It’s truly incredible, when you take a second to stop and think about how they got here. The Golden State Warriors aren’t giving three rookies a minute here, two minutes there. Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli combined to play 4,239 minutes during the regular season, a total of almost 52 minutes per game for the Warriors’ rookie trio. The minutes per game allotted to freshmen has climbed to 693 minutes over 10 playoff games, thanks mostly to Barnes, the guy who was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team today (along with Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, Anthony Davis and Dion Waiters).
After pulling out Game 4, a lot of attention was paid to the 26 points scored by Barnes. Others fixated on the 26 shots Barnes took. I was more interested in the minutes — 51 (plus 21 seconds). As Mark Jackson might say, “Uh … what rookie wall?”
Bob Myers deserves credit for pulling the trigger on Barnes, Green and Ezeli, three players who happened to play 10 years of college basketball combined. Jackson deserves just as much credit for getting what he has out of these guys and how much they’ve improved. Sure, there are the details teams work on in practice, like how to defend the pick and roll or learning how to set screens that may be the slightest bit illegal. But Jackson has imbued the entire team with a feeling of confidence and equality, and that includes the rookies. Maybe it helps that Jackson himself played 82 games his rookie year with the Knicks, starting 80 and playing 39.6 minutes per contest (which would end up being his career high).
Jackson also had no choice but to play all three rookies from the start for several reasons.
- The team wasn’t exactly deep in his first season as head coach of the Warriors (Jackson needed to find some players he could build with in year No. 2).
- Andrew Bogut’s ankle wasn’t close to fully healed and Andris Biedrins is Andris Biedrins (enter Ezeli).
- Brandon Rush suffered a season-ending knee injury in game No. 2 (enter a lot of Barnes).
- Jackson was dead set on rewarding those who played defense with minutes (enter Green).
The craziest thing about the Warriors’ playoff run is that stuff like this doesn’t happen to teams their first time through. And teams never win this many games against higher-seeded teams with three rookies in the rotation and one, sometimes even two rookies starting. If the Warriors are able to somehow prevail again in San Antonio tonight in Game 5, it’ll probably be due in part to huge contributions from one, two or even three rookies.
You can check out what I contributed to the most recent “Bloggers Roundtable” on Warriors.com here. Questions included:
- What will you keep a close eye on for the remainder of the series?
- What has been the biggest surprise of the series so far?
- Will this series go seven games?