That’s the choice coach Mark Jackson is left with when he is deciding who will finish games for him. Point guard Stephen Curry and forward David Lee, the two best players, are locks. As is center Andrew Bogut, the team’s best defender.
And, in Jackson’s mind, so is off guard Klay Thompson, who has emerged as the Warriors’ best perimeter defender and a feared weapon on offense.
So that leaves Jackson choosing between Jack and Barnes. More times than not, he’s going with Jack.
“It’s the best lineup,” Jackson said of the four starters with Jack. “The point is you can only play five guys. I don’t know who I will end with, but chances are those will be the five guys on the floor.”
Many a Warriors fans clamor for more of Barnes. What he brings to the table — athleticism, slashing, finishing — stands out like a tree in the desert on this Warriors’ lineup. Golden State settles for so many jumpers, it’s often hard not to crave someone who will take it strong to the rim.
But that’s not enough to keep Barnes on the court down the stretch. He doesn’t play aggressive consistently enough for Jackson. Most important, though, Jack brings something the Warriors need as well.
JACKSON: “Jarrett Jack is a proven guy. (He) releases pressure. If you’re looking from the outside, what has bothered us is pressure, at times. Jarrett Jack makes life easier for us. That doesn’t mean pressure is not going to bother us. But now you have two legitimate ball handlers. With Steph Curry on the floor and no Jarrett Jack, you’ve got one legitimate ball handler.”
Jackson has shown all season he is comfortable with the ball in Jack’s hands. He also said he likes the versatility of being able to use Curry and Thompson as threats off the ball. Without Jack, opponents double team Curry — which not only takes him out of the action but also leaves the likes of Thompson or Barnes (suspect ball-handlers) to create offense, which is not their strengths.
However, the second-year coach said he has no problem playing Barnes down the stretch. He said if Barnes is playing aggressively, attacking the defense and getting baskets inside, he’ll stick with the rookie down the stretch. Or, if the opposing team isn’t much of a threat pressuring on the perimeter, the need for a second ball-handler isn’t as great and Jackson may go with Barnes.
Barnes could also play with Jack, say if the Warriors go small and put the rookie at power forward.
JACKSON: “Harrison is a rookie and he’s been very good for us. And he’s going to be even better. Bright future. … I have no problem at all trusting Harrison.”