It Sure Is Nice To Have A Back Up Small Forward

Darius Soriano —  November 1, 2010

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This morning, when talking about the Lakers’ victory over the Warriors from last night, commenter DY made a point that I fully endorse:

I am loving me some Matt “Matt Barnes Will Kill You” Barnes. His passing is superb, his rebounding is borderline maniacal, and he’s hitting his shots for the most part. Also, with Ron having an off-shooting night, (the Lakers) had the luxury of using Barnes. Last year, it would have been Luke or Kobe being forced to play the SF position.

Again, I fully agree.  Barnes is getting the job done.  While there’s still some concern his ball handling, that’s really my only concern with what we’ve seen from his game so far.  As DY mentioned, he’s moving the ball on to the open player and crashing the boards like a madman.  His shooting numbers aren’t fantastic as he’s only shooting 40% overall, but that is mitigated by the fact that he’s actually made 4 of his 8 three point attempts in these first three games.  Yesterday against the Warriors he got back to back baskets on great cuts off the ball and really showed that he’s starting to grasp the motions of the offense.  But as mentioned, it’s not really his offense that I’m excited about.

It’s Barnes’ defense and rebounding that are really sticking out to me.  In 19 mintues a game, Barnes is averaging 5 rebounds.  His 17.7 defensive rebounding rate ranks him right below Lebron James amongst SF’s and his offensive rebounding rate is 4th in the league amongst that same group.  And his commitment to defense is just as noticeable.  Barnes is pressuring ball handlers, deflecting passes, and finishing possessions.  He’s giving the Lakers everything they could have hoped for when they inked him as a free agent.

But what I’m most appreciative of when it comes to Barnes is probably the most obvious thing – he’s healthy and ready to play.  As DY mentioned, last night was not one of Artest’s better games (Ron’s been struggling on offense in these first three games), but instead of having to extend Kobe’s minutes or go small with either Shannon or Sasha playing SF, the Lakers turned to Barnes and he delivered 23 minutes of solid play by giving the Lakers 7 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists.  And on top of that he played his typical hard nosed defense.

I understand that we’re only three games into a long season.  And it’s much too early to come to any firm conclusions on any player as today’s successes can easily turn into tomorrow’s struggles.  But the early signs point to the Lakers having a more than serviceable back up at SF and that’s something they haven’t been able to say since RadMan was starting and Trevor Ariza was his back up (though we all know that didn’t last as those roles reversed and the Lakers were again stuck with an unreliable reserve).  So, needless to say, I’m grateful that the Lakers have added Barnes into the mix.  On days where Ron struggles – or even on days where Barnes really has it going – it’s great to know that there’s a player in the wings that will bring more to the table than he takes off of it.

Darius Soriano

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10 responses to It Sure Is Nice To Have A Back Up Small Forward

  1. Crazy business. Unlike the Ron-Ron acquisition (which I was 100% behind the moment I heard about it) I was hesitant about this acquisition, because to be honest, I hadn’t really watched the guy much and my homer blood was still boiling over his tough-guy routine with Kobe.

    But man am I stoked on him now. Great signing.

  2. I think people’s initial trepidations (including mine) about Barnes being a possible thorn in the side of management are proving to be wrong. I don’t see a guy sulking on the bench but someone who comes out and maximizes his time. Truth be told, I wouldn’t be surprised if at the end of the year, he’s averaging close to 25 minutes a game.

    With the plethora of good small forwards in the league, coupled with Artest’s physical defense (where he’s called for a lot of fouls), it’s great to lean on a starter-quality SF like Barnes. My best one word description for Barnes: Relentless. The relentless “Renegade.” But the “Matt Barnes will kill you” nick name is more apt, but less palpable from a marketing standpoint.

  3. I am greatly looking forward to seeing the Lakers play with Bynum, Gasol, Artest, Barnes, and Bryant as their on the floor five in crunch time.

    That group could be spectacular in lock down defense. And it has two facilitators, three finishers, phenomenal post up options for miss matches, and three shooters from deep, assuming Artest and Kobe get their long range strokes back.

    I love watching players that hustle, play hard, and leave it all on the floor. This group of Lakers is one of the best we have had for those qualities.

    Have I mentioned what a great summer Mitch and Company had?

  4. Awesome with Barnes and Blake on the floor at the same time, great passing skills = the easy hoops Lakers sometimes have struggled to get in the past.

    Next is hoping that Ebanks can relax a bit and show some of the skills he showed in the preseason..

  5. Barring injuries, the wealth of talent we have accumulated is just staggering and almost unfair. This is including the Heat, who are no slouches, but in this league talented wingers are more easily obtained than talented post players, and Bynum-Gasol-Odom is simply sick.

    Not to mention having the embarrassingly rich variety of options we have at the wing with Artest, Bryant and Barnes. We have legitimate NBA level starters at over half the positions (Odom, Barnes, Blake) coming off the bench and with the right amount of line-up juggles, it is almost possible to field at least 4 starter level talents throughout the game.

    This may be the difference this season. If the progress we’re seeing continues, we’d have managed minutes to keep everyone fresh while giving enough burn to our key rotation of 8 (which, come to think is probably going to be 9 if we include Brown, and maybe even 10 depending how Theo works out and/or Luke recovers). Not sure when it was that we had 9~10 legitimate players who could give us minutes. I still remember 2006 when it seemed that we barely had one or two (exaggerating, though it felt that way).

  6. The Lakers are showing how putting players in their “proper” roles makes them look a lot better.

    *Gasol only made one all star team as the best player on his team and was vastly underrated. As the 2nd (and sometimes 3rd best player when Bynum is healthy and in shape) Gasol has not missed an all star game and is dominating the league. Also shifting to his natural spot at PF has made him very happy as he is now known as the best PF in the NBA.

    *Odom was killed his entire career when asked to be the best or even 2nd best player on his team. But as soon as Bynum developed as the #2 even before the Lakers traded for Gasol, Lamar has been the do everything player he has always been more comfortable being.

    *Barnes as a starting player isn’t anything to write home about. And playing on bad teams doesn’t really take advantage of his strengths as a defender, hustler, rebounder, and guy who plays great off the ball. But back up a Ron Artest on a team like the Lakers doesn’t have anyone asking for more.

    *Blake starting on the Nuggets and Clippers last year was one of the worst starting PG’s in the NBA. But as a back up PG on a team where he doesn’t have to create or score is probably one of the best back up PG’s in the NBA.

  7. @Aaron I 100% agree with your post but I just wanted to add that the common thing in the improvement of all of those players is playing with kobe (except maybe odom who was helped by not having to be a 2nd option).

    Pau Gasol for example had not won a single playoff game but came to LA to play w/ kobe and has been to 3 straight NBA finals. The media even tried to convince fans that Pau was the best player on the team last year. No disrespect to Pau who has improved vastly since coming over to the lakers, but its unlikely he would ever get out of first round on his own much less win an NBA title.

  8. True Paul, I remember how everyone was talking about that “best player on the team” thing last year, and then Kobe proceeded to destroy hearts and minds in the playoffs. Can’t wait to see it again this year!

  9. A new post is up. We’re looking at the Lakers defense and their ability to make adjustments.

    http://www.forumblueandgold.com/2010/11/01/lakers-making-defensive-adjustments-on-the-fly/

  10. Why is Andrew Bynum afraid of Ronny Turiaf’s shadow?

    http://hoopstopia.com/?p=62