As was wildly evident in last season’s NBA Finals, having fire come off of the bench is a necessity in the basketball world today. The Heat allowed their starters rest throughout the playoffs by having a second unit that could easily hold their own against the starting lineups of many teams in the lower half of the league. This is a concept that is being adopted all around the NBA, with organizations stocking up on reliable players that can come into games and allow the first unit to take a breather while either keeping the score as close as possible to when they entered the game or even gaining on their opponent. Even if a roster cannot have an entire second lineup that brings ample amounts of strength, at the very least, a consistent and talented sixth man is a requirement for a playoff team. Golden State, a team with its eyes set on making multiple playoff appearances in the upcoming years, has such a talent in Harrison Barnes.
Barnes, a second year player out of North Carolina, started all but one game at small forward for the Warriors last season, and will be the forefront of their bench, alongside longtime veteran center Jermaine O’Neal. Barnes could also find himself starting, as starting center Andrew Bogut’s health is a consistent problem, not to mention the effectiveness of Golden State’s small-ball approach in the playoffs last season. After David Lee, the team’s starting power forward, tore his right hip flexor early in the postseason, the Warriors had to fill in the void, and Barnes stepped up to fill in at the four spot. This rotation yielded a much more potent result than many would have expected, as the Warriors improved both their offensive and defensive efficiency. The latter could be explained by Lee’s ineptitude on defense outside of rebounding, but should any starter go down with an injury, they would find that their roster is so versatile that Barnes could help fill any opening that comes up.
However, the main question with Barnes is how he will produce from off the bench. Having started in every single NBA game in which he has played, this becomes a a large variable in the upcoming season. His minutes should not change all that drastically from the regular season last year, as he played an average of twenty five per game, and should his efficiency be akin to that of his playoff campaign, then he will make for an excellent cornerstone for the Warriors’ bench. In the postseason, Barnes averaged over sixteen points per game, and more than six rebounds per game, albeit that was while averaging nearly forty minutes on the floor. But, if Barnes can keep his mentality focused on the bigger picture, and contributing as part of a team, he can anchor a backup squad that could wind up being a large factor in the Warriors’ playoff hopes.