There was talk about Harrison Barnes being drafted in the top five, or even in the top three, of the 2012 NBA Draft. So, the Warriors felt awfully lucky when they got the chance to snag him with the seventh pick.
But, despite his enormous amount of potential, Barnes also has a chance to be a bust.
Golden State is hoping that their high-scoring team can make the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 season, when the Warriors shocked the Dallas Mavericks in the first round and sent the Bay Area into a frenzy with the exquisite play of the eighth-seeded team. They have Stephen Curry, who is hoping to bounce back from ongoing ankle problems, Andrew Bogut, David Lee, Jarrett Jack and more talented players, and all of them are hoping to make an immediate impact for the Warriors.
And Barnes is among those players, hoping to steer the Warriors back to the promised land.
All of those players have had injury problems, and avoiding injuries will be key for the Warriors. Barnes will be thrust into action a lot, probably at two positions. He is a small forward who has a great jump shot, although he has had trouble creating off the dribble. Barnes is seen by a lot of people as a long-term starter, and with Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson at small forward, it’s unlikely that he’ll be a star as a rookie.
However, he will contribute to the team this season, and he will contribute more and more as time goes on. Barnes will have some trouble creating his own shot, but his strength and athleticism will help with that. Defense will probably be a weaker area at the beginning of the season, but it will get a lot better as time goes on.
Rush will probably open the season as the starter, but I expect minutes to be divided evenly between Barnes, Rush and Jefferson at the beginning of the season. Jefferson owns lots of experience, but Rush also has experience and has shown that he deserves to start. Mark Jackson will probably let him start, but he probably won’t be a factor by the end of the season.
If I were Bob Myers, I would seek to trade Jefferson or Rush at the trade deadline. There would be no reason to exasperate Barnes by leaving him on the bench while an older player and a less talented player ate up large chunks of minutes, especially after exposing him to a few months of professional basketball. His defense and ability to consistently create shots will improve significantly over the course of his career, and I think it will be good enough for him to start midseason in his rookie year.
Even if he has trouble creating shots consistently, his ability to elevate his shot will help. He shot 44 percent from the field in his sophomore season, and his shot can catch fire. He cooled off at the wrong time in his sophomore season at North Carolina, making just 20 of his 61 shots in the NCAA Tournament. However, he’s not someone who you want to defend when he has his shot going.
Keeping a decent backup to support Barnes when he’s cold is a good idea, but not many will want to fill that role. It would help greatly if Jefferson stayed as a mentor for Barnes and someone to help him early on in his career, but in a short time, Barnes will be alone as a star. The hard-working, polite kid will continue to soak up new knowledge and improve in multiple ways.
Then, he, Curry and the Warriors will look to bring the NBA Finals trophy back to the Bay.