Fresh off a rookie season that saw him up his regular season averages (9.2 points, 4.1 rebounds) once the real games came around (16.1 points and 6.4 rebounds a night in the playoffs), Harrison Barnes turns 21 years old today. A former top recruit in high school who received MJ and Kobe comparisons before a solid college career at North Carolina, Barnes has the look and feel of a future star. Collected. Calm. Confident. Smooth.
In honor of his birthday, here are 10 reasons why he will one day become an All-Star.
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Barnes isn’t perfect on the defensive side of the ball but he doesn’t take plays off and is a constant hustler. He occasionally gets lost on help defense but is very useful when placed on an island in isolation situations. More experience will help him realize the tendencies of other players while getting away with fouls — making him even more dangerous — which is something all great players develop once they create a rapport with the officials.
9. THREE-POINT STROKE
He shot pretty well from three-point range this year (35.9 percent) but did so on only 1.8 attempts. Those attempts jumped to 4.3 during the postseason while his percentage was upped to nearly 37. His shot is pretty standard and his mechanics are sound. He could be an added weapon to the deadly corner triple if the Warriors decide to use him more as a stretch forward.
8. OFFENSIVE MOVES
I’ll mention his versatility later but it was impressive to look at his highlights and see all of the different things he can already do. Young players don’t typically have a natural feel for playing down in the post so it should be refreshing for Warriors fans to seem him comfortable there, even if his technique isn’t flawless. His ability to post up will not only pay dividends for his individual stats but will allow the team to be flexible when looking to re-sign players.
He has a pretty good idea of where to be on the court and provides a ton of energy when he enters the game. It’s difficult for a rookie to find his place on a playoff team but it looks like Barnes and Mark Jackson were able to carve out the perfect role.
6. FIRST STEP
The dunk highlights are important to watch because they show how quick his first step is to the paint. When he creates a little momentum with an arm swing to the baseline and catches the defender on his wrong foot, he almost always blows by him to the inside. If he starts to hit his jumper with more consistency and starts driving baseline more, he will become a force to be reckoned with.
4. PLAYING TIME
It is always tough for a coach to know which players need more minutes and which are playing their best with shorter minutes going against bench players and subs. Barnes blossoming in the playoffs with an added 13 minutes a game shows the kind of durable, workhorse he is quickly becoming. The key for Barnes is to continue to stay efficient in the extra minutes. His field goal, three-point and free throw percentage all increased with the added minutes in the postseason.
With the NBA moving toward a system of “small ball,” it becomes increasingly important that players don’t become pigeonholed into one specific role. That is why Barnes’ ability to finish, drive, stretch the floor and post up gives him complementary talents to both Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. Being able to do all that at the small forward position also gives him a leg up on the rest of the league.
2. JUMP IN PLAYOFF STATS
A rookie playing in the playoffs for the first time is typically not a recipe for success. They’ll usually be overwhelmed by the defensive intensity, the premium placed on each individual play. Barnes was the opposite. The rookie, with heightened minutes, upped his scoring average from 9.2 to 16.1 and his rebounding average from 4.1 to 6.4 in the postseason. The added production allowed for the Warriors to upset the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference First Round, and then push San Antonio to six games in the conference semifinals.
Barnes suffered a nasty fall in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs. He seemed to land hard on his head and was immediately taken to the locker room to get checked out by trainers. After receiving stitches and passing a baseline concussion test, Barnes returned to the floor before later leaving again due to headaches. Coming back to the floor to attempt to save the team’s season was gutsy; realizing he wasn’t 100 percent right and taking himself out of the game was smart.
Will Barnes ever make an All-Star team?
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