OAKLAND – Warriors coach Steve Kerr generally does not announce lineup changes until the hour before tipoff. He did not alter this custom after starting forward Draymond Green was suspended for Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday night.
“One thing to note is that Draymond has to be on the active list,” Kerr said after practice Sunday. “We can’t put him on the inactive list, so we’re going to have to take one of our available player and make him inactive. That will be the biggest discussion, because we use everybody.”
By noting that he will be forced to put a healthy player on the inactive list, something he has done in most games during the playoffs, Kerr may have given a hint to his decision.
With the loss of a frontcourt player like Green, the best bet for the inactive list is healthy guard Ian Clark, who has been active for every game of the playoffs. Previous healthy players on the inactive list this postseason have been James Michael McAdoo, Anderson Varejao and Brandon Rush – all frontcourt players.
Rush was a healthy inactive for Game 4 on Friday, and McAdoo was inactive for the first three games of the series.
Assuming the Cavaliers continue to start Richard Jefferson over Kevin Love at forward, Kerr’s most likely option to start is Rush.
Rush in the regular season made 25 starts, most of which came as a replacement for an injured Harrison Barnes. He scored in double figures 10 times, with a season-high 20 points against Portland on Jan. 8.
[WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: Draymond suspended for Game 5]
What makes Rush the probable starter? 1) Inserting him does not disrupt the regular rotation. 2) He is as good a matchup with Jefferson as any other available Warrior, assuming Barnes opens as the primary defender on LeBron James. 3) It leaves Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston in their customary roles off the bench.
Kerr really, really does all he can to keep his rotation intact – especially as it pertains to Iguodala.
Though Kerr could start Iguodala, the coach has resisted doing so with only one exception, which came in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals against Oklahoma City, a move specifically designed to defend Kevin Durant.
Would Kerr apply the same principle to James? He could, but it’s unlikely.