The Warriors are having a heck of a season. Few, if any, can argue that.
They’re 30-22, are in sixth place in the Western Conference and they have mostly home games left to play – including a five-game and seven-game homestand on the way in.
Barring collapse, they’re going to end their five-year playoff drought.
Whether they can pull a first-round upset or not in the playoffs remains to be seen. But for a team like the Warriors, re-entering the postseason after a long drought, it’s less about what happens in this year’s playoffs than what happens down the road and whether they can become postseason mainstays.
Simple question is this: How can they continue to improve?
The other day, a guy whose opinion I respect asked me who I thought was the most important Warrior player moving forward. I thought about it for a moment and said: “I’d have to say Curry.”
The reason I said Curry is because I think he is still improving some … unlike a lot of the other key players on the team. For the most part, David Lee, Andrew Bogut, Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry are far more finished products than they are finding their games.
My guy disagreed. He said he thought it was rookie Harrison Barnes. And after I listened to his primary argument I had to acknowledge he had a point.
Barnes, the Warriors’ 6-8 small forward, has had a nice rookie season. It hasn’t been terrific but it hasn’t been awful, either. In many ways, it’s been a typical rookie season.
He’s had some impressive moments and some other moments where he’s been difficult to notice on the floor. He hasn’t ever really cost the Warriors in an important situation because, well, coach Mark Jackson doesn’t have him in a lot when the stakes are high.
Barnes has been explosive at times and has knocked down perimeter jumpers pretty consistently. Defensively, he seems fine for a rookie.
There are times Barnes plays long stretches and yet can be difficult to notice. He has a tendency to float and drift a little bit. Sometimes he plays too many minutes without taking enough shots and other times doesn’t rebound as well as he should. Still, all in all, there’s not much to complain about and it seems Barnes is headed toward at the very least a solid NBA career.
That’s what I think, anyway. But my guy disagrees.
My guy says of all the Warriors it is Barnes who can raise his game the most – and perhaps most positively impact his teammates and team.
“Think about it,” my guy says. “Barnes has shown he can make shots from the perimeter, including from beyond the 3-point line. He’s also more of a slasher than anyone else on the roster. And thirdly, he might be their best offensive player in the low post right now.
“So, I see someone who can score in those three ways … and no other player on that team can do that.”
Not a bad way to look at it – that Barnes is the team’s most versatile and well-rounded scorer.
When it comes to Barnes, the question seems to be whether he’ll be an impact player or not. It’s probably fair to say he’s proven this year that he’ll be an NBA starter for a long time.
But will he be a star? Will he make teammates better? Will he become the best player on the Golden State roster in two or three years? Does he have that potential to be an all-star or MVP candidate? Is he a difference-maker? Is he the player whose improvement could push the Warriors up a notch or two over time?
Those are all interesting questions. I’ve never thought of Barnes that way. I’ve always thought Barnes as more “solid” than “star.” Clearly, though, others think of him in a different way.