The acquisition of Andre Iguodala was an excellent move for the Golden State Warriors, especially in the midst of the insanity surrounding Dwight Howard’s decision (hereon referred to as ‘The Dwightmare”). Not only does he provide an elite talent at wing defense, but he also brings slashing offense and spectacular dunking ability/inside attacking to the team.
With Iguodala, the Warriors suddenly have lots of depth at the wing with Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson (standing 6’6, 6’8 and 6’7 respectively). However, his addition to the team brings a few questions to mind. The main one is: who comes out of the starting lineup in his place?
Iggy is a surefire starter and plays either the small forward or shooting guard position. The latter is his natural placement. That means that either Thompson or Barnes will likely end up as the Warriors’ next sixth man. As to which one, that plays a part in answering the title question: will the Warriors’ newest swingman hinder the development of sophomore player Harrison Barnes? It’ll definitely change things, but there are two basic answers.
1. Barnes becomes sixth man with Iggy starting at the small forward, hindering development by reduced minutes and focus
This is the scenario where Barnes’ development curve dips a lot. He suffers a major drop in minutes due to becoming the sixth man versus starting so that Iguodala can play the small forward. This results in him gaining less experience and less focus from the staff, since he’s lower on the depth chart.
Barnes will still be a standout player, but he may also see a dip in his stats and numbers. He may even slowly move more towards being traded, a move many wouldn’t like to see right now (myself included). This scenario not only slows his development down, but also raises the chances he won’t be a Warrior in the near future.
2. Thompson becomes sixth man with Iggy starting at his natural guard position, not hindering Barne’s development
In this, the inverse scenario, Barnes remains in the starting lineup. This is the one I see as being more likely. It places Iguodala at his natural position, gives the Warriors a sixth man who’s been with the team through the tough 2011-12 season in a leadership role and leaves their promising sophomore to continue growing.
It also diversifies their starting offensive attack. Barnes and Iggy can slash and attack the rim here, pressuring inside defenses more from the wing and leaving the perimeter at Stephen Curry’s mercy, rather than playing one rim attacker with the standard perimeter threats in Thompson and Curry.
Additionally, it fits Thompson better to play sixth man as his skill set is a bit more restricted than Barnes’ is (he’s very limited attacking the rim), and it gives the Warriors defense off the bench.
It also opens up an intriguing lineup with Iguodala and Thompson at the guard spot, and Barnes in the game for a wing defense-heavy setup. Simply said, right now option two fits better. Barnes can shoot, play off the wing, attack inside and has an awesome amount of athleticism at his disposal. As of right now, Thompson is pretty much a three-and-defensive guy, which is great for this team, but he’s still limited and better suited to sixth on the chart than Barnes is.
There is, however, one very good constant through both of these two options: Barnes has a new mentor. Iguodala is a team leader with a wealth of high-level experience in both playoff scenarios and in the regular season. He’s physically comparable, and his play style is more or less the skill set that Golden State would like to see honed in their first 2012 draft pick. No matter where Barnes ends up on the depth chart, he should develop his defense and slashing ability alongside Iguodala. One thing’s for sure: the Dubs came out of the Dwightmare with an intriguing new asset.
As for just how much development we’ll see from this new relationship, that largely depends on who ends up watching the tipoff from the bench: Thompson or Barnes. Whether the young swingman will learn beside Iguodala…or under him.