Before the 2012 NBA Draft, some NBA analysts thought that Harrison Barnes would in fact be a better pro player than he was a college player at the University of North Carolina. They believed that he wasn’t able to showcase his true talents in North Carolina’s system and that in the NBA he could play in a system that better suited his talents. Barnes played alongside three other top-17 picks at UNC in Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and Kendall Marshall, and, because of that, he had to adjust his game.
“Not a lot of teams in the country have two skilled 6’10″ guys and a great point guard,” Barnes said. “I had to work more on my mid-range game and two dribble pull-up.”
Those analysts weren’t suggesting that Barnes had a bad college career though. In 75 games at the University of North Carolina, he averaged 16.3 points per game, 5.5 rebounds per game, and 1.3 assists per game on 43 percent shooting from the field, 34.9 percent shooting from the three, and 73.4 percent free-throw shooting. Watch highlights of Barnes’ college career here.
In college, Barnes was commended for his athleticism, his speed, his size, his strength, and his ability to knock down shots in catch-and-shoot situations. Barnes didn’t show too many weaknesses, but some of them included his inability to consistently create his own shot, his lack of consistency in his shooting, and his lack of explosiveness. Barnes has always been a hard-worker, and for a rookie, his dedication and veteran-like work ethic have been quite impressive. He has already shown improvement in the areas that were labeled as his weaknesses by NBA Draft analysts.
During the regular season, Barnes showed an effort to create his own shot by driving to the basket in the hopes of getting fouled. He didn’t always get called for fouls, but it’s good to see that he doesn’t always settles for threes and instead utilizes his pump fake and his speed to get to the basket. In the postseason, when Barnes has gone up against a bigger defender like Kenneth Faried, he has tried to use his speed to his advantage by, again, driving to the basket. Or if there was a mismatch and he was guarded by a smaller defender, like Ty Lawson, Barnes used his strength to his advantage to post up. For example, watch his highlights from Game 2 here.
During the regular season, Barnes shot 43.9 percent from the field, 35.9 percent from three, and 75.8 percent from the free throw line. In each area, Barnes shot higher percentages than in college but not significant improvement. In the postseason, however, Barnes has shot 47.5 percent from the field, 46.2 percent from three, and 83.3 percent from the free-throw line. Barnes has played like a veteran in this series against Denver. He has shown a high level of confidence and good shot selection, and in Game 5, Barnes showed he can “take over a game” when his teammates were struggling. He hit three three-pointers in the first quarter when others were struggling to score, and he really carried the Warriors for much of the first half. Barnes finished Game 5 with a team-high 23 points, nine rebounds, two steals, and one block on 7-for-17 shooting from the field, 5-for-10 shooting on threes, and 4-for-4 from the free-throw line. Barnes certainly carried himself like a veteran in Game 5.
There’s no question that Barnes has improved on his explosiveness. Barnes was, by far, the most explosive, athletic player for the Warriors this year. He has had several highlight-worthy dunks in the regular season, including the famous dunk on Pekovic earlier in the season. He also had his dunk on Ersan Ilyasova, several dunks against the Detroit Pistons, and a monstrous dunk against the San Antonio Spurs, just to name a few. In the postseason, Barnes has continued to showcase his explosiveness, especially on this reverse jam on Anthony Randolph in Game 2.
Barnes’ efforts to improve all aspects of his game are admirable. He has amazing work ethic for a rookie, and, in the playoffs, he has shown his veteran demeanor by remaining confident and consistent. He doesn’t seem to be fazed at all by the increased amount of pressure in the playoffs. Barnes sticks to the game plan, stays aggressive, has been defending well, and has been a consistent offensive force for the Warriors. Barnes seems to be maturing quite quickly, and if he can continue to carry himself like a veteran, the Warriors will have a much better chance at winning this series against Denver.