ONTARIO, Calif. — Mark Jackson said he’s not into playing mind games. If he knew who his starters were for the season, he would just say it. He doesn’t, he assured. He’s still trying to figure out which lineup gives his Warriors the best chance to win.
It is with that context he revealed guard Klay Thompson, who has started 122 consecutive games with Golden State (including playoffs), will come off the bench for tonight’s preseason opener.
Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala will start in the backcourt, with Harrison Barnes, David Lee and center Andrew Bogut will start against the Los Angeles Lakers at Citizens Business Bank Arena.
Is this insight into Jackson’s first choice, or is this his I’m-not-going-to-show-my-cards-early lineup? Is he anointing Barnes or motivating Thompson? Has Iguodala an automatic starter?
“Truthfully,” Jackson said, “there is zero to read into it.”
The Warriors, who have all five starters from last season, found themselves with a good problem to have by acquiring Iguodala — giving them six players capable of starting.
Curry, Lee and Bogut are etched in stone as long as they’re healthy, per Jackson. That leaves three wing players and two starting spots available. Jackson said he will use the preseason to experiment, figure out which five is the best fit. The odd man out will serve as the sixth man.
He said Thompson will get a chance to start this preseason. He also suggested you may see Iguodala come off the bench at some point in the exhibition.
“Don’t read anything into it,” Jackson reiterated. “It’s just the way we’re starting tonight. You could go either way. Klay and Iguodala (starting) or Klay and Barnes. … All those guys are going to play a lot. This is just the way I’m starting tonight.”
Here is a break down of each scenario:
ANDRE IGUODALA and HARRISON BARNES
Why start: This tandem fits with Jackson’s desire to pick up the tempo. Both Iguodala and Barnes are explosive athletes with good size. With them flanking Curry, that figures to be a boon to Golden State’s transition game. Plus, the Warriors badly needed a second facilitator on the court last season, which is why Jack played so much. Iguodala gives them that option to start games.
And, of course, there is the fact that Barnes might be a super star. He showed the potential in the playoffs. He is good at taking advantage of smaller defenders. He can also stick the outside shot relatively well. If he’s gotten any better off the dribble, he could be a monster.
Minor factor: Of the three, Thompson has the most experience coming off the bench, having done so 37 games his rookie season.
Why not start: The Warriors in some ways are easier to defend with these two. A big key to their success was having two guys who could shoot it from deep. That spread the floor and made the Warriors difficult on opponents. The outside shots of Iguodala and Barnes won’t scare defenses, allowing them to sag back and protect the paint against the drive.
Also, Barnes dominated as a power forward in a small lineup, or when he had a size advantage against a small forward. He most often won’t see that to start games. Maybe that’s a weapon worth saving for later in contests.
KLAY THOMPSON and ANDRE IGUODALA
Why start: This is basically a bigger, better version of the Warriors’ best lineup last year. Curry at point with these two gives him a shooter and an elite slasher to find against pressure defense. Or, Iguodala could play Jarrett Jack’s role and facilitate while Curry and Thompson look for action off the ball. Either way, the floor is more open with both stud shooters on the floor, which helps Iguodala and Lee.
Thompson and Iguodala is really good defensive tandem, especially if Thompson can just stick to the opponent’s second-best offensive player. You could argue this is the Warriors’ best defensive lineup of the three options, which means something for a team that wants to be defensive-minded.
Also, Harrison Barnes gives you better efficiency off the bench. Thompson, who shot 42.2 percent last season, lives behind the three-point line. If you have a slow start, perhaps the last thing you want is a guy coming in jacking 3s to get warm. Barnes, only slightly better from the field at 43.9, at least has the skills to get the Warriors easy baskets inside and finish. That’s what a good thing to have off the bench.
Why not start: Maybe the best reason is because Barnes might be a star and bringing him off the bench could steal his mojo. He’s never done it before so it will be an adjustment, maybe even be a blow to his confidence.
KLAY THOMPSON and HARRISON BARNES
Why start: You can make a good argument for continuity. Having the same starting five from last season keeps everyone where they are comfortable. Since chemistry was such a strength last season, that means something.
Plus, Iguodala is such a skilled and versatile player, he could adjust better than any of them to what is needed when he comes into the game. He can be the facilitator to spell Curry or the slasher to replace Barnes or an athletic power forward in a small lineup, a defensive stopper to slow down a hot hand.
Why not start: Because you don’t pay $48 million for Sixth Man of the Year. And Iguodala is your best defender on the wing. You need him starting against the LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, James Harden — and probably Chris Paul and Tony Parker, too.
Plus, last year’s starting lineup had its holes, namely the lack of a second facilitator. Now you have one. Why not use him?