Harrison Barnes may not be the key to the season, but the small forward position will be in question throughout.
There is hope in the Bay Area this year. Done laughing? I'm serious.
Even with the San Francisco Giants in first place and the San Francisco 49ers set to build on their NFC Championship run from last year, the Warriors—behind an impressive offseason—have set their sights on a playoff run. Barring catastrophic (but not unlikely) injury issues, they should be able to compete throughout the season for seeds 6-8.
Toss in the nugget that they should be moving to a gorgeous and brand-new San Francisco stadium in a couple of years and everything is looking up for Peter Guber and Co.
Well, besides this fact.
Besides the main issues of defense, coaching, injuries, how Bogut will fit in and whether Stephen Curry can run a team by himself comes the small dilemma that coach Mark Jackson will face this year: what to do at the small forward spot.
The roster currently holds veteran Richard Jefferson, recently extended Brandon Rush and rookie phenom Harrison Barnes. Look deeper and there are options abound in Draymond Green and Klay Thompson able to shift to the 3 while Jarrett Jack moves to the point to give Curry less wear and tear on his ankle.
So what will the Warriors do?
Barring a superb camp from Harrison Barnes, I see Rush ascending into the starting role and Barnes playing backup with Jefferson playing sparingly in the case of foul trouble. While Barnes was once upon a time a top prospect, he hasn't shown anywhere near the talent he owns in games. There isn't concrete evidence to support the notion he will break out now, when he rarely did at North Carolina.
Granted, he played with many fellow talented lottery picks like John Henson, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller, but he simply never stood out. Putting up two stinkers in the NCAA tournament did not help matters. They can be seen here and here.
Who should be the starter at small forward?
The Warriors don't need Barnes to play like a star for them to compete for the playoffs, but it would be a nice depth addition.
What should the Warriors do? Start Harrison Barnes and keep Brandon Rush on a deep, solid bench. With the starting lineup looking like Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee and Andrew Bogut, Barnes won't be asked to do everything like other lottery picks will. Ask Adam Morrison how that went.
He can stay around the wings, look for his own shot and defend. These aspects of the basketball game are well within this current skill set. Asking him to take over a game may be pushing for too much at this point in his career.
Keeping Rush on the bench, where he thrived last season, solidifies a bench that includes Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry, Charles Jenkins and Andris Biedrins will lengthen the lineup and not push Barnes to do more than he is able to.
This, of course, is assuming he won't be able to immediately succeed in the NBA, but he certainly has the talent and ability to. If he does? The NBA better watch out.
Stephen Curry running a two-man game with Bogut while Klay and Barnes space the floor with David Lee hounding the boards is a scary thought even for the presumable Pacific Division champion Los Angeles Lakers.