Is there still a space for Brandon Rush?
The Golden State Warriors re-signed Brandon Rush last year as a key defensive cog and a versatile offensive player, but does he still have a place on this roster? Rush, as you can remember, suffered a season-ending injury in just the second game of the season when he was attempting a dunk against the Memphis Grizzlies.
As you can see from the video, Rush was pushed from behind by the Grizzlies’ Zach Randolph. He landed wrong on his left knee, as visible from further isolation of the play.
Since that point in the season, Rush saw his team develop into the next up-and-coming playoff team with significant playoff performances from Steph Curry, Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson. Rush currently has a player’s option available for next season at a team-friendly $4 million salary.
Rush’s skill set lends itself perfectly for this team, as he was the primary defender on the 2011-12 team and was expected to lead the focus of the Mark Jackson and Michael Malone defensive overhaul. He adapts to cover both guards and forwards because of his long wingspan and athleticism.
He will be returning from a significant injury, so his lateral quickness might still be a little slower as the season starts. As you can see from Marcus Thompson’s tweet, Rush has been back on the court for more than a month now.
But where does Rush stand now? He was fighting for the starting small forward position during last season’s training camp with Harrison Barnes, and Jarrett Jack took away the sixth man spot. Jack is still a question mark, even though he stated that he would love to remain part of the Warriors.
If Jack stays, Rush will resume his role on the second unit, primarily as a backup for Klay Thompson. With the emergence of rookie Draymond Green, Rush will see less time over at the 3 position.
Rush is an important cog in the Dubs’ lineup, but Coach Jackson doesn’t want to sacrifice the growth of his young talent, just to give minutes to Rush. He will probably have to sacrifice some of his 26.4 MPG if Jack returns.
If Jack goes, Rush will be given another opportunity to steal back his former sixth-man role with the team. General manager Bob Myers might be okay with that possibility, or he might peruse the players he can acquire at a similar price to Jack’s salary this season.
Rush’s competitive advantage over other teammates is his defensive ability, but now Klay Thompson has emerged as one of the lockdown defenders on the team. Let’s refresh our memory regarding Rush’s defensive talents.
In this play, former Warrior Monta Ellis loses the ball, and Landry Fields of the New York Knicks takes off running for a layup. Rush uses his speed to catch up to the play and puts a nice block on the ball.
Rush is very active on the defensive end, and his stats back it up. Even at his 6’6” stature, he is known for affecting opponents' shots and averaged almost a block per game (0.9) during the 2011-12 season.
As much as he is known for his defending, which will help continue the cultural rebuild, Rush is also a phenomenal three-point shooter and a good spot-up shooter. His three-point percentage was 45.2 percent the previous season to go with his 50.1 percent from the field.
Rush is a very athletic player, who is known for slashing to the basket and dunking the basketball. In 2011-12, 26 percent of his shots were taken at the rim, while 47 percent were behind the arc.
Here is an example of how he likes to slash to the rim:
As you can see from this play, Rush makes a bounce pass to David Lee then makes a run at the hoop, where David Lee returns the bounce pass to the streaking Rush, who finishes at the rim.
If Rush wants to increase his value, he will need to extend his range further by really concentrating on his mid-range jumper this offseason. Yes, he can hang with the talents like Curry and Thompson behind the arc, but he can create even more space if he starts hitting the 10- to 15-footer.
As you can see from the video highlights of the 2011-12 season, Rush makes some spectacular plays on both offense and defense.
However the free-agency period plays out, and if Rush accepts his player option, Coach Jackson will have one more piece of artillery to use, especially against efficient teams like the San Antonio Spurs or the younger and athletic Oklahoma City Thunder.
There is a big place on the team for Rush, but Coach Jackson just has to utilize him the correct way.
Follow me @ScottInTheBay