OAKLAND — Third-year guard Klay Thompson said it doesn't matter to him if he comes off the bench or not. His play so far this preseason supports that as he's been the Warriors' most productive player.
"I'm trying to get Sixth Man of the Year," Thompson joked.
But if Monday's exhibition game against the Sacramento Kings is any indication, Thompson's days as a reserve might be short lived.
After posting a team-high 26 points against the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, Thompson was arguably Golden State's best player Monday in what was a relatively ugly showing by the home team at Oracle Arena. Thompson twice led the Warriors on deficit-erasing runs in a 94-81 victory. He finished with 17 points on 8-for-17 shooting.
Thompson was so effective that coach Mark Jackson had him back in the starting lineup to open the second half. Thompson's activity and energy on offense is so evident that his teammates are looking for him consistently. He had a team-high 14 shots through the first 30 minutes Monday, including a left-handed scoop layup for a three-point play followed by a breakaway dunk that put Golden State up 55-52 with just over six minutes left in the third.
"Klay is going to always do what he does best," Andre Iguodala said. "And that's shoot the ball pretty well. ... I told Klay that when he's in the game with me, he's going to get a lot of looks so he's gotta be ready to shoot the ball. And he is." Conversely, second-year forward Harrison Barnes struggled again on offense. He missed his first four shots and turned it over once in his first 5:51 of action. He didn't return.
Jackson said Barnes has been battling inflammation in his left foot and that he's unlikely to play in Tuesday's game at Utah. Jackson didn't think it would be a nagging injury.
Through two exhibition games, Barnes has totaled just over 34 minutes. During that span, he was 3 of 18 from the field with five turnovers. He did total eight rebounds and three steals in the same span, but he's hardly looking like the burgeoning star everyone expects.
Certainly, an ailing foot would slow him, but his early offensive struggles might raise a legitimate question: Can Barnes be effective as the fifth option? Inconsistency was probably Barnes' biggest problem last season. He would be great one game and average the next two. Even Barnes acknowledged that he struggled to find his way in the offense as the fourth option.
Now, it appears Golden State has plans to run some of the offense through healthy center Andrew Bogut, presumably pushing Barnes down the totem pole. Is he the same Barnes when he has to find his way? Usually that leads to players forcing the action when they finally get a touch, and Barnes seems to be pressing that way. Against the Lakers, Barnes was 3 of 14 from the field with four turnovers.
Of course, Jackson has to decide if that is worse than what might happen if Barnes is demoted to a reserve. He would no doubt be a higher priority on offense with the second unit, but it also might dent his confidence. At worst, it would be an adjustment as Barnes has never before come off the bench.