To add to a quiet but relatively successful offseason, the Warriors further improved their bench depth with the signing of Leandro Barbosa for the veterans minimum.
Barbosa is best known for his first eight year tenure with the Phoenix Suns, where he was adored by Suns fans and subsequently earned the nickname, “The Brazilian Blur.” Barbosa played a key role off the bench for the “run-and-gun” Suns led by Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire. While on the Suns, he displayed the uncanny ability to blow by defenders and finish at the rim for an easy layup. Barbosa is also a career 39 percent shooter from beyond the arc. Barbosa won the Sixth Man of the Year Award with Phoenix in 2007 when he averaged 18.1 points and 4.0 assists in 80 games. Although Barbosa isn’t getting much younger at 31 years old, he and Shaun Livingston may be the key pieces the Warriors were missing last season when they failed to get consistent production from Jordan Crawford, Steve Blake, Toney Douglas or Kent Bazemore.
Barbosa was brought in primarily for guard depth and to provide a scoring spark off the bench. The Warriors quickly filled the holes from the previous season, when they desperately lacked a capable scorer and ball-handler off the bench. Livingston and Barbosa will be able to relieve Curry of his floor general duties with their ability to create shots. Barbosa’s history of injuries may be a slight concern, hence why Phoenix initially only signed him to a 10-day contract before eventually deciding to sign him for the rest of the 2013-2014 season. Barbosa bounced around the league before tearing his ACL while playing with Boston in 2013, and has since failed to match his production from his first tenure with Phoenix. However, in his most recent 20 game stint with Phoenix, Barbosa showed signs of his old self by putting up some remarkable scoring performances as demonstrated by his 21-point performance against the Knicks. He averaged 7.5 points in 18 minutes with the Suns last season. Since he is not expected to make a miraculous career revival, Barbosa will probably be able to fulfill his role this season as a slasher and capable floor-spacer off the bench while creating exciting plays from time to time.
It seems like the Warriors had a trend this summer with their free agent signings of Livingston, Barbosa, and Brandon Rush, all of whom have suffered ACL injuries. However, each player should be ready to play for most of season barring any future injuries. Barbosa was also sidelined with a shoulder injury, toe injury and fractured hand for much of his time with the Suns last season, raising a slight concern as the Warriors cannot afford any major injuries (as exemplified by the loss of key players during the two previous postseasons).
Barbosa was also a defensive liability for the Suns last season. He had a defensive rating of 110 points given up per 100 possessions while on the floor. Although this isn’t very encouraging evidence, Barbosa is going to be playing for one of the top defensive teams in the league. The Warriors have great wing defenders in Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala, along with an elite defensive center in Andrew Bogut. Let’s not forget that Shaun Livingston, Brandon Rush, and Draymond Green are also very capable defenders that will hopefully be able to mask the gaping hole that is Barbosa’s defense.
The Warriors management knows what they are getting by signing Barbosa. Barbosa probably isn’t going to win Sixth Man of the Year again. With this signing the Warriors are trying to fix their flaws from last season. Ideally, Barbosa will be able to provide veteran experience and the basketball IQ Jordan Crawford lacked while demonstrating an aggressive scoring mentality that Steve Blake failed to display. The Warriors are one step closer to addressing all of their bench needs; they still need to find a backup center to allow Bogut and Ezeli to rest.
A bench with Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa, Brandon Rush, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, and Marreese Speights seems more than capable of holding their own when the starters need valuable rest time. The biggest question this season is whether or not Steve Kerr and his coaching staff will be able to utilize every player optimally to create a flowing offense.