Even though the Golden State Warriors came into Wednesday’s affair with the Minnesota Timberwolves at 3-1 looking like a team that can win the Western Conference, the Warriors had one major problem; bench scoring. That shouldn’t be a problem anymore as Harrison Barnes returned from a preseason injury to the tune of 14 points in 14 minutes. Barnes inspired a Warriors bench that wasn’t producing at the rate necessary to have a long postseason run.
Barnes looked aggressive going to the basket and scoring at will around the rim and knocking down midrange jump shots. It was a different Barnes than what we saw at times last year. Last year, Barnes played like a rookie in a lot of ways. He wasn’t aggressive enough, he was inconsistent, he didn’t force his shot as he was the number 4 option most of the time behind Stephen Curry, David Lee and Klay Thompson. However, coming off the bench this season should give Barnes more of an opportunity to be a scorer and provide the Warriors with bench points that they desperately need.
It remains to be seen if Barnes will stay on the bench as the sixth man the whole season. But, it appears that way at least early in the season with the way Klay Thompson is performing through the first five games. Barnes has said he’s fine with coming off the bench and he should be, as it will give him more of an opportunity to score and be in the running for sixth man of the year.
Another positive of Barnes coming off the bench that might not be noticed is versatility and the ability to backup one of the starters if they get injured. Barnes can play the shooting guard, small forward and power forward for some stretches . Not a lot of teams have the versatility that the Warriors have at the shooting guard and small forward spot with Barnes, Andre Iguodala and Thompson.
Obviously Barnes may not always be as efficient as he was against the Timberwolves Wednesday night, but he doesn’t have to be. All Barnes needs to do is average 12-15 points a night coming off the bench and provide the Warriors with good defense and maybe a spark if the starters aren’t getting the job done. Barnes should help to fill the void left by Jarrett Jack last year. There’s more help coming as well with Festus Ezeli, who will be another key bench player, returning pretty soon.
The Warriors might not have the bench that they had last year with Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack gone, but Barnes’ production can go a long way toward determining how good the Warriors bench will be. If Barnes is efficient coming off the bench, then that gives the Warriors even more firepower to go along with one of the best starting fives in the NBA.
The Warriors will see if Barnes continues to adapt to his bench role as they take on the San Antonio Spurs today in San Antonio and then follow that up with a game in Memphis against the Grizzlies the following night. This is a challenging early road trip for the Warriors and gives us a good gage on where this team is as far as being able to compete for a Western Conference Title.