In an effort to improve their bench’s scoring, the Golden State Warriors recently inked swingman Brandon Rush to a two-year, $2.5 million deal. Rush played for the Warriors during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, during the former of which he filled the role of sixth man.
While Rush has proved to be an efficient scorer, his strengths end there. Rush has never acted as the primary scorer on a secondary unit before, and he has never averaged double-digit points in a season. His ability to be a volume, go-to scorer, which the Warriors’ bench needs, is unproven.
Furthermore, Rush’s play style does not mesh at all with that of another new Warrior, combo guard Shaun Livingston. Livingston is a big guard who plays better off the ball than as a primary facilitator; Livingston only averaged 4.5 assists per 36 minutes last season with the Brooklyn Nets. Pairing Livingston with a guard capable of being a primary ball handler is essential, but Rush is an exceedingly poor one. Livingston’s assists per 36 make him look like Chris Paul when comparing him to Rush, who averaged 2.1 assists per 36 last season and 1.6 per 36 for his career, resulting in an assist to turnover ratio of 1.15:1 for his career. For a bench unit that ranked 28th in the league in assists last season, a backcourt with a dearth of distributing capabilities made up of Livingston and Rush will not help.
The best hope the Warriors can have for Rush is to play small and move Rush from shooting guard to small forward. Assuming the rest of the Warriors’ roster stays relatively intact, this would mean moving Harrison Barnes, provided he continues to play off the bench, from small forward into a stretch four role, where he tends to thrive. This small-ball lineup, in which Livingston moves to the two, would require the Dubs to invest in another point guard, preferably an able distributor to make up for Livingston’s and Rush’s sticky hands. Free agent guards like Shelvin Mack or Ish Smith could suit this role at an extremely reasonable price. While these specific options exist to mitigate Rush’s drawbacks for the Warriors’ bench unit, Rush himself will not solve the problems that have plagued the bench.