Harrison Barnes averaged 9.5 points and 4.0 rebounds in 78 games last season, mainly coming off the bench. He scored 7.9 points per game in seven playoff games.
I wish we could be talking about Barnes’ amazing sophomore season and how he built upon his stellar rookie campaign. I wish we could be talking about how Barnes has taken that next step and could become a future superstar in this league.
But unfortunately, all I have to go with for positives is the same characteristic as last year: potential.
Remember that Barnes is just 22 years old. Remember that he already has two NBA seasons under his belt. Remember that he has a ton of years left in him, and whatever issues plagued him this past season can and will be solved.
Despite his struggles, Barnes still averaged more points per game this season than last. It wasn’t like he was completely unproductive on the court; in fact, he surprisingly averaged more playing time this season than last (28.3 as opposed to 25.4) and his contributions didn’t go unnoticed. His skills haven’t diminished; he can still jump out of the gym, and his athleticism is something that few athletes possess.
Barnes is an unfinished product, and if and when he reaches his full potential, the rest of the league better look out.
There’s no sugar-coating it: Harrison Barnes disappointed mightily in the 2013-2014 season.
Maybe it was being relegated to the bench because of the signing of Andre Iguodala. Barnes, as the sixth or seventh man, had probably come off the bench few times during his basketball career, being a high school and college phenom. Maybe it was something he was just not used to, and he didn’t feel comfortable.
Perhaps it was Mark Jackson’s “hockey substitutions,” where all five starters would be subbed out for five bench players. Obviously, Barnes saw himself playing with far less talented players than he did last season, when he started 81 games. Steve Blake is not Stephen Curry, and Jordan Crawford is definitely not Klay Thompson. As of now, Barnes has yet to be able to create his own shot and make plays for himself; he relies on others to pass him the ball at an opportune time. That is why he can seemingly “disappear” for long stretches during a game, although he is on the court.
But despite all the possible excuses, Barnes will be the first to agree he faltered last season.
“Last year was definitely a step back from what I was trying to build on my rookie year, so now the biggest thing is when the expectations are on the ground, you’ve got to be motivated and disciplined,” Barnes told the San Jose Mercury News.
It’s not as if everything went drastically wrong, it’s just that he showed little improvement from last season. Barnes was still hesitant, settling for mid-range jumpers instead of being aggressive and driving to the rim, where he is oh so dangerous and fun to watch. For reasons unknown, Jackson ran iso-plays through Barnes all season long, posting him up on the block, where he would often get off a contested, fadeaway jumper that landed with a thud on the rim.
Barnes’ strength is not shooting jump shots. He is an open-court, fastbreak-style player, and in the half-court, he should drive to the rim and force the defense to adjust.
Harrison Barnes has a world of potential and talent, and he’s only 22. If Steve Kerr can figure out the formula to his success, the Warriors will be that much better as a team.
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Barnes’ best moment came in Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs against the Clippers. With his team down by one late, Barnes hustled back to block Chris Paul on a transition layup attempt after a turnover, then knocked down a huge three at the other end to put the Warriors in front. That changed the momentum of the game, and was a big reason why the Warriors pulled off the Game 1 upset.