Brandon Rush Brings Athleticism, Defense to Golden State Warriors' Perimeter

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 27, 2011

When the Golden State Warriors acquired Brandon Rush from the Indiana Pacers for Lou Amundson one week before the start of the 2011-2012 NBA season, news of the deal barely reached the outskirts of the NBA radar.

To say that this deal was an afterthought would be to say that the league's popularity was unharmed from their labor dispute.

Of course, when two players with career averages of fewer than 10 points per game are swapped in an offseason when players like Chris Paul, Lamar Odom and Tyson Chandler are on the move, the NBA is forgiven for glossing over this deal.

But the addition of Rush could be the difference between having meaningful basketball in April for the Warriors or another 25-win season.

Rush, the 13th pick by Portland in the 2008 draft, is 6'6", 225 lbs and capable of playing either position on the wing. Rush joined a thin Warriors backcourt and instantly became the best perimeter defender and one of their better three-point threats (career 40.4 percent).

In his first two games as a Warrior, Rush has emerged as coach Mark Jackson's first option off of the bench and has logged more minutes per game (28.0) than any other reserve. His 17 points do not jump off the page, but his six rebounds, four blocks and two steals could keep those minutes climbing toward the 30-minute mark. If Rush carries these promising first two games into a promising month or two, he'll be a legitimate threat to push current starter Dorell Wright to the second unit.

Rush has shown glimpses of the player that the Pacers hoped they were getting when they acquired the former Kansas Jayhawk in a 2008 draft-day trade. He battled problems with consistency during his three years in Indiana and was shuffled in and out of the starting lineup, never finding a true identity with his club.

Rush may be more valuable to this club as a defender and scorer on the second unit than as a starter, but his level of play just may force Jackson's hand. His ability to drive and finish at the rim gives the Warriors their first reserve capable of attacking the basket since Monta Ellis was fighting for minutes behind Jason Richardson in his first two seasons.

Between Ellis' 35-plus minutes per night, Rush, Wright, Dominic McGuire and lottery pick—and Jerry West favorite—Klay Thompson, Jackson may vary his rotations nightly based on matchups. It's a delicate situation for any coach, but a rarity for one on the Golden State Warriors sideline.

Of course, if Rush's production continues to increase, that rotation becomes easier to assign and less dependent on matchups.