The Golden State Warriors’ ownership literally risked what little reputation they had to tank during the 2011/2012 season, so they could secure a first round draft pick. On June 28, 2012, former high school phemon Harrison Barnes fell right into the Warriors’ lap and they drafted him with the seventh pick. Not only was Barnes the best player left in the draft, but he helped fill the void at small forward. The Barnes selection immediately paid dividends as he started all 81 games he played in. Even though Barnes rookie season was plagued with inconsistency, he made some spectacular dunks that showed his raw potential.
What made Barnes’ hype jump higher than his explosive 40 inch vertical, was his amazing performance in the NBA Playoffs. When the Warriors lone All-Star David Lee went down, it looked like the Warriors ‘Cinderella’ year would come to a close. However, Barnes took initiative on offense for the first time of his career by averaging over 16 points per game in the post season. Barnes finally looked like the game changing wingman that we all thought he would be when he was the number one high school player in the nation.
Both the Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs had trouble finding the right defensive matchups for Barnes. Not only was Barnes taking the ball to the rack with ease but he was also hitting the open jump shot. Head Coach Mark Jackson was so enthralled with Barnes’ game that he played him as a power forward in small ball lineups.
With the addition of Andre Iguodala in the off-season, Barnes was expected to play a similar role to what James Harden had with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Even though Barnes had been relegated to the sixth man role, he actually had more pressure on him to produce because the bench was extra thin after the departures of Carl Landry and Jarret Jack. With a bunch of defensive minded-players like Draymond Green, Kent Bazemore and Toney Douglas playing alongside Barnes, opposing defenses were able to key on Barnes. Some might label Barnes’ struggles this season as a sophomore slump, but I don’t think Barnes is capable of being a contributor off the bench.
One would expect Barnes to have taken initiative on offense this season, but he has continued to disappear throughout the game. According to 22ndtimeout.com, Barnes touches the ball as much as a catch-and-shoot specialist like Kyle Korver. If Barnes was former Warriors guard Anthony Morrow that would be fine, but Barnes is expected to be the slashing wingman that gets buckets in droves. It seems as though Barnes is just not comfortable being the number one option on a team. Yes, Barnes is still a raw 21-year-old, but it doesn’t look like he will be changing his basketball IQ in time for the Warriors to use him in their championship run over the next couple of years.
The Warriors have a great chance to compete for an NBA championship over the next few seasons. With all five starters (Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Lee, and Bogut) and Draymond Green locked up, the Warriors can continue to grow together during their championship run. The question remains, where does Harrison Barnes fit into the Warriors plans? With Andre Iguodala playing like a superstar, there is just no way that Barnes can crack the starting lineup over the next couple of seasons. Some have argued that Barnes could be a potential replacement for David Lee at power forward, but Barnes would be a huge liability at both ends of the floor. We have seen that Barnes is not comfortable being a scoring option off the bench, which leaves Barnes in a no-win situation on the Warriors. A player with Barnes’ potential can be a very lucrative trading chip to a rebuilding team that needs players.
The Warriors would be insane to give away Harrison Barnes, but they should entertain the notion of trading Barnes down the line. It would make sense for the Warriors to trade Barnes for a first round pick this off-season if they could pick a player that fits their system a little better. We must not forget that Barnes will probably get a pretty decent contract offer when he is a restricted free agent, so it would be better for the Warriors to try and get some value for Barnes before he probably leaves. I know that Dub Nation has grown to love the Black Falcon, but I do not think he has a bright future with the Golden State Warriors.