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Why Isn't Matt Barnes Starting Yet?

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In Part Two of this week's Friday Three, I ask a simple, yet complicated, question.

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of Dave Joerger...while I know you have your hands full with a struggling starting point guard and such...

Why isn't Matt Barnes getting more minutes? Better yet...why isn't Matt Barnes a starter yet?

And no, this is not an irrational call for such things due to his pulling off the highly improbable Wednesday night in Detroit...

...although, that was quite awesome.

The fact is, Barnes has been called for to get a look as a starter before in this very series of columns. Matt Barnes is one of those basketball players who, while it won't always be as flashy as Memphis' Motor City Miracle was, makes game-winning plays time and again...and he often does it with simple effort. That effort is lacking, especially to start games and third quarters, and leads to Memphis falling behind often in these frames. Considering benching Marc Gasol makes little sense, Zach Randolph is seemingly entrenched as the team's starter at power forward (arguably rightfully so), and Mike Conley is the best option at point guard which leaves Tony Allen or Jeff Green to be replaced by Matt Barnes.

With regard to replacing Jeff, it is a cleaner move. Two similar sized forwards, easy switch that doesn't disrupt the mojo that is so sensitive with regard to Tony Allen. It also adds awareness to a lineup that desperately needs it. Matt understands placement and floor spacing so much better than, say, a Jeff Green does...at least on a consistent basis. It is definitely true defensively, but our own Matt Hrdlicka killed Jeff's defense already this week so here is a great example of that with regard to passing. Jeff Green sees a possibility for a big play on this next series of screen shots, and he kind of...blows it.

Jeff TO 1

A good start, right? A chance for a good transition opportunity, something that Jeff excels at. Well...

Jeff TO 2

Even the most staunch Jeff Green supporter can acknowledge his decision making can make one scratch their head and wonder "what in the hell were you looking at"? Then, there is Matt Barnes, who is much better in this kind of spot.

Barnes Assist 1

The bounce pass that Jeff threw is dangerous, offering more time for a player to intersect the ball. The line drive ball that Barnes delivers gives only Zach Randolph the opportunity to get the basketball.

Barnes Assist 2

That comes with experience, basketball IQ, and a general understanding of the game that Matt has in spades and Jeff doesn't.

For this and other (namely defensive) reasons, surely Barnes could take minutes away from Jeff Green. Yet head coach Dave Joerger continues to invest time in Jeff, and while Green has been better so far this season than he was in, say, the Golden State 2nd round playoff series, he has yet to consistently show he is worthy of starter's minutes, outside of his vaunted "potential".

Then, there is Tony Allen, who has made Grizzlies' fans all over very sad at points this year. He seems disconnected, not the guy who bobs his head to Future's "Go Harder" but more like the guy who tells you to turn the music down, he is trying to sleep. In recent games TA has been better, and he played arguably his best game in weeks against Detroit. But he still carries with him the baggage of a guy who simply cannot be asked to be a viable offensive threat, at least not on the perimeter. That, coupled with issues defensively with his footwork and communication in scheme on switches and help defense, makes one wonder why he stays as a starter instead of Barnes.

TA has history, Green has potential/versatility, but Barnes makes winning plays and brings a little bit of everything to the table for Memphis.

For one, with regard to Joerger's thinking on the matter, a Barnes/Green wing pairing leaves the bench undersized. If Dave dislikes starting Courtney Lee and Allen together for size reasons, having them on the 2nd unit together does not make a ton of sense. It also makes sense to allow Allen and Green, if Dave truly feels that pairing is the best he can utilize, a chance to get it going. If they struggle? Barnes can sub in early and get more time than the starters did, as he did against Detroit. If TA theoretically could be a good bench player due to his energy, Barnes is already that for Memphis. Why not give Allen a chance to start, keep his confidence up, and hope he gets out of his funk?

Matt Barnes has been a tremendous addition for Memphis, miracle shot or no miracle shot. While his starting should happen given his ability to play alongside "the big three" of Conley, Gasol, and Randolph, it may not right away because of Dave's commitment to Jeff and Memphis' history with Tony. Make no mistake, however, these slow starts and third quarters must be rectified. If the Grizzlies hope to start beating the best that the NBA has to offer, Matt Barnes must continue to be given every opportunity to outplay, and eventually replace, those currently in front of him on the depth chart.