When David Lee suffered a torn hip flexor against the Nuggets in the playoffs last season, it presented Mark Jackson an intriguing opportunity: playing Harrison Barnes at the 4 in a small-ball lineup.
It wasn’t a blessing-in-disguise scenario, however, because Lee’s scoring absence was the elephant in the dorm room against San Antonio’s defense that keyed on Golden State’s perimeter scorers. The Warriors didn’t have the inside attack that aided Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Barnes so much during the regular season.
But what Lee’s absence did was allow a unit featuring Curry, Thompson, Jarrett Jack, Barnes and Andrew Bogut to get some run. And Barnes excelled, averaging 17.3 points per game against the Spurs after finishing the regular season averaging 9.2. He more than doubled his shot attempts from seven to 15.
With Andre Iguodala in the fold dishing out nearly six assists per game in the early going (nearly the same number as Jack did last season, a true point guard), the Warriors could be even more dangerous running small ball for a myriad of reasons.
With no disrespect to Skinny David Lee, one of the game’s most crafty power forwards and the team’s lone All-Star representative since 1997, imagining a lineup of Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Barnes and Bogut was the first thing that came to mind when news of Iguodala’s acquisition came to light.
It would present opponents many of the same problems that small-ball group against the Spurs did. But Iguodala replacing Jack has ramifications that could put the team over the figurative top. Unlike Jack, Iguodala is one of the league’s premier versatile defenders and has a willingness to share that would have saved Warrior fans a few late-game ulcers last spring.
It would force teams to keep points guards on Curry and play their long defenders against Thompson, Iguodala and Barnes, or pay for it otherwise. Players like Kawhi Leonard would have their hands full with so many offensive weapons on the perimeter. With Barnes and Iguodala’s ability to slash, they could draw out the opponents’ big men from the paint and find ways to get easy baskets if they continue to pass like they did Tuesday against Detroit.
This isn’t a call to get Lee out of the starting lineup at all. Nor does this ignore the fact that Barnes is still getting back into shape after his foot injury caused him to miss some time early in the year. But it’s a weapon that Jackson has yet to reveal in any significant way through the season’s first eight games that could bail the team out of some tough situations when scoring is tough to come by.