Published on March 3rd, 2012 | by Bryant West, Columnist0
2012 NBA Draft Prospect Stock Watch: Harrison Barnes
Name: Harrison Barnes
Hometown: Ames, Iowa
Physicals: 6′ 8″, 215 lbs, 19 years old
College: North Carolina
NBA Position: Small Forward
Current Stats: 17.4 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.8 TPG, 45.9% FG, 72.9% FT, 39.8% 3P
Just a quick forward here – the biggest game of the season for both Barnes and his Tar Heels is up tonight when they travel to Duke to play the Blue Devils, so if you’d like to see a sure-fire top five selection with all the weight of the world on his shoulders, hit up ESPN at 4:00 Pacific, 7:00 Eastern.
Barnes had 25 points on 8-16 shooting in the first matchup against Duke, and we’d have been talking about him if it wasn’t for Austin Rivers’ late game heroics that propelled the Blue Devils past Barnes’ Tar Heels.
One thing you can not doubt about Barnes—he can step up his games to new heights when he needs too. After a weak start to his freshman season, Barnes became a far more assertive player, and dominated down the stretch as North Carolina became relevant again. From ESPN’s Chad Ford –
“He scored 16 or more points in the Tar Heels’ last 11 games (nine were wins), 20 or better in five of them, and had the 40-point outburst on 17 shots in a tight win over Clemson, while adding eight rebounds.”
This season, fans are just waiting to see if Barnes can do it again. Alongside Kendall Marshall, John Henson, Tyler Zeller, Reggie Bullock and Dexter Strickland the Tar Heels are one of college basketball’s best squads, but they’ll go as far as Barnes can take them. In a very deep draft where only pick #1 is a lock, Barnes needs to take advantage of March and prove that, once again, he is a legitimate NBA game changer.
He’s got the jumpshot, one of the smoothest in the sport, and he’s got the range to be an excellent scorer in the NBA. Even on nights where his shot isn’t falling—and there are a good number of those nights, he isn’t the most consistent player—you can see just from watching him that he is an NBA quality scorer. He’s got an instinctive touch to his game.
The problem is, at least right now, the only thing he consistently has is his jumpshot. He’s not a good inside scorer, nor does he even look to go inside when it’s not a fast break score. Here’s an excellent quote from a Grantland piece by Jonathan Givony -
“Through eight games this season, Barnes has made just one field goal (a runner against Tennessee State) inside the paint in non-transition, post-up or offensive rebound situations — highlighting his struggles as a shot-creator.”
He has the jumpshot of a go-to scorer, but he doesn’t have either the skills or the will to go inside. He’s got a decent frame, standing at 6’8” with a 6’11” wingspan, but he’s just 215 lbs, and while he’s not a bad athlete, he’s certainly not going to wow anyone with his athleticism.
He’s a decent defender and has improved in his time in North Carolina, but he’s not a lockdown defender, at least not yet. He’s got a good basketball IQ and with his reach he could stick with most players, but on the defensive end he will most certainly need to add strength before he’ll be staying with anyone.
And while the 5.5 rebounds isn’t a horrible number, he isn’t an NBA ready rebounder. Obviously he’s not expected to grab a ton, not with John Henson and Tyler Zeller next to him, but just as he seems to fear going inside on offense, he shows the same wariness to go inside and get the rebound.
The shot is there, but the rest of his game isn’t quite ready yet. There are tons of comparisons out there, ranging from Paul Pierce (no way, Pierce isn’t and never was afraid to go inside) to Loul Deng (isn’t a Deng level defender, not yet) to Danny Granger (my personal favorite comparison).
Draft Watch: Only Anthony Davis’ spot at #1 is safe and predictable, and numbers 2 through 5 will be a war between Barnes, Andre Drummond, Thomas Robinson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, assuming they all go into the draft.
The real battle, should they both enter the draft, will be between Barnes and Kidd-Gilchrist. Each player is smart and has a very solid work ethic, but aside from that they are fundamentally opposite players. Where Barnes has a great jumper and fantastic range, Kidd-Gilchrist’s shot is still a work in progress. Where Barnes rarely goes inside the paint, Kidd-Gilchrist thrives in the paint. Where Barnes is moderately athletic, Kidd-Gilchrist is fantastically so.
If it came down between the two, I would pick Kidd-Gilchrist 99 times out of 100. Barnes is, at least right now, a one dimensional player, and even if his one dimension is really, really solid, you have to question how that will fare in the NBA.
Still, there are tons of teams that would be eager to grab him with the hopes that they can get more out of him that just a jumpshot.
The Hornets don’t have a number one scorer, and if they can’t snag Davis or Drummond I could very well seem them taking Barnes and gambling on his potential. It may be a bit much, too fast, to ask Barnes to immediately step in as the go-to guy in the NBA, especially when he lacks a driving game. But with no other option in New Orleans (I doubt Eric Gordon returns) he seems a solid selection.
Unless the Nets go off and get Dwight Howard, New Jersey would be a nice fit. Assuming Deron Williams leaves (and no Dwight means no Deron), the Nets would still have Brook Lopez to pair up with Barnes, which makes a very nice inside-outside combo.
And finally, while I think Kidd-Gilchrist is a far better fit, Barnes seems a predictable selection for Sacramento. His jumpshot would certainly help the Kings, and they are desperately lacking any talent at the Small Forward position, but the weakness is obvious. The Kings already have scorers, and they don’t need another guy who needs to ball to be effective. That is where Kidd-Gilchrist thrives, and where Barnes does not.
Conclusion: His jumpshooting and range are unquestionable, but the rest of his game is very much inconsistent. Another repeat of last March’s performances could help secure him as a top selection, but I would not be surprised to see him fall a bit come March. If he doesn’t become a solid rebounder and learn to be able to play inside, I don’t see stardom in his future.