NBA mailbag: Don't count out Jefferson at SF

September 21, 2012, 7:28 pm
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MailtimeWho do you think will start at small forward thisyear? Brett, Albany, Calif.Steinmetz: It's funny. I've been asked thatquestion several times this offseason, and I'm about to give my third differentanswer. But that just shows you that there are legitimate choices there interms of a starter.At first I thought rookie Harrison Barnes would be thelikely starter at small forward. But Im starting to think that wont be thecase. No reason, in particular, just that its asking a lot to have a rookie,albeit the No. 7 pick, be as your starting small forward when you think as anorganization you have a playoff team. And thats what the Warriors are thinkingthey might have.That leaves Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson. After I initiallyanswered that I thought Barnes would likely start, I began to give Rush morethought. After the Warriors re-signed him this offseason, he made it clear thathe wanted to be the starter. And Rush makes some sense. He's an improvingplayer coming off a nice season, and it would seem to be the next step in hisgame. Rush at the small forward spot would give the Warriors three excellentlong-range shooters, and no doubt, Rush is probably a better defender at thispoint than Barnes.But after more review, I think Jefferson figures in theequation, and could be the starter. Here would be the thinking behind that Its possible that Barnes isnt ready to start right off the bat, and Warriorscoach Mark Jackson prefers to bring Rush off the bench.That wouldnt be hard to see, considering Rush oftenprovided a spark last year as a leader of the teams second unit.Under that scenario, it makes sense to start Jefferson, whoshot 42 percent from 3-point range last season and brings much-needed experienceto the team.One potential issue with starting Jefferson, though, is howthen would Jackson find playing time for both Rush and Barnes? That wont beeasy. A few weeks back, Jackson acknowledged that the small forward positionwas wide option.Well, that certainly seems to be the case.Assuming Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry stayhealthy, whats your win prediction for this year? Adam, Parts Unknown.Steinmetz: Its a little early for specificpredictions. I think the Warriors have a chance to compete for one of the lasttwo playoff spots in the Western Conference. I also think for that to happen, alot has to go right. Obviously, Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry have to behealthy for most of the season.But its not just about Bogut and Curry staying healthy.Its about how fast this team comes together, considering they largely haventplayed together. The other thing is, while they may be a better reboundingteam, they still are below averaged defensively.Theyve got nice depth now, and that should certainly makethem better. There is also some uncertainty in terms of teams such as Portland,Houston, Phoenix and Minnesota, so things could fall into place in that regardfor Golden State.But I think theyre going to have to be better than eitherUtah or Dallas, and thats going to be a challenge. Reason I say that isbecause I see Oklahoma City, the L.A. Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, L.A. Clippers,Memphis Grizzlies and Denver Nuggets as playoff teams.So, the question is can the Warriors beat out the four teamsI mentioned above and then either Dallas or Utah? Gonna be tough.The Warriors have had a lot of roster turnover thepast two years, with as many as 16 new players depending on how you look at it.Only Stephen Curry, David Lee and Andris Biedrins have been around longer thantwo years. So, my question, even in this time of unprecedented turnover, isnt16 players in two years some kind of record? Bob, Napa, Calif.Steinmetz: Well, that ones going to demand alittle research, and so Ill look into it. But off the top of my head, Idstill say no. Id say its happened before. It just feels like teams have beendismantled in a hurry in the recent past, whether its Portland of last year orWashington a little bit or Minnesota when David Kahn took over. It feels likeNew Orleans is going to have an entirely different roster than it did two yearsago.But no doubt, the Warriors have turned over a lot in thepast two years personnel-wise. Thats why I think its going to take a littlebit for them to learn how to play together.

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