When Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr sat down last Thursday at the Warriors Basketball Camp in Walnut Creek, Calif., he faced a barrage of questions from young Dubs fans with inquiries about the roster, who his favorite Warriors player is, and expectations for the upcoming season.
One camper asked the rookie coach a question which drew a response that caught media members by surprise. Kerr was asked about the starting lineup for the 2014-15 season.
“Andre (Iguodala) started last year, which he probably will (again), but there’s a lot of options that we have because we’ve got really good players in Harrison (Barnes) and Draymond (Green),” Kerr told the young fan.
With that kind of depth at small forward, it’s a good problem to have for Steve Kerr. He will have three very different athletes who are all capable of contributing in a starting role.
Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, and Harrison Barnes will likely share the workload at small forward for the majority of the season. Depending on the matchups presented to Golden State on any given night, two out of the three will share the floor when Kerr wants to bring a different look or change of pace.
So that leads us to the big questions: who starts at small forward on a regular basis? In what situation would one of the others get the start? In order to come to such conclusions, it helps to see a breakdown of the players in the running for the job.
Andre Iguodala was the primary starting small forward for the Warriors in 2013-14, making 63 total starts, averaging just more than 32 minutes per game. He played an all-purpose role for the team, with a statline of 9.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.5 SPG.
These numbers show a slight decline compared to his days with Philadelphia and his brief stint with Denver, but his role with the Warriors is not to be underplayed. In 2013-14, Iggy finished second on the team in assists per game and steals per game, behind only Stephen Curry in both categories.
When Iguodala is on the court, the estimate of Warriors points scored per 100 possessions is 112.8. When not on the floor, that figure drops to 101.9. Simply stated, Andre Iguodala is important to the Golden State Warriors.
With that being said, that doesn’t necessarily mean he needs to be starting, it just means he needs to be getting minutes. Iguodala’s overall importance to the team generally makes up for the fact that he is a miserable free throw shooter, and that he missed 19 games last season due to a strained hamstring and regular rest.
Because of how he plays the game, his 10 years in the league have undoubtedly worn on his body, which may be why the head coach is suggesting he come off the bench to maximize his effectiveness.
I believe Steve Kerr may indeed bring Iguodala off the bench, getting starts here and there based on matchups that favor his more physical style of play. On the other hand, bringing a guy like Andre into the game as a sixth man to go against an opposing teams’ second unit could be exactly what the Warriors need to compete at a higher level in the West.
Draymond Green played several roles for the Dubs last season. He spent 2013-14 as the first or second man off the bench, also getting 12 starts while Andre Iguodala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut dealt with injuries.
In the playoffs, his role expanded and he found himself starting in four out of the seven games in the first round of the playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers. Much like Iguodala’s stat line, Draymond’s numbers won’t always knock your socks off. Last season he averaged 6.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.9 APG, all while shooting at about 40 percent.
However when playoffs rolled around, he rose to the occasion. He looked like a seasoned starter averaging just more than 32 MPG with a line of 11.9 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.7 SPG and 1.7 BPG. He posted three double-doubles and scored in double figures in five out of seven games against L.A.
My takeaway from Draymond’s season is that the guy can play, and he can start. He can produce offensively and he can grab rebounds in a front court crowded with guys like Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan. He can defend just about any position on the floor, as we saw multiple times when he would seamlessly switch from defending Blake Griffin, to guarding Chris Paul.
If it were up to me, I would be starting Draymond Green on a fairly regular basis. The Dubs were 6-1 in games where he played 35 minutes or more.
He’s got my vote.
Harrison Barnes is a bit trickier to break down than the previous two players mentioned. He was a high draft pick two years ago with loads of potential and it appeared he would fit snugly into the role of small forward of the future for the Warriors.
He started 81 games for the Dubs in 2012-13 and put in a respectable rookie campaign. Barnes finished sixth in voting for Rookie of the Year with a final stat line of 9.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.2 APG. In 2013-14, he posted a nearly identical statline even though he lost his starting role after the acquisition of Andre Iguodala and the emergence of Draymond Green.
Despite the decent overall numbers off the bench, it seemed like Barnes didn’t exactly progress in his sophomore campaign.
Last season, the Warriors record when Barnes got a minimal number of starts was 9-13; not what you want out of a team on the upswing out to prove itself as a playoff contender. His primary struggles lied with his offensive skills.
Barnes’ most attempted field goal has been the jump shot, which he shot at just 33 percent last year. Dunks and layups helped his overall FG% but the bottom line is he’s been a bit of a liability on the offensive end of the court when he frequently shoots jumpers.
He also has a tendency to slow down the offense and survey the half court with the ball in his hands, something that probably drives Stephen Curry insane.
It’s not all bad for Harrison Barnes. I think he’s a great energy option off the bench with his long size and athleticism, and there is obviously still time for him to grow as a player.
I would like to see Barnes used as a backup to whoever happens to be starting at small forward, whether it’s Draymond or Iguodala. Twenty to 28 minutes per game sounds about right for Harrison in 2014-15.
He can sharpen his skills and develop into a guy that can provide the energy off the bench, relief at multiple positions and even a spot start if needed.
Once again, the wealth of talent at small forward is a good problem for Steve Kerr. He can throw three different looks at an opposing team depending on the matchup he’s given at the small forward position.
I hope to see Draymond Green emerge as the starter, with Andre Iguodala providing veteran leadership as well as big minutes off the bench. Harrison Barnes will continue to improve and be effective in his role on the team, and still has the potential to start in the future for the Warriors down the line.