Saturday 30th September 2023,
The Hoop Doctors

Harrison Barnes Nearing Return to Warriors Lineup

Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes is just about ready to play.

But not quite.

The Golden State Warriors combo forward has missed the last 13 games, including Monday night’s blowout win over the Sacramento Kings, as he tends to an ankle injury. Some speculated that he might return for the team’s Christmas Day square dance with the Cleveland Cavaliers, while others believed he would be in uniform for Monday night’s tilt.

Neither unofficial target date proved true, and so the Warriors are still left waiting for their rotation to reach full strength.

And it turns out they won’t have to wait much longer, per’s Monte Poole:

Now in his fifth week on the sideline with a sprained left ankle, Harrison Barnes is shooting, cutting and has been dunking for two weeks.

The fourth-year forward is scrimmaging with his teammates on practice days.

But he’s not quite ready to return to the Warriors lineup.

. . .

“He took place in the scrimmages, the 3-on-3,” Walton said. “There’s nothing more you can really do than scrimmage, as far as testing it out. All the drills you do on the sideline. There’s nothing like fighting over screens, changing directions and making quick decisions when it comes to testing that ankle. He’s been doing that stuff.

“He looks better, but he’s still not ready to go.”

The Warriors have the luxury of not rushing Barnes back. They’re now 12-1 in his absence, and they’re still posting what would be the NBA’s second-best net rating when he’s not on the floor.

Still, you can’t help but wonder if the Warriors would have suffered their lone loss had he been in the lineup. Maybe Barnes would have pushed them past the Milwaukee Bucks. Maybe his presence would have meant the Warriors didn’t engage in a double-overtime thriller with the Boston Celtics the night before, thus ensuring they were fresh and ready to rock in Milwaukee.

What’s done is done, and there’s no use harping on what-ifs. But the Warriors still need Barnes. They need him to improve their shaky, albeit still incredible, defensive standing. His importance to their scheme is greater than most people realize. He can defend almost as many positions as Draymond Green and allots the Warriors more freedom to stash Curry on weaker offensive threats so that he can conserve his energy for the offensive end.

Also, and most importantly, he’s a member of the small ball “Death Squad” lineup—the five-man unit of Barnes, Curry, Green, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson that’s currently outscoring opponents by 66.5 points per 100 possessions when on the floor, according to Basketball-Reference.

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