When the Golden State Warriors drafted Harrison Barnes with the seventh overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, they had high hopes for him. And while people have questioned the pick, I believe it was the right choice.
Aside from the health of Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut, the Warriors have been questioned something else during this year’s training camp and preseason: Who will start at small forward for the Warriors come opening night?
To me, I think the obvious answer should be none other than their promising and talented rookie, Harrison Barnes.
Barnes brings to the table a multi-faceted skill set, and one that can really pay its dividends for this season, and for many years ahead. He is a solid perimeter player, as he is a lethal shooter from anywhere on the court. He distributes the ball well for his position, and he is an above average rebounder for his size.
Some may say that it would be better to have him come off the bench because of his youth and inexperience, but I think he is ready for the challenge. I also believe that Mark Jackson has the utmost confidence in him, and that that will play a big role in the ultimate decision that will come on opening night.
Aside from Barnes’ production and talent, who will he be going up against?
He really has two big competitors: Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson.
Rush, who was acquired from the Indiana Pacers last offseason, has been a great fit for the Warriors. He primarily played two positions, shooting guard and small forward. But, with Klay Thompson’s emergence as a sensational shooting guard, it’s likely that he won’t get the nod there.
So, Rush will be seeking the start at small forward, where he will be going against Barnes and Jefferson. The four-year veteran out of Kansas University averaged just about 10 PPG and 4 RPG last season. In addition, he was phenomenal on defense, as he always seemed to be at the right place at the right time to come up with the clutch block or sneaky steal. Rush also shot lights out from downtown last year, as he nailed 45% of his three pointers.
I could see Mark Jackson starting Brandon Rush at small forward, primarily because of his breakout year last season, and the all-around gameplay he has developed.
Barnes will also be competing against long-time NBA veteran Richard Jefferson. Jefferson, who stands at 32 years of age, has 11 years of NBA experience under his belt. He has played for four different NBA teams, and he is a guy that any franchise would love to have on their roster.
That said, I just don’t see Jefferson getting the start at small forward. Sure, there was a time where Jefferson was averaging nearly 23 PPG, but that was years ago. His numbers have been dropping each of the past four seasons, and I expect them to drop even more this season.
Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy that he is wearing a Warriors’ uniform. He will definitely be able to teach young guys like Rush and Barnes a thing or two about the game, and that is invaluable. I just believe that Jefferson has lost his step and won’t be able to run with the young and agile Golden State Warriors on a consistent basis.
So in conclusion, I give my vote to Harrison Barnes to start at small forward for the Warriors.
Why not? The guy knows what its like to be a star, as he was the one of the most prolific scorers in the country during his collegiate years at the University of North Carolina.
The Warriors have long been known for making risky (or dumb, whichever way you look at it) moves, so I am excited to see what their final decision for this will be.