Leandro Barbosa Plays Key Role for Golden State Warriors

One of the Golden State Warriors’ greatest assets this season has been their depth. The talent up and down the Warriors’ roster has given them a significant advantage over many teams, and it also allows Steve Kerr to give his starters more rest.

Marreese Speights is having a resurgent season, David Lee‘s skill set and ability to score works perfectly off the bench, Andre Iguodala provides the bench with elite perimeter defense and ball distribution, Shaun Livingston is an ideal backup for Stephen Curry, and Justin Holiday has been having a breakout season.

One of the most underrated signings this past offseason for the Warriors though was bringing in veteran guard Leandro Barbosa.

This season, Barbosa is averaging 6.7 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game in 13 minutes per game. He’s shooting 49 percent from the field and 33 percent from three-point range.

These numbers aren’t mind-blowingly spectacular, but Barbosa’s significant contributions to this Warriors team aren’t necessarily seen on the court on a nightly basis. His impact also can’t be measured by basic statistics.

Barbosa provides the Warriors with three key qualities that are immeasurable. First of all, Barbosa provides the Warriors with a veteran mindset and presence. The Warriors have plenty of other veterans on the team such as Curry, Lee, Iguodala, Andrew Bogut, etc. However, Barbosa brings a wealth of knowledge and playoff experience that these other players don’t have.

Barbosa is in his 12th NBA season, and in those 12 seasons, he’s been to the playoffs in six of them. For his career, he’s averaged 9.6 points in the postseason. In the 2006 playoffs though, Barbosa averaged 14.2 points, and in the 2007 playoffs, he averaged 15.8 points.

In addition, Barbosa has plenty of experience at coming off the bench and succeeding. His skill set translates to the bench incredibly well, as seen in his “sixth man” days with the Phoenix Suns. Barbosa also won the Sixth Man of the Year Award with the Suns during the 2006-2007 season, which was his best statistical season.

His playoff experience is a valuable asset to the Warriors, and Barbosa is clearly one of the leaders on this team. He might not play significant minutes, but he’s a leader in the locker room and on the bench, as Kerr pointed out to Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle.

“He’s one of our leaders, despite the fact that he doesn’t play a ton,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “He leads that bench group. He understands the value and the importance of the work ethic for the guys who don’t see a lot of playing time. He started that routine. It’s a shooting contest, competitive and fun.

“I think it’s a big reason why we’ve had good bench play this year.”

Barbosa’s experience also gives him a level of maturity that allows him to still compete at a high level when his number is called, even if his minutes are limited. His humility and willingness to fill a minor role on an elite team is incredibly admirable and helpful to the Warriors’s success. Barbosa also spoke about this with Simmons:

“I come prepared to play every night. I have it in my mind that Stevie is always going to call my name,” Barbosa said. “You just have to be ready, stay ready. I never know when Coach is going to call me, but as soon as he calls me, I try to do my best to help my teammates.”

The second signifiant quality that Barbosa brings to the Warriors is his energy. As previously mentioned, Barbosa is the leader of the bench and can be seen cheering more than anyone on the Warriors’ bench during an exciting play or key moment during a game.

In addition to his energy on the bench and in the locker room, Barbosa also provides energy on the court. At 32 years old, Barbosa is still incredibly quick and can still beat pretty much any defender that an opponent places in front of him. He’s still living up to his Brazilian Blur nickname.

Lastly, the third quality that Barbosa brings to the Warriors is his scoring instinct. Barbosa has had so much success as a sixth man because of his ability to impact a game at any moment with his instant scoring ability. Barbosa isn’t the Warriors’ sixth man, but he still provides steady scoring when called upon.

When Barbosa has been given a chance this season, he has been consistent and reliable. After three straight games of playing zero minutes recently against the Sacramento Kings, the Boston Celtics, and the Chicago Bulls, Barbosa has posted consistent minutes in the four most recent games for the Warriors, against the Utah Jazz, Suns, the Kings again, and the Dallas Mavericks.

In the game against the Jazz, Barbosa scored 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the field and 3-for-4 shooting from three-point range in 13 minutes. The Warriors trailed the Jazz the entire game, and even though the Warriors still lost, Barbosa brought the Warriors back into the game near the end of the game with his ferocious fighting spirit.

Dec 4, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Leandro Barbosa (19) shoots a layup against the New Orleans Pelicans during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The next night, the Warriors faced his former team, the Suns, and Barbosa scored 14 points on 7-for-11 shooting from the field in 13 minutes.

Against the Kings on Tuesday night, Barbosa saw a boost in minutes, as he played 22 minutes, and he scored 12 points, collected three rebounds, dished out five assists, and shot 4-for-9 from the field and 2-for-4 from three-point range.

Last night against the Mavs, Barbosa contributed 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the field and 3-for-4 shooting from three-point range in 14 minutes.

On this Warriors team, Barbosa doesn’t have to be a lights-out three-point shooter. He doesn’t have to be the primary backup point guard. He doesn’t have to score 10-15 points a night. He just has to be himself. He’s a veteran, an experienced leader, a burst of energy, a scoring threat, and a great teammate, and all of those qualities benefit the Warriors.

If given the minutes, Barbosa will be consistent and reliable. No matter how many minutes he gets or what stats he puts up though, he will do whatever he can to help the team win, on and off the court.