Harrison Barnes – SF – 6’8, 228 lbs.
At one point, Harrison Barnes was considered a potential No. 1 prospect for the 2011 NBA Draft class. After a solid yet unspectacular freshman season at UNC, Barnes decided to stay in school. Unfortunately, his sophomore performance, while still impressive, wasn’t much better than his debut year.
Because he didn’t live up to the college hype as a No. 1 overall pick kind of talent, Barnes is seen as a disappointment to some. But don’t let past expectations cloud your judgment. What we have here is a 20-year-old prospect who had a good two-year college career and who can impact a basketball game in a variety of ways.
First and foremost, Barnes is a scorer. He averaged 15.7 points per game as a freshman and 17.1 points per game as a sophomore, despite playing under 30 minutes per game in both seasons at UNC. His shooting percentages could have been better, but he can fill the bucket and score from anywhere on the court, as Barnes offers a great mid-range game and deep range.
There are some flaws in Barnes’ offensive repertoire. He’s going to have to improve his ball handling to truly blossom as a scoring machine against NBA defenses. He also seems incapable of consistently creating his own shot and breaking defenses down off the dribble, so if he doesn’t improve in those areas, you’re looking at a guy who will have to do all of his offensive damage outside the paint and in catch-and-shoot situations.
While other areas of his game are overlooked and overshadowed by his offense, Barnes offers much more. He’s nowhere near being a physically dominating specimen or a bruiser, but at 6-foot-8, Barnes grabbed more than five rebounds per game at UNC and can contribute on the boards. In addition, he actually has some very impressive defensive ability and poses a serious threat to become the rare NBA star who can drop 15-20 points (or more) while also playing the role of a lockdown defender. This is where the oft-mentioned Luol Deng comparisons fit the bill.
One thing we’d all like to see out of Barnes is more assertiveness on the court. He comes across as passive at times, and it might do him well to play with more of a chip on his shoulder. Nevertheless, his prior hype, his nearly complete package and his reputable maturity make him a very enticing young prospect for teams near the top of the Draft. Expect to see him selected somewhere between picks two-to-six, with the Cavaliers (No. 4) said to be big fans of Barnes.