Kent Bazemore as a starter for the Golden State Warriors? Really?
Think about it. Here’s what we know about Bazemore: he’s an elite defender with a seven-foot wingspan, crazy athleticism and a proven track record. He was named the nation’s best defensive player in 2011 at Old Dominion. He’s gritty, he’s got something to prove and his NBA career probably depends on his ability to become a defensive stopper because his offensive game simply isn’t that good.
And here’s what we know about the best teams in the NBA: Thabo Sefolosha starts for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Danny Green starts for the San Antonio Spurs and Shane Battier starts for the Miami Heat. There are many other examples, but the trend is notable from just those three. Great teams tend to have an elite wing defender on their roster, and that guy tends to start.
It makes sense. Starting an elite defensive player makes life hell on opposing wing scorers, often throwing off their game for the rest of the contest. It allows teams to insert scoring specialists in place of the elite defender, pitting them against opponents’ second units. And most of all, it helps clearly define roles among the starters, which is something all great teams do.
As for the Warriors, they’ve got a million wing scorers. But they really only have one elite wing defender. Starting Bazemore would allow the Dubs to ease Harrison Barnes into his NBA career as the de facto leader of the team’s second unit. It would also keep Brandon Rush in the slot he so effectively occupied last season as the team’s bench gunner.
And when it comes down to it, shouldn’t the teams like the Warriors—who want to become great—start copying the teams that already are. If you’ve got a great wing defender, you start him. That’s what most of the NBA’s best teams do, and that’s why the Warriors should give Bazemore the job.