The Warriors are not better without David Lee, but Lee’s injury may have caused them to stumble upon a way to get better. Confused? Well, allow me to un-bewilder.

As we have discussed in these parts, playing Harrison Barnes at the 4 is the fun future we should all embrace. In this series, such a tactic can pay off wonderfully because Denver lacks large power forwards who’ll kill Barnes’ defense. Against, say, the Clippers, Barnes at power forward might not work so well. When the opponent is trotting Wilson Chandler out there in a big man role? Yep, there’s your small ball opening.

Fresh off the road win, some are already questioning whether the team is better off, sans DL (Doesn’t Twitter make for a convenient straw man, by the way?). The short retort to that opinion is, “Does Lee have a better replacement?” Carl Landry is essentially a more offensively limited David Lee. You could sell me on Lee’s replacement exceeding his output if said replacement is a defensive stalwart. Instead, Lee and Landry are more or less similar in terms of defensive effectiveness, and Lee is certainly a better offensive player.

Back to Barnes, who had the game of his life within a new, ad-hoc, spread-floor GSW approach. Harrison has a loose handle for a perimeter player, so when the space around him shrinks, so does his willingness and ability to attack. Playing him at power forward spreads the opposing defense thinner, allowing more space for Barnes to blast off towards the rim. Note the lack of interior resistance as Barnes blows by Anthony Randolph (Also note how Ezeli wisely walls Faried out of the picture).

It’s not just Barnes who can prosper with more room on the floor. As Darius Soriano pointed out, the Warriors as a team were incredibly offensively efficient in the time they used that Curry-Jack-Klay-Barnes-Bogut lineup. Jarrett Jack found some late success getting to the rim, in part due to the increased scope of space:

The stretched floor also helped the Warriors can 14 three-pointers, with quite a few coming in transition. More options on the perimeter can mean more defensive confusion as the pace quickens. Check how the Denver defense breaks as the Warriors swing the ball.

Barnes-at-the-4 is necessity as-mother-of-invention, and a wholly positive development for Golden State going forward. It bodes well for their chances in this particular long series, and should make them a better team as Harrison develops. What it does not do, is make David Lee expendable. To engage in some cross sports analogy, say a fastball pitcher develops a changeup and the latter pitch is flummoxing a certain kind of hitter. Success against that hitter doesn’t obviate the need for a fastball against others.

Lee is a huge, helpful part of GSW’s base offense. It just so happens that this offense, like many offenses, is well suited to going smaller against certain defenses. And Denver just might be the kind of team that’s ill suited to handling Golden State’s 4-out approach.


  • Holy hell, Andrew Bogut’s been incredible. I’m not sure how he’s conjuring this sudden mobility, but Bogut’s stymying many a driving Denver player’s plans. Dude creates more chaos in the paint than Jackson Pollock.
  • There’s a lot of “nobody thought we could win this!” talk out and about. A) The series is far from over and B) Plenty of people thought the Warriors could win this series. Just because the ESPN experts panel unanimously picked against GSW doesn’t mean these experts thought a Warriors victory impossible. Stephen Curry’s the best shooter alive but if I guessed “miss” whenever he shot, I’d be right most of the time. Does that mean I’m shocked whenever Steph hits a three-pointer? Far from it. There’s a wide gulf between “Nobody picked us to win” and “Nobody thought we could win.”

5 Responses

  1. checks Unlimited promo codes

    Mais il n’a que deux inspecteurs chargés de faire la tournée d’inspection des 468 Centres d’hébergement
    et de soins de longue durée (CHSLD) de la province.
    With all the other applications of “or” in the sentence – “impede or disrupt”,
    “business or official functions”, “disorderly or disruptive”,
    “in, or withing such proximity”, “building or grounds” –
    there is an implied “either”. Unlike many of my friends, I can’t
    claim to have been close to Andrew Breitbart. Tylko żeby wolny rynek miał
    miejsce, trzeba odsunąć od koryta mafię, zakorzenioną
    u nas tak głęboko, że bez amputacji którejś kończyny się to nie uda.
    The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority,
    but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.

  2. Tony Montana

    I don’t see playing Barnes at 4 as the future but rather a beautiful chess move by Jackson. This post season all the Warriors youngsters will get some really valuable experience. Curry, Thompson, Barnes, Ezeli, Green will all be that much more prepared to form the nucleus that will take the Warriors into the future. Add in vets like Lee and Bogut and we have something really special.

    After years of rooting for exciting but largely ineffective Warriors teams I really see a bright future fr years.

  3. Daniel

    Ironic that Nelly was notorious for creating “small ball” back in days when GSW lacked a real Center and Jackson has brought us back full circle to “small ball” again due to Lee’s injury.
    Loved watching Hardaway, Mullin and Richmond but Curry, Thompson and Barnes will be incredible!
    Our superstar nucleus is there. It took so long Warriors fans but we have something very special here. They’re only going to get better.
    Not like the one and done year that Webber gave us.

  4. Ethan Sherwood Strauss

    @EvanZ How do you know most of these people didn’t expect a Denver win? While I believe that GSW’s chances were mostly underrated going into this series, some of the anti GSW movement stemmed from this team’s inability to dominate at home.

  5. EvanZ

    “There’s a wide gulf between “Nobody picked us to win” and “Nobody thought we could win.””

    How about “A lot of people thought we could not win a single game in Denver.” I think that’s a pretty fair statement. Denver was seen as pretty much unbeatable at home. So in that respect, splitting and actually coming a couple seconds away from winning both games should be seen as a huge surprise imho.