The rise of the Golden State Warriors in the 2013 NBA Playoffs also served as the coming out party of the NBA’s newest crowned star, Stephen Curry. He shot, dished and gutted his way into the hearts of basketball fans across the country.
For all of the acclaim that Curry received, however, the emergence of Harrison Barnes was the true catalyst of the Warriors’ playoff run.
While Curry’s performances ranged from legendary to pedestrian, the steady contribution of Barnes was what planted the seeds of an upset against the San Antonio Spurs.
Barnes began the season as the biggest question mark from the 2012 draft class. Although he entered North Carolina as the most heralded high school prospect since LeBron James, his inconsistent play throughout his collegiate career sent red flags to scouts everywhere.
While blessed with prodigious ability and talent, would his motor limit his ceiling?
The regular season did little to answer those questions. Flashes of brilliance were overshadowed by strings of underwhelming play. With stars like Curry, David Lee and Klay Thompson needing the ball to be fully effective, it appeared as if Barnes was growing less aggressive on the offensive end.
Regular season averages of 9.2 points, 1.2 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game served as proof of his timidity on offense.
And then the unexpected happened. The playoffs arrived and an internal switch was flipped.
His timidity was replaced by aggression as he left his mark to the tune of 16.1 points, 1.3 assists and 6.4 rebounds. The star that had been buried by a lack of confidence finally showed his true form.
All signs were pointing to a breakout season for Barnes in 2013-14, the young nucleus of he, Curry and Thompson expected to take the league by storm.
Warriors’ management, though, thought otherwise. They felt that unless another piece was added, they would be mired in the second tier of contenders.
The signing of Andre Iguodala, a versatile All-Star performer, was that missing piece. The defensive presence and leadership that he brings will add even more credibility to the rising power in Golden State.
One question remains, however, one that will either progress or stunt the development of the emerging Barnes: How will he fit in with the newly acquired Iguodala?
The NBA has that pesky rule that limits teams to five players on the court at one time. With Curry, Thompson, Lee and defensive stalwart Andrew Bogut sure to start, that leaves one spot available for Barnes and Iguodala.
With the Warriors investing $48 million in Iguodala over the next four years, it’s only logical to assume that the last spot will belong to him, relegating Barnes to the role of sixth man.
The task now falls on head coach Mark Jackson to ensure the proper minutes are distributed among his team. After all, it was only after Barnes’ minutes spiked from 25.4 in the regular season to 38.4 in the playoffs that his play really took off.
Fortunately for Jackson, the versatility of both Barnes and Iguodala will allow for minutes to be plentiful. It is rare to have a player that can play three different positions; Jackson is privileged enough to have two.
Regardless of who in the starting five needs a breather, Jackson can confidently bring in Barnes to replace him. Should Bogut head to the bench, the insertion of Barnes creates the most dynamic small-ball lineup in the league. If it is Thompson, teams will be tasked with defending two ultra-athletic swingmen.
The possibilities and pairings that Iguodala and Barnes provide are endless. Furthermore, the tutelage that Iguodala can provide should do wonders for the development of Barnes.
Blessed with nearly identical skill sets—Barnes the superior shooter, Iguodala the better slasher and finisher—the former All-Star can help raise the future All-Star to new heights.
The transformation brought on by the addition of Iguodala will be felt on multiple levels this season. The defense will be instantly upgraded, the offense will be more dynamic and the young talent will be further elevated.
The most exciting team in the league is now the most versatile as well. If Barnes reaches his infinite potential, the sky is the limit to what they can achieve. Iguodala provides him with the recipe to be good; fortunately for the Warriors, Barnes has a few extra ingredients that can make him great.
The unleashing of these two dynamic swingmen together is sure to paint nightmares for opposing teams this season.