|Use Rush so as not to rush Harrison Barnes|
Lets be honest, Harrison Barnes is not getting his due as a defensive player. He has a high basketball IQ and is an athletic specimen, always a good combination on defense. That said, at this point in his career he is nowhere near Brandon Rush.
On defense at this level, experience matters. Rush knows what Kobe's tendencies are and exactly the right time to come with the double team. Rush has chemistry with other members of the team that will lead to a more organized team defense. Now the importance of experience is subjective, but there are also some stats that back up Rush's impact on defense.
We could talk about how of all swingmen that played more than 20 games at 20 minutes per game, Rush was third in blocks per 40 minutes (James Johnson and Dwyane Wade were first and second, respectively). We could talk about how he forces a turnover one out of every eight isolation possessions he defends. Or we could talk about how of the Warriors top six defensive units from last year (minimum of 24 minutes), five included Rush. I believe Barnes can develop into a stud on the defensive end, but for now I'll go with the proven player.
Last year was a tough one for Dubs fans. Only eight Warriors units finished the year with a positive one year adjusted plus minus. Four of those eight lineups featured Klay Thompson and Brandon Rush as the wings. Thompson is starting this year and Rush should be with him. These two fit together perfectly. Rush can take the offensively superior of the two wings they are playing and cover for the sometimes laterally slow Klay. On offense, both players are versatile off the ball and can stroke it coming off screens, which opens up all kinds of inventive options.
Outside of set plays, there are a numerous options that the Warriors can use on offense, and numerous players that need to be satisfied. David Lee is going to want some isolations. Andrew Bogut needs a couple of post ups per game, and Stephen Curry and Thompson will get their fair share of high screens. The last thing Golden State needs is another player that needs the ball. Rush is the opposite of that as he can let the first teamers do their thing while cutting to the rim or spotting up from three. The Warriors offense scored 3.52 more points per 100 possessions with Rush on the floor last year.
Some people believe that putting rooks (btw: in the trailer for NBATV's Rooks series, they asked all the rookies what a rook was. Barnes replied "a castle in chess." I'm loving this guy more and more) right in helps them and others think that easing them in is better. As you may have guessed, I am of the second persuasion.
There are so many more options with Barnes coming in with the second unit. He has been working on his off the ball game, but he is still most effective as a weapon with the ball in his hands. Coming off the pine he will have the chance to become the second unit's "star" and score some quick points. North Carolina is an elite program, but the NBA is still a huge leap and should take some time to get accustomed to. Once he knows the NBA game better, Barnes should no doubt be given a starting role. But until then, the best way to prepare for the moment when his name is called first at the Roaracle, is too not be thrown to the wolves.