Matt Barnes started his first game of the season Monday night against the Detroit Pistons, replacing Jared Dudley, who had started the previous 42 games for the Los Angeles Clippers. Barnes had a typical Barnes-esque game, recording 10 points, five rebounds and two steals in 27 minutes. Dudley was a perfect 3-for-3 from the field in 18 minutes off the bench. Though Barnes and Dudley are similar players (their stats reflect how close they really are), inserting Barnes in to the starting lineup is not a wise decision.
Head coach Doc Rivers claims he made the switch for defensive reasons, and moving Dudley to the bench has nothing to do with his poor shooting this season. Dudley is averaging a career low in field goal percentage and free-throw percentage, and he is shooting only 38 percent from beyond the arc. Rivers is more concerned with his rebounding and defense. Dudley is averaging career lows in rebounding and steals.
Dudley had started the majority of the games the last two seasons when he played for the Phoenix Suns and was the odds-on favorite to replace Caron Butler in the starting lineup for the Clippers this season. Playing alongside Chris Paul and Blake Griffin was supposed to make life easier for Dudley, but he has regressed offensively and defensively. With all that being said, he should still remain the starter moving forward.
Moving a player who has started most of the last three seasons to the bench can only hurt his confidence. Dudley has already stated that he doesn’t mind coming off the bench and that his role will stay the same. He is putting on a good face for the media, because no player would rather come off the bench instead of starting. Every player in the NBA would like to start if they had the chance. Moving a struggling player to the bench will impact him negatively more times than not.
It’s not like the Clippers have been playing poorly either. They are currently in fourth place in the Western Conference and have won six out of their last seven games — without Paul, mind you, who is out with a separated shoulder. If the team were struggling to win games then the change would make more sense.
Beside the fact that Dudley’s ego has taken a hit, Barnes is also the type of player who is best suited coming off the bench. Rivers stated that he wants Barnes to be the “captain of the 50-50 team,” which means he wants him to bring energy and hustle. He wants Barnes to be the guy diving for loose balls and fighting for every possession. Those type of energy guys make the biggest impact off the bench. When the starting lineup is struggling, Barnes can come in and provide some spark both offensively and defensively. I don’t picture Dudley having that same effect.