Golden State Warriors Offseason Homework: Harrison Barnes


Here at Blue Man Hoop, we’re big fans of stats—maybe too big sometimes. But for this edition of Offseason Homework, we’ll take a break from statistical analysis, but only because we don’t have any stats to analyze.

That’s right, we’re going to give Golden State Warriors rookie Harrison Barnes an offseason homework assignment. And because we don’t have any data from NBA games—he hasn’t played any—we’ll have to rely on the old eye test to critique Barnes’ most necessary area of improvement. Let the anecdotal evaluation begin!

In five Summer League games against sort-of-almost-but-not-really NBA competition, Barnes showed some of his best and worst qualities. Among his many legitimate NBA skills were his abilities to make open jumpers and occasionally get to the rim. Those are important things; Barnes will be expected to do a lot of both if he’s going to play meaningful minutes—and possibly even start—this year for the Warriors.

The flip side is that Barnes simply doesn’t do those things enough. Instead, he tends to use one or two dribbles to penetrate to the elbows. Once there, he uses his athleticism to elevate for what are, very often, contested jump shots. In other words, Barnes has a nasty tendency to pass up a good scoring opportunity (catch-and-shoot jumper), not penetrate far enough to create another one (via a layup, dunk or shooting foul) and instead settles for a tough one (contested jumper).

So in Barnes, we’ve clearly got a case where meeting in the middle is a bad thing. He needs to go to extremes, which, in this instance, means either hoisting spot-up threes or barreling into the paint.

As far as an offseason homework assignment, it’ll be hard for Barnes to rectify his game’s biggest weakness without the negative reinforcement he’ll get from trying it against NBA talent. Once the season starts, he’ll quickly find out how hard life can be when you rely on contested jumpers. Before that, though, he’ll either have to learn it in training camp or through film study.

Barnes did have a similar issue in college at North Carolina, so there’s probably plenty of evidence for him to look at. But in college, Barnes’ superior athleticism made it easier to get away with such an inefficient offensive M.O. Hopefully he’ll take a long look at some UNC game film before he hits the Warriors’ practice facility later this summer.

Fortunately, Barnes is a unique offseason homework case. He’s not a guy with a glaring deficiency (like Charles Jenkins and his inability to shoot the three, for example). On the contrary, Barnes is a player who does many things well, but doesn’t recognize which of those things he should focus on making a bigger part of his game.

If he can learn to take better shots and avoid the elbows on offense, Barnes will earn an A-plus this offseason.

This is an offseason series of articles we’ll be doing this summer at Blue Man Hoop. In these Offseason Homework pieces, we’ll be breaking down one Warrior to figure out which area of his game needs the most improvement before the 2012-2013 Warriors season kicks off in Phoenix on October 31.