It was a surprising announcement last January when Leandro Barbosa had returned to the Phoenix Suns, his original NBA home, after almost four seasons of being away. While Barbosa no longer is the player he once was, he appeared to be excited to return. While he was happy to return to Phoenix, the Brazilian guard only played in 20 games last season. Given the Phoenix Suns are already loaded with guards, Leandro Barbosa is leaving to pursue a backup guard position for the Golden State Warriors. He will be signing for one year at the veteran’s minimum.
It is a little surprising to many that Barbosa will be making his way to Golden State. Throughout the summer, the guard has been linked as a role player off the bench for several squads, the most recent of which being the Miami Heat. However, once Miami signed guard Shannon Brown, the writing was on the wall that Barbosa had been passed up.
Despite the risks that come with playing for a young, athletic team such as the Golden State Warriors, Barbosa may be a good fit. The Warriors, in reality, are not much different in style from the Phoenix Suns of yesteryear or even the current iteration. At the heights of his career, Barbosa was used as a spark plug off the bench. He was quick and an excellent scorer, who at times, was unpredictable and un-guardable. It was this reckless abandon that led him to winning the Sixth Man of the Year in 2006-2007, when he averaged 18.1 ppg, 4 apg and 1.2 spg.
Nowadays, Barbosa is no longer one of the more reliable scorers. Last year, in only 20 games in Phoenix, he averaged 7.5 ppg in 18.4 mpg. While those are not stellar numbers, there is hope for Barbosa. He has always been a combo guard, where he has the ability to play point guard, considering his height. More often, he can be a solid replacement at shooting guard. As such, if Barbosa is able to prove he is in shape and can contribute, he may be seeing some floor time. In essence, Barbosa, will be replacing Jordan Crawford, who the Warriors have been unable to re-sign at this juncture. As such, he will mostly be playing backup to surging guard Klay Thompson. Additionally, Barbosa may also serve as rest for All-Star point guard Stephen Curry over Shaun Livingston and Nemanja Nedovic.
While Barbosa has the flexibility to play both guard spots, it would be wise for Steve Kerr not to overuse the 31-year-old. While the guard likes to play at a frantic pace, he needs to be sensible in not overworking his body. Starting at the end of his tenure in Phoenix is when Barbosa started going off the rails. Injuries piled up one after another, which, ultimately, resulted in him being relegated to miniscule minutes. If he is to serve a role on the Warriors, as he should, his minutes need to be monitored efficiently. If they are not monitored effectively, like the last four years, he will be sitting on the injured list. Worse yet, it will mean Thompson and Curry will have to carry the load even more than what they currently are doing.
There is an excellent opportunity for Barbosa to prove that he still has worth in the world of the NBA. While he leaves his original home with the Phoenix Suns for the Golden State Warriors, Leandro Barbosa can once again prove to be that spark plug off the bench. The only question at hand is if his body can keep up with the pace of the Golden State Warriors.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey