November 21, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors small forward Harrison Barnes (40) drives to the basket against Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) during the first quarter at ORACLE Arena. The Warriors defeated the Nets 102-93. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Golden State Warriors: Should Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes Come Off the Bench?


May 2, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson (11) defends Denver Nuggets shooting guard Andre Iguodala (9) on the drive during the first quarter of game six of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

When I first heard the Golden State Warriors were signing Andre Iguodala, I thought Dwight Howard had let the Warriors know they were his choice and the next move would be a sign-and-trade that included Andrew Bogut and Klay Thompson/Harrison Barnes.

As we know, this was not the case. Dwight picked Houston and I was left confused about why the Warriors chose to invest big money in a player who played the same position as two of their most promising young players.  As the disappointment of watching Howard man the paint for the next four years wore off, I have grown excited thinking about Iguodala bringing his elite perimeter defense to an already very exciting team.

However, bringing in Iguodala did leave a very big question for the Warriors going into next season: who goes to the bench, Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes?  This is not an easy question, as each player has their upside and downside to coming off the bench.

So let’s go through the argument for each:

Why Klay Thompson Should Come Off the Bench

At this point in his career, Thompson is a gunner who has the ability to be a playmaker, but usually chooses to shoot.  Being on the floor with Curry and David Lee, Thompson’s gunner mentality takes shots away from the Warriors’ best two scorers.While his best shot is usually in catch-and-shoot situations, he likes to force the action.

November 21, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson (11) dribbles the ball past Brooklyn Nets point guard C.J. Watson (1) during the third quarter at ORACLE Arena. The Warriors defeated the Nets 102-93. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Thompson’s best attribute off of the bench is his ability to handle the ball.  Perhaps with more of the offense focused on him, his playmaking abilities may develop and shine. This may also set him up to handle the ball more when playing with Curry or Iguodala, helping to provide some of what the Warriors lost with Jarrett Jack.  With his solid defense, he could shut down the best perimeter player on the opposition’s second unit.

Why Harrison Barnes Should Come Off the Bench

Last year, it seemed like Harrison Barnes often played tentatively on offense. He wanted to fit in with some great offensive talent and didn’t seem to know when to use his natural abilities to dominate his defender.

When Lee went out in the playoffs, Barnes’ role in the offense increased and he responded by looking like a dominant offensive force. Being the leader of the second unit, would allow Barnes to play this role more often.  He may be the best Warrior at creating his own shot, and while Toney Douglas is a solid defender, he is not a great playmaker.  This means that the second unit will need players who can create, and Barnes is one of the better Warriors getting to the hoop or playing in the midrange, which will fit well with Marreese Speights.

Having Barnes come off the bench provides the Warriors with flexibility–which starter comes out first as he can sub in for Thompson, Iguodala or Lee and will give the Warriors some great mismatches.

Barnes seems to be a player with the personality to allow him to handle a move to the bench without losing confidence.

 The Verdict

If I had Mark Jackson’s job, who would I bring off the bench? I would bring Barnes off of the bench, even though I think he is the better overall better player to Thompson.

Regardless of who Jackson taps to come off of the bench, the Warriors are in a great position. Having the luxury to bring such a talented player off of the bench is the problem of a top flight team.

Tags: Golden State Warriors Harrison Barnes Klay Thompson NBA Free Agency

  • benbrung

    Way too much is being made of starters vs. bench. A big reason for the team’s success last year was selflessness. The best route for the Warriors is to determine part of the starting line-up for each game based on favorable match-ups. That could mean Barnes starting in place of Lee sometimes or Barnes & Thompson alternating starts. They are an incredibly versatile team right now and Jackson has the players and buy-in to pull it off.