It’s Time For Harrison Barnes’ Breakout Season


It’s been an up and down three years for Harrison Barnes. At times, the North Carolina product looks like a future All-Star with a ceiling as high as anybody in the league, other times however, he looks like he should be parked at the end of the bench next to Steve Kerr. Entering the 2015-2016 season, Barnes looks primed to have his breakout season, as teammates Stephen Curry (2012), Klay Thompson/Draymond Green (2014) have in recent years.

More from Warriors News

Let’s look at some of the reasons Barnes has struggled in the past:

For one, Barnes has never been able to create his own shot.  ESPN’s Ethan Strauss described Barnes’ handle as: “Barnes dribbles with the stultifying caution of someone who fears the ball might set off land mines”. He adds “…To summarize, he’s a ball stopper, but without the gaudy individual offense that many ball-stoppers can conjure up in isolation.”

When Barnes came off the bench in his sophomore season, he was asked to be the #1 option in an iso-heavy Mark Jackson offense. This was a recipe for disaster as Barnes was forced to be the main scorer on a bench unit that featured the likes of Steve Blake, Mo Speights, Jermaine O’Neal, and pre-breakout Draymond Green. Since Jackson rarely mixed the starting lineup with the bench unit, everyone knew the ball was either going to Barnes or Jordan Crawford (yikes), which is the main reason the Warriors finished last in bench field goal percentage and 25th as an overall bench unit in the 2013-2014 season.

In hindsight, it’s easy to see why Barnes struggled- shooting just under 40 percent with a PER below 10 as he finished with a -0.8 rating his sophomore season as a sixth man.

Confidence is key for Barnes, as is true with most young players. When Barnes is lacking confidence, he often passes up open shots, or goes to the rim soft as tissue. A perfect example of this is Game 3 in the NBA finals this past season. Barnes went 0-8 as his lack of confidence was evident.

He was bricking his shots (some of them wide open), and only played 19 minutes the whole game as he was of little use in that game. It was as if he knew he was on thin ice with every ball that clanked off of the rim, as subs quickly spelled him.

Jun 16, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives to the basket against Golden State Warriors guard Andre Iguodala (9) and forward Harrison Barnes (40) during the first quarter in game six of the NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

On the defensive side of the ball, Barnes is by no means a lockdown defender, but he’s able to use his versatility and length to play decent team defense. With so many above average perimeter defenders on Golden State’s roster (Green, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston), the Warriors can afford for Barnes to not be Kwahi Leonard-esque, which is why you’ll often see Green,Thompson, or Iguodala switched onto Barnes’ match up late game or if Barnes is struggling defensively (see Lebron James in the NBA Finals).

It isn’t difficult to maximise Barnes’ skillset. In a perfect Warriors’ world, Barnes is surrounded by players better than him, knocking down the open corner threes he gets, getting easy dunks from cutting to the basket, and posting up smaller defenders he gets on pick and roll switches.

At 6’8″ and 225 pounds, Barnes has the prototypical size and athleticism for an NBA 3. With the ability to stretch a defense out with his shooting, and above the rim play, Barnes has the natural talent necessary to be a fringe All-Star in the league. He has shown that in flashes in the past, but is yet to do so at a consistent level.

This is how Barnes introduced himself to Warriors’ fans his rookie year:

And Oracle exploded when this happened:

Barnes has been working with NBA legend Jerry West this off season, as well as getting bigger and stronger. If he plays with confidence and is able to rely on the skill of the players around him, the sky is the limit for Harrison Barnes in the 2016 season.

Next: The Festus Ezeli Dilemma

More from Blue Man Hoop