Jordan Bell could use a few moments, if not an entire game, to remind the Warriors and himself that his prodigious ability can lead to a consistent, productive, and perhaps a long and distinguished NBA career.
The second-year power forward will have a high-profile chance to do that Thursday night against the Milwaukee Bucks.
With Draymond Green unavailable with a toe sprain on his right foot, Bell is sure to receive more playing time than usual and, therefore, be subjected to a generous amount of spotlight. Somebody has to deal with uniquely gifted Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bell is high on the list.
“We’re never as good without Draymond,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday after practice. “He’s a phenomenal defensive player, the best one in the league in my book, one of the best I’ve ever seen and a guy who has to do what modern-day power forwards do, which is cover the entire floor and rebound and stay in front of guards. Nobody is better than Draymond at that.
“How do we fill that void? JB does a good job at those things. (Kevon Looney) does a good job. And we can play small. We’re just filling in.”
Bell is the likeliest starter, though Looney also will see plenty of Antetokounmpo. Alfonzo McKinnie will get opportunities, with Andre Iguodala and Jonas Jerebko also pitching in. Kevin Durant, the best physical matchup against Antetokounmpo — both are 6-foot-11 — also can anticipate a few turns.
It takes a platoon because the “Greek Freak” is a consensus top-10 player, and arguably in the top five.
“He’s just very unique,” Stephen Curry said of Antetokounmpo. “He owns his game. He understands how he can be impactful every night. He obviously plays extremely hard every night. Some of the stuff he does . . . your jaw drops.”
The Warriors are still trying to figure out what they have in Bell, who has shown that he also is capable of jaw-dropping moments. There were times during his rookie season when he flashed tremendous potential but also times when his activity and athleticism didn’t make an impact.
That inconsistency remains an issue. Bell’s training camp and preseason amounted to a maddening mix of highlights and lowlights, mostly because the 6-9 Los Angeles native was trying to add new elements in real time.
“That set him back a little bit,” Kerr said. “He got a little out of sorts. He was turning the ball over a little bit. He was just trying to expand his game rather than just being great at what he’s already good at.
“In this league, you have to establish something to hang your hat on. Once you do that, you can become a regular contributor. And then you try to shore up your weaknesses.”
After playing a total of 19 minutes in the first four games of the season, Bell averaged 14 per game over the last seven. He’s averaging 1.9 points (53.8 percent shooting from the field), 2.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks.
The Warriors await a breakout game, as does Bell.
Meanwhile, the coaching staff and teammates have more faith in Looney. Though he lacks Bell’s tremendous explosion, Looney is a reliable presence and more likely to provide mistake-free moments. Looney stabilizes, while Bell has a considerably higher excitement quotient.
The Warriors would settle for fewer highlights if it means fewer lapses, particularly on defense. Bell has heard from his coaches, from his teammates. They try to enlighten him, rooting for him to discover the best of himself.
A little bit of that on a big stage Thursday night would go a long way.