Warriors beat writer Rusty Simmons is reporting that Harrison Barnes will get the start in the Dubs’ next preseason game against Maccabi Haifa on October 11. According to Simmons, coach Mark Jackson said, “I don’t want to guess how [Barnes would] be in the starting unit. I want to see it.”
On the one hand, Barnes has absolutely played well enough in the Warriors’ two preseason games to warrant consideration for the starting job. And all accounts indicate he’s been even more terrific in practice. So in some ways, Jackson’s decision isn’t all that surprising.
But on the other hand, Jackson had previously indicated that even if Barnes was the better player in camp (a hypothetical that ultimately became reality), Brandon Rush would probably get the nod at small forward because he fit better with that unit.
That means Barnes has either been so impressive in camp as to make Jackson double back on his earlier words, or Jackson simply often says things without thinking. You could convince me that either case is true.
Whatever the reason, Barnes will get a shot Thursday and if his previous efforts are any indication, he won’t squander it. At the moment, Rush has proven to be better than Barnes in a pair of areas: three-point shooting and defense. It’s unlikely Barnes will ever equal Rush’s outside acumen, but he’s definitely got the body and athleticism to turn himself into a defensive option that at least rivals Rush. Plus, Barnes already has a far more well-rounded offensive game than Rush, who really needs others to create his shots for him.
With Barnes apparently jumping up the depth chart, Rush could easily reprise his role as last year’s bench specialist. If the rookie doesn’t shine when given his opportunity, Rush will probably take back his starting gig with Barnes leading the offensive charge on the second unit.
Really, it doesn’t make much difference how this so-called position battle shakes out. What’ll eventually matter is which of the Warriors’ two swing men finish games. Nobody will care much about who starts.