I’ve long been a proponent of giving Harrison Barnes more run at the power forward slot. Golden State badly needs the spacing, since nobody on the team is especially adept at getting to the hoop. So, I was delighted to see Barnes-at-the-4 take off in the Denver series.
After spending almost no time at power forward, Barnes found himself playing the 4 in what was Golden State’s most used lineup against Denver. The results were incredible. Young Harrison responded to the extra space by hitting 40% of his threes and upping his attempts to 5.3 per game. He also did this to Anthony Randolph:
I was curious as to Barnes’ feelings on his breakout series and the new basketball paradigm that served as his launching pad. So I asked the (heavily stitched) rookie about it.
ESS: “You had a break-out series against Denver when you were playing the 4 in the small line-up, four three-point shooters. Do you feel like there’s more space with that lineup?”
Barnes: “First I’m honored you called me a three-point shooter. (Laughs.) Never been called that before. It was fun to kind of play that style. We’d never really done that before this season. Really, I’d never really played that at Carolina. I’ve always been so accustomed to having two bigs, especially fixtures on the block. So just to be able to play that spread out basketball, kind of drive and kick… it was fun to have four people who could handle the ball, just get out on the break, we all had different mis-matches. It was exciting.”
Tim Kawakami: “Can you play the 4 spot for extended periods in the future?”
Barnes: “I’d definitely have to bulk up. I don’t think I could check guys like Zach Randolph, Serge Ibaka. That might be a little different. But for that playoff series, it worked. It was fun to play in David’s spot for a little while. I enjoyed that… But next year it’ll be different. We’ll have a lot of guys who are healthy. I think a lot of people are kind of forgetting the fact that we’ll have David and Brandon, so it’ll give us more depth. I think we have to kind of re-invent ourselves once again next year with healthier bodies.”
Notice how Harrison Barnes, not the most effusive of players, uses the word “fun” three times. The four-out strategy can be fun because it foments ball movement and rhythm shooting. More importantly, surrounding Bogut with shooters can pay some practical dividends. The Warriors took some of what were two-point attempts and converted those to three-pointers, drowning the Nuggets in the process. While I can’t blame GSW for abandoning this strategy against the bigger San Antonio Spurs, I would blame them for avoiding Barnes-at-the-4 in 2014. Harrison isn’t just a small forward. He’s a tweener, which is actually a great development for Golden State.