized the shot to great effect:
Never mind the utterly perfect setup by the Spurs; the result is a wide-open corner three by Jefferson.
Never much of an outside shooter, Jefferson adopted the shot (or was forced to) when he joined the Spurs. Barnes would do well to emulate Jefferson in this regard.
2. Get to the Rim
Though he’s aging, Richard Jefferson has always drawn fouls at a high rate. Coupled with his ability to shoot the corner three, Jefferson’s penchant for drawing contact is a nice component to his game. Barnes, unlike Jefferson, looks like more of a mid-range operator. That’s not where the money’s made in the NBA, unless you’re Richard Hamilton.
To increase his offensive effectiveness, Barnes needs to use his considerable athleticism to rocket into the paint. He doesn’t need to finish at the rim—he just needs to get there to create some contact. He can take all the mid-range shots he wants then. They’ll be called free-throws.
3. Defend, Defend, Defend
As recently as two years ago, Jefferson was in the top quarter of all NBA small forwards in defensive efficiency, according to Synergy. Barnes has all the athleticism and length you could ever ask for in a small forward. He tested off the charts in the NBA draft combine, too. All he’s got to do is adopt Jefferson’s defensive smarts and intensity.
The former might take a few years of experience, but the latter should never be an issue. Barnes’ defensive ability will hinge not on whether he can do it, but whether he wants to commit to playing both ends.
Barnes will be trying to beat out Jefferson for a job this fall, but if he’s smart, he’ll do it by copying three strong areas of Jefferson’s game.