The Warriors, when the draft was approaching, were desperate for small forward help. They wanted an experienced player to “make the” at the position. They couldn’t find a star upgrade by trading the draft pick, so they picked up Harrison Barnes. They still don’t have that star, but as it turns out, they have enough good young players to be able to feel good about the position. There’s not a clear starter, but that’s because they have multiple guys to fill the spot. This is usual preseason optimism, but it is notable that there’s a battle for the starting spot going on. From the Contra Costa Times:
Late last night, after the evening practice, I was talking with a source about the small forward competition. This source, who I trust and has seen every second of practice, said rookie Harrison Barnes has been special the first two practices. He went as far as saying “it’s Harrison Barnes’ job to lose.” Coming from him, it says something. Trust me.
Now, I’ve been considering Barnes a long shot of sorts in favor of easing him along, not putting too much pressure on him. We don’t get much practice, but allowing Barnes to develop methodically is a good plan. But it sounds like Barnes is having the kind of camp so far that makes him a serious contender to start. Admittedly, I was a bit surprised by the strong endorsement. Barnes has been flying under-the-radar lately and coach Mark Jackson has seemed pretty hesitant to tout him too hard. (Maybe that is a hint.) He praises him, but he usually quickly follows by pointing out it’s early or he hasn’t done it in games yet or he has a lot of room to grow.
Oh, but wait, how about from three days ago from the San Francisco Chronicle?
Is Brandon Rush the early front-runner to be the Warriors’ starting small forward?
He was playing with the first unit Wednesday – when the team separated into clear first-, second- and third-unit groups for drills on the second day of training camp – but head coach Mark Jackson said not to read too much into the early pairings.
Rush has worked his face off since leaving Indiana to save his career. He has great length and excellent shooting stroke. Barnes is no slouch when it comes to shooting, and the question is really how much offense he can produce.
Defense may end up deciding this thing. The Warriors have poured their heart and soul into transforming an offensive-centric team into a defensive-centric team, and wing defense is kind of important these days. Barnes is a rookie though, and looking good against guys you practice against day after day is entirely different from defending even Luol Deng and Andre Iguodala, much less LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
But it’s a good problem to have. They’ve got veteran experience and size in Richard Jefferson, youth and potential in Barnes, and shooting and athleticism in Rush. If Jackson can find the right fit, it’s yet another sign the Warriors may make some noise this season.