Report: Warriors May Start Harrison Barnes, Bring Andre Iguodala Off Bench

We didn’t bat an eye when the Golden State Warriors started Harrison Barnes instead of Andre Iguodala to open their rout of the Los Angeles Lakers last night. Preseason is the time to experiment, after all, and Iguodala suffered a broken nose in his team’s previous exhibition against the Lakers on Thursday. Giving the youngster some confidence by playing with the starters and Iguodala some rest was a prudent decision by first-time head coach Steve Kerr, we thought. Then came news, however, that not only was Iguodala active and playing without restrictions, but Kerr went with Barnes in his place to get a look at a potential change in his regular season rotation.

Here’s Golden State beat writer Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group:

Interesting. We’re still dubious this will become the Warriors’ new reality, though.

Justification of going this route makes sense given the individual talents of Barnes and Iguodala. Steph Curry will obviously be Golden State’s primary ballhandler, and Klay Thompson’s revelatory summer with USA Basketball and equally impressive start to the exhibition season means he’ll resemble something close to a secondary playmaker this season.

Iguodala’s greatest offensive talent, of course, is his creating and passing ability – few players with such an impressive physical profile boast his skills in that regard. So it makes sense that Kerr would want to utilize those traits while Iguodala is accompanied by a backcourt tandem that’s naturally equipped with lesser ballhandlers.

Move him to the bench and enter Barnes, then, whose development stalled in 2013-2014 after Iguodala came aboard. Even should Barnes regain the form that made him one of the league’s brightest young wings in the late stages of his rookie season, it’s likely he’ll always be best suited as a ‘three-and-D’ type player than playmaker. Through that lens, he’s simply a more seamless fit next to Curry and the improved Thompson.

But that line of thinking is working from the present reality that doesn’t include key offseason prize Shaun Livingston. The 29 year-old hasn’t been available to Kerr during the exhibition slate after mid-August toe surgery, but he basically exacerbates all of Iguodala’s strengths and weaknesses: Livingston is a strikingly natural ballhandler and creator, can’t shoot outside 15-feet, and has a supremely underrated post game.

When Livingston is fully healthy, the role Iguodala played last night is the one he will no doubt occupy. The question is when that will happen. Kerr told the San Francisco Chronicle that even when Livingston is ready to return to the practice floor, it’s foolhardy to expect him to be in game shape:

“Who knows?” Kerr said when asked if Livingston might return from his offseason toe surgery in a couple of weeks, as recent reports suggested. “To me, it’s unrealistic to think we can just throw Shaun out there. At this point, he hasn’t played basketball since the playoffs, and he probably needs a couple of weeks on the court practicing with us and getting his legs underneath him. … Hopefully, we’ll be surprised.”

That is the means behind the suddenly juggled rotation Kerr used last night – not any full-time lineup switches. When he feels Livingston is ready to contribute, expect Iguodala and Barnes to resume their assumed places as starting and backup small forwards – the Warriors’ regular starting five is just too dynamic for any lasting change. In the interim, though, exchanging Iguodala and Barnes simply balances out Golden State’s roster in a more ideal manner.

Who do you think should start?

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