A few days into training camp, a couple of interesting storylines have intersected, resulting in a somewhat confusing outlook for the Warriors’ starting small forward position.
According to reports, Harrison Barnes has blown the doors off the gym, impressing everyone from coach Mark Jackson to his teammates with his performance. And although Jackson has admitted that Barnes’ game looks terrific, he’s not committing to starting the rookie at the 3 just yet. In fact, Jackson seems to be leaning toward Brandon Rush, who he describes as a better fit.
Jackson also indicated that even if Barnes continues to be the most impressive small forward option in camp, it won’t necessarily earn him the starting nod.
On the one hand, Jackson is showing some wisdom in prizing chemistry and fit over performance. But if Barnes really does look like he’s a markedly better option than Rush, it’s going to be pretty hard to justify keeping him out of the starting unit.On the other, it might keep Barnes hungry, which might be a nice source of ongoing motivation.
The other upshot of the news coming out of camp is that Richard Jefferson doesn’t seem to be on the same level as Barnes or Rush in the competition.
Ultimately, it appears that Rush might have the inside edge because of his superior physicality and defense. So if Barnes has designs on stealing the job, he can’t just rely on his polished offensive game; he’ll have to turn things up in the grittier “little things” area. And if Rush still wins the job, Barnes might still excel off the bench, as he proved quite capable as the leading offensive option during his Summer League performance.
For my money, I’d still like to hear Kent Bazemore’s name discussed a little more as a starting option, with Klay Thompson sliding over the the 3. Thompson has the size to do it and Bazemore’s defensive pedigree could give the Warriors a nice lockdown option to throw at opposing wings. I suspect the Battle for Small Forward Dominance and Mark Jackson’s Favor will continue long into camp, with as many lead changes as an old dot race on a baseball scoreboard.
Stay tuned to BMH for updates throughout camp.