When Steve Kerr was named head coach of the Golden State Warriors, it was clear that he had many ideas on how to improve this Warriors team. One of the significant changes that Kerr has made so far in his coaching tenure is moving Andre Iguodala to the bench and starting Harrison Barnes.
In training camp, this decision was made mostly due to the toe injury that kept backup point guard Shaun Livingston out. Iguodala served as the “backup point guard” while Livingston was injured.
It made sense to play Iguodala in the second unit when Livingston was out, because it gave the reserves a playmaker and a distributor that they needed. However, it simply does not make sense now to keep Iguodala out of the starting lineup with Livingston back and serving as the primary backup point guard.
First of all, it doesn’t make sense to play Iguodala alongside Livingston. Their skillsets are too similar, and it’d be more beneficial to the Warriors if Iguodala was in the starting lineup and Livingston ran the second unit.
Having Iguodala in the starting lineup would allow him to do what the Warriors wanted him to do when they acquired him. When Iguodala starts, it adds another playmaker and distributer to the starting lineup, which would enhance the Warriors’ quick offense and improved ball movement this season, and it would open up more shot opportunities for Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, as it will allow Curry to play off the ball more.
With Barnes in the starting lineup, Curry is forced to be the primary playmaker. This isn’t a bad thing, but having Iguodala in the starting lineup allows Curry to play off the ball on some possessions, which keeps him fresh and prevents him from committing more turnovers.
Also, Livingston has already proven that he is a solid backup point guard that can execute and run an offense effectively. He doesn’t need Iguodala alongside him in the second unit to help him.
In fact, it would actually be better to have Iguodala start and have Livingston and Barnes play together in the second unit.
Barnes struggled last year creating his own shot off the bench, mostly due to the fact that he needs others to create looks for him at this point in his career, and he played alongside non-playermaker backup point guards such as Toney Douglas, Steve Blake, and Jordan Crawford last season.
This season, Barnes has the opportunity to play alongside Livingston, who is a playmaker and can create shots for others. He knows how to run an offense effectively, and his presence could allow Barnes to keep playing with the energy that he’s shown so far this season and keep his confidence at a high level.
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Many attributed Barnes’ struggles last season to coming off the bench. Perhaps Iguodala is struggling with the same problem this season. It isn’t exactly the same, partially because Iguodala is much more experienced than Barnes so he should be able to adapt to new situations more easily, but Iguodala, before this season, had started in all 758 regular season games he’s played. He’s started in all 48 playoff games in his career too. He’s not used to coming off the bench.
He’s a team player and wouldn’t complain about his new role, but he’s a proven starter that has shown he can improve a starting lineup in many ways. Iguodala isn’t succeeding off of the bench, maybe partially because he’s not used to playing in that situation but also because the Warriors aren’t putting him in the best position for him to succeed.
There could be other factors to this decision that, as fans, we simply don’t have the answers to. For example, maybe Kerr and the Warriors decided to start Barnes in an attempt to “showcase” his skills more if a potential trade involving Barnes is proposed later this season. That’s a completely speculative statement, but maybe that partially explains the situation.
Another question is what if Iguodala is actually injured or still feeling lingering effects from his hamstring injury last year or from an injury in training camp? He hasn’t quite looked like himself so far this season, so what better way to boost his confidence and his game than inserting him back into the starting lineup and playing him alongside some of his closest friends on the team, the Splash Brothers.
Adam Lauridsen of Golden State Warriors Fast Break Blog perfectly described Iguodala’s recent struggles in his latest post:
What’s wrong with Andre Iguodala? With David Lee out, the Warriors need offense in the second unit now more than ever. While Iguodala asserted himself on Saturday against the Rockets, he’s been a shell of himself the last two games, attempting a total of 6 shots, making 1. It’s not just that he isn’t attacking the rim; he’s actively avoiding it. The play in the second half when Iguodala got the ball at near point-blank range and threw it away into the backcourt pretty much sums things up. It’s so frustrating to watch Iguodala make the simple things difficult, because he’s supposed to have the exact opposite effect on this squad. If Kerr is looking to shake things up, there may be no better time to move Iguodala back to the starting line-up. Barnes just had his best game of the season — maybe his best since May 2013 — and his return to the bench can genuinely be pitched as an effort to boost its firepower. Iguodala, meanwhile, would benefit from some runs with Curry, Thompson and Bogut — freeing him to get out on the break and remember what it’s like to put the ball through the basket.
The Warriors are an incredibly talented team. They have the best backcourt in the NBA, they have a deep roster, and they have playoff experience. This team could certainly finish the regular season as a top-four team in the Western Conference, but could they get better than they are now? Absolutely.
How can they get better? They need to start Iguodala. He will be a key part of the Warriors’ success this year, and his presence in the starting lineup is vital.