How the Golden State Warriors Can Improve Without Trading Harrison Barnes

Jasper SchererAnalyst IIFebruary 18, 2014

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 22: Mark Jackson of the Golden State Warriors and Harrison Barnes #40 of the Golden State Warriors during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers on November 22, 2013 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

When a promising young prospect doesn't live up to the hype, it's natural for fans to advocate for some type of deal so they can avoid experiencing said prospect's stagnancy.

That's been the case with Harrison Barnes as of late, but with the trade deadline steadily approaching and general manager Bob Myers' hesitancy to deal Barnes in anything other than a blockbuster, the small forward appears to be staying put.

That might not sit well with Warriors fans who aren't content with their team's 31-22 first-half record, but Mark Jackson and Co. can still make one key change that would improve the Warriors drastically. Better yet, they wouldn't have to trade anyone.

The change I'm proposing is to replace Klay Thompson with Barnes in the starting lineup while moving Andre Iguodala to the 2 spot.

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 29:  Tristan Thompson #13 of the Cleveland Cavaliers fights for position against Harrison Barnes #40 and Andre Iguodala #9 of the Golden State Warriors at The Quicken Loans Arena on December 29, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO US
David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

Part of this suggestion comes for the sake of simply switching it up, as the current starting five aren't getting it done. But it also allows Barnes to develop as a player, something he can't do as well when playing in chunks.

Yes, it's time to realize that Barnes might not grow into the superstar that everyone hoped he would become after his performance in the 2013 playoffs. (A performance that, as B/R's Grant Hughes writes, wasn't quite as great as we thought.)

But Barnes still has the ability to contribute as an above-average player in the NBA, and until he receives that starting role, he won't do much to improve as a player. The Warriors won't know what type of player they have in Barnes until he really gets a chance to shine.

But this potential change goes beyond simply allowing Barnes to develop. It would also function to remove Thompson from the starting lineup, a role that it is time for him to relinquish.

Thompson is still just as one-dimensional as he's always been. He's eclipsed five rebounds in a game just five times this season while recording three or fewer assists in 41 of his 53 games. That all comes despite an average of 37.6 minutes per game.

Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Of course, anyone who follows the Warriors knows this about Thompson. His primary function is to shoot—and shoot well—but even that hasn't been going well for the young guard.

It's no secret that Thompson hasn't been the shooting wiz during the last month or so that we've come to know him as. After starting the season on a tear, the Warriors shooting guard is coming off a January to forget (.384% FG) and has struggled to put the ball in the hoop with any semblance of consistency since November.

Additionally, for all of his faults, Barnes is simply a much better shot-creator than Thompson. The latter relies heavily on pick-and-rolls and extensive off-the-ball movement to create shooting opportunities, which has, in some ways, hurt the Warrior offense this season.

When given the proper spacing, Barnes can use his athleticism to drive to the hoop, something we all wish he would do more often. Either way, Thompson doesn't have that ability, which can hold the Dubs offense back at times.

Barnes isn't on Thompson's level as a shooter, but judging simply by the raw data from this season (which is, admittedly, sometimes misleading), the discrepancy isn't as pronounced as one might think. Thompson is shooting .001 better from beyond the arc (albeit with 261 more attempts) than Barnes.

Additionally, Thompson's true shooting percentage is 4.2 points better than Barnes', a total bolstered by the former's hot start and not indicative of his recent performances. Finally, looking at the table below, you can see Barnes' shooting performance generally improves when given more minutes and more shots.

Thompson/Barnes: Shooting By Month
Shooting PercentageMPGFGA/game

That's not to say Thompson shouldn't play; he would still function as the sixth man and thus see plenty of minutes. But unless I'm missing something, switching out Thompson for Barnes seems like the best change for the Dubs with their current roster. (While we're on that subject, it would be nice to see Draymond Green receive more than 20 minutes per contest, but who's counting?)

Switching it up for the Warriors could be just what the club needs to make a strong run as the second half opens up. On that note, it's a mistake to bluntly label the first half as a failure for the Dubs.

While its current spot as the eighth seed in the Western Conference is far lower than what was expected prior to the season, there are some silver linings. For one, the Warriors have performed well against tough competition, which is what matters in the playoffs.

Indeed, Golden State would have swept the Heat and the Thunder were it not for a pair of unfortunate buzzer-beating three-pointers. The Warriors also sit just half a game behind the sixth-seeded Dallas Mavericks and the quickly falling Portland Trail Blazers aren't quite out of reach either.

So, Warriors fans out there: Relax. There are 28 games remaining, which is plenty of time to right the ship and salvage a disappointing season. But for that to happen, some changes need to be made, or else the Dubs could find themselves watching the majority of the playoffs from home.