For anyone paying attention during the preseason, Mark Jackson’s decision to award Harrison Barnes the starting small forward job on opening night shouldn’t come as a surprise. Barnes played solid, occasionally excellent basketball in eight preseason contests, six of which he started.
Barnes is probably the right choice to start at the 3. He hasn’t shown any outward hints of an entitled attitude or an ego problem, and his general maturity means he won’t get a big head after being named the starter. He’s pretty well put together, mentally.
On the court, Barnes did plenty to earn the job, too.
The rookie averaged 10.3 points, made nearly half of his three-point attempts and flashed a nice outside stroke to go along with a handful of impressive forays to the bucket. He also showed the ability to play decent defense on the wing, and his size makes him a good candidate to improve. One area that he’ll definitely have to shore up, though, is his work on the glass. Barnes averaged just 3.3 boards per game during the preseason.
The other side of the coin here is Brandon Rush, who also played very well during the preseason. Hopefully, the Warriors’ wing sniper won’t feel slighted by Jackson’s decision. He’s got plenty of incentive to play well this year, though, as he’s got the ability to become an unrestricted free agent this summer if he declines his player option for 2013-14.
Overall, the decision to start Barnes is a good one, largely because Rush has the ability to back up multiple positions off the bench. And Jackson’s comfortable with the predictability of Rush’s bench performance, so he’s going with familiarity here.
And hey, it’s nice that a rookie is starting for the Warriors because he played his way into the job, and not because they don’t have any better options. This is not a Charles Jenkins situation.
Godspeed, Black Falcon.