Golden State Warriors Must Start Harrison Barnes over Klay Thompson in 2013-14

Andy BaileyFeatured ColumnistAugust 28, 2013

DENVER, CO - APRIL 30:  Harrison Barnes #40 of the Golden State Warriors runs up court against the Denver Nuggets during Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at the Pepsi Center on April 30, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Warriors 107-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Picking up Andre Iguodala was huge for the Golden State Warriors. But it shouldn't automatically move Harrison Barnes to the bench.

Most fans, bloggers and analysts are just assuming that the team's combination on the wings will be Iguodala and third-year shooting guard Klay Thompson.

But the more versatile and slightly bigger duo is Iguodala and Barnes.

One of the attributes that makes Golden State's big free-agent catch so valuable is his ability to play multiple positions. Right now, Iguodala's penciled in as the starting small forward, but he was listed as a shooting guard for the Nuggets last year.

He can easily be paired with either shooting guard Thompson or small forward Barnes.

So the question is, which of Golden State's two young wings can do more for the starting lineup next season?

Let's start with the argument for Thompson—which begins and ends with his outside shooting ability.

He hit 211 three-pointers last year, good for third behind teammate Stephen Curry and New Orleans' Ryan Anderson. His percentage from that range was just over 40.

The combined shooting of Thompson and Curry was extremely difficult to stop last year, and Iguodala could make that an even tougher task.

He's averaged nearly five assists a game over his career, and his ability to get to the rim will create plenty of opportunities for his teammates. If he draws perimeter defenders, Curry and Thompson will make them pay.

Thing is, defenders know how good those two are from three-point range and will likely stay home if Iguodala beats his man off the dribble. That puts the onus on the interior defense to help, leaving David Lee or Andrew Bogut open for drop-offs.

The respect Thompson commands at the three-point line helps the entire offense. The problem? He doesn't do much else.

I'm sure most of you remember the way San Antonio shut him down following his 34-point performance in Game 2 of their playoff series. Because of his inability to create shots for himself or opportunities for others, he couldn't do anything to shake his defenders after the Spurs put just a little focus on him.

On top of that, he has a hard time staying in front of quicker guards and doesn't do much on the boards.

Barnes is already better and has more potential in each of those areas. One of the biggest indicators of that potential was his performance in the playoffs, when he averaged 38 minutes a game (compared to 25 during the regular season).

When he was finally given the opportunity to shine, Barnes took advantage. He averaged 16.1 points and 6.4 rebounds during the playoffs.

That was good for third on the team in postseason scoring behind Curry and Jarrett Jack and second in rebounding behind Andrew Bogut.

In 12 games, Barnes showed a level of confidence previously unseen in the rookie. He was able to blow by defenders and finish at the rim and also showed consistency behind the three-point line, where he hit 37 percent of his attempts.

The playoffs were a glimpse at the kind of player Barnes was always supposed to be. Coming out of high school, he was touted as one of the top prospects in the country. But after two years at North Carolina that were merely really good but not quite fantastic, the hype died down.

The Warriors still used a top-10 draft pick on him, but 25 minutes a night and uncertainty on offense during the regular season tempered expectations once again.

Now, it looks like Barnes could reach the potential we were all so excited about in the first place. The last thing he needs is to have that momentum he created in the postseason halted.

I'm sure he'd still get plenty of minutes in a sixth-man role, since he can play both small and power forward. But why not go for the more well-rounded lineup and start him alongside Iguodala.

Barnes is two inches taller than Thompson, had a better rebounding percentage, handles the ball better and is a better fit for the lineup defensively, as Iguodala is much more capable of handling opposing 2-guards than Thompson is.

Thompson's one advantage is his three-point shooting, where Barnes isn't terrible either. He hit 36 percent of his threes as a rookie, and shooting is one of the easiest skills for a player to improve. You just have to dedicate time to it.

Whatever Marc Jackson decides to do, he'll have a very capable option for that sixth-man role. Thompson can come off the bench and punish the second-unit defenses he'd face with his range.

Barnes can punish Golden State's opponents in so many other ways and should be allowed to do so as a starter.

 

All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.