OAKLAND -- It was about this time last year, maybe a bit earlier, when Warriors coach Steve Kerr said he would absolutely be comfortable putting rookie guard Patrick McCaw, a second-round draft pick, into an NBA game.
Kerr now acknowledges he has, for the second consecutive season, a rookie second-round pick ready to contribute to the Warriors.
That would be forward/center Jordan Bell.
“Yeah, I’ll put him out there for certain matchups,” Kerr said Wednesday after practice.
“I wouldn’t say that he’s going to be in the rotation, because he’s got a lot of guys ahead of him who are very good players. But certain matchups, I’ll put him out there.”
If you’ve seen much of Bell, you can understand why. The Oregon product impressed during the Las Vegas Summer League and has made an impact in the team’s three preseason games.
In 24 minutes this preseason, Bell has totaled 19 points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals. Moreover -- and this is particularly significant for a rookie with a penchant for blocking shots -- he has been whistled for only one foul.
“He’s got a pretty high defensive IQ right now, just knowing where to be and being aggressive,” Stephen Curry said of Bell. “His confidence is almost how Pat looked last year in preseason, when you knew he was a gamer. Whenever he had an opportunity to impact the game in the preseason, he was ready for that moment.”
Yet Bell is, at best, the fifth-string big man on a defending championship team. He’s behind four men who had key roles in the Warriors winning a championship last season: starting center Zaza Pachulia, death-squad center (and starting power forward) Draymond Green and backups David West and JaVale McGee.
Second-year man Damian Jones and Bell would be next in line for minutes, and Bell has been appreciably more effective.
Of the four veterans, it is Green that Bell most closely mirrors. Green is 6-foot-7 at most, Bell about 6-8. Both are skilled passers with good court awareness that improves to great on the defensive end. Each is an undersized power forward with the necessary tools to play “big” in Kerr’s uptempo system
During the Warriors’ 142-110 rout of Minnesota in Shanghai on Sunday, Bell played only seven minutes yet submitted 11 points (5-of-5 from the field, 1-of-1 from the line), adding two steals, a rebound and a block.
“The game in Shanghai was a clinic of defensive awareness, aggressiveness and decisiveness on that end of the floor that got us a couple stops,” Curry summarized. “He got a couple steals, and was in the right place at the right time on the offensive end to finish some possessions.”
Kerr pulled Bell aside after the game to lavish praise while adding a dollop of advice.
“What I told Jordan after the game was that he was great. He was fantastic and he made the most of his minutes,” Kerr said. “I said the game changed in the third quarter when Draymond decided to bring that intensity and energy that he brings for us. You might remember we made 4-5 stops in a row, and Draymond was pressuring the ball and had that look in his eye.”
That’s where Kerr explained to Bell what he wants from the rookie, stressing intensity and focus. In essence, he wants Bell to follow the example set by Green.
Which is perfectly fine with Bell. After all, it was couple years ago that Green replaced LeBron James as Bell’s favorite NBA player.