Warriors Analysis: What Harrison Barnes’ Injury Means


With Harrison Barnes out for at least a few games, how will the Warriors compensate for his loss?

Harrison Barnes suffered a high ankle sprain contesting a shot on Friday against the Phoenix Suns.

Considered to be out for at least three games, Barnes will have to watch from the bench as the Warriors’ try to continue their win streak against the young Utah Jazz.

As acute fans will notice, the Warriors’ small ball death squad of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala has been used sparingly only in the most dire of situation, racking up a plus-minus differential of plus-81 in just 56 minutes this season.

Coach Luke Walton has deployed the group sparingly while finding minutes for the rest of the Warriors’ key contributors. With Barnes sidelined for the foreseeable future, the Warriors will be without one of the deadliest lineups in recent history. The majority of their minutes together came against the Clippers in their 20-point comeback as well as in the overtime win against the Nets. Against the Nets, the Warriors scored the first 10 points in overtime before finishing the game on a 10-2 run to emphatically close out what had been a great performance by Brook Lopez and the Nets.

However, the Warriors are literally impossible to beat when they decide to deploy this lineup and now with Barnes indisposed, we may start to see the Warriors sweat.

October 5, 2015; San Jose, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton (right) instructs guard Brandon Rush (4) during the fourth quarter in a preseason game against the Toronto Raptors at SAP Center. The Warriors defeated the Raptors 95-87. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Rush filled in commendably at Barnes’ three spot against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday. Playing his best basketball since his ACL injury in 2012, Rush dominated in the third quarter where he hit all four of his three-pointers and scored 14 of his 16 points. Coming in as the fifth option on offense, Rush had multiple shots where there were no defenders on his half of the court.

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At 6’6″ and 30 years old, Rush is 2 inches shorter than Barnes and seven years older. What he brings to the Warriors will be fundamentally different than Barnes. Barnes has developed a nice isolation game where he posts in the high block and can either beat defenders off the dribble with his incredible length and stride or step back and hit the 18-footer. Rush does not have the same versatility but his presence puts another strong shooter on the court. The Warriors should adjust to his strengths and look to game plan around having three 40 percent three point shooters on the court (Curry 44%, Thompson 42%, Rush 40%). Shaun Livingston will look to increase his role as he often has a mismatch against opposing guards and can provide similar possessions as Barnes did.

Barnes is a good enough player and contributes in far too many ways for his absence to go unnoticed. Without him, the Warriors will have to rely primarily on Rush and Livingston to make sure this runaway train doesn’t get grounded.