NBA PM: Finding the Fit for Harrison Barnes
One of the most intriguing prospects in the 2012 NBA Draft is forward Harrison Barnes. The 6’8″ small forward out of North Carolina has been a highly touted recruit since high school.
Barnes is a polished, mature and capable scorer. In his second year with the Tar Heels, he averaged 17.1 points a game in just 29.2 minutes while shooting 46.9% from the field and 35.8% from three.
While he was steady during the season, he struggled in the NCAA tournament and North Carolina lost to Kansas in the Elite Eight.
Was it less of a blow losing to Jayhawks, given they went all the way to the Finals before falling to the champion Kentucky Wildcats?
In the 80-67 losing effort, Barnes scored 13 points on 5-14 shooting, missing all five of his three-point attempts. To get past Ohio, he shot 3-16, Creighton 7-19 and Vermont 5-12.
The numbers suggest that Harrison still has to evolve as a player, as all do naturally.
“I was surrounded by great players,” said Barnes of North Carolina at the Chicago NBA Draft Combine. “We felt like we were one of the more talented teams in the country. Our jobs were very specific. My job was to score . . . in the NBA it’s different. It’s more isolation basketball, more pick and roll, so you kind of have to change your game a little bit to play NBA style of basketball.”
If Barnes is drafted as his team’s primary scorer, that may be too much to ask of a rookie. Initially, he may be better suited to join a team where he can blend in and find his way.
To that end, Barnes would be a better fit on the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, New Orleans Hornets, Portland Trail Blazers or even the Sacramento Kings . . . than the Charlotte Bobcats, Washington Wizards or Toronto Raptors.
Anthony Davis is expected to go first to the New Orleans Hornets. It wouldn’t appear likely that the Bobcats or Wizards take Barnes at two or three, although with the Draft a few weeks away, it really is still early in the process.
Toronto, at eight, would probably love to have them given their need for a wing player but that’s a team still searching for a dominant perimeter threat. Is that Barnes in year one?
It’d be surprising to see Barnes slip past the Warriors at seven, given that’s a natural fit alongside a promising team with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee and Andrew Bogut. Harrison would be a natural addition.
Then again, Barnes may not get past fourth with the Cavaliers. Cleveland’s Rookie of the Year, Kyrie Irving, is very close to Barnes. The Cavaliers are a young team but Irving with Barnes, Tristan Thompson and veteran Anderson Varejao is a nice starting point for a team still finding itself in the post-LeBron James era.
If the Cavaliers don’t take Barnes, the Kings will have their choice. Sacramento, despite their recent record, has a lot of promising young pieces. Harrison probably isn’t the one player to come in and turn the Kings into a cohesive unit but then Sacramento may have other moves in the works to reshape the roster.
Barnes recently met with the Kings.
“Sacramento went great,” said Barnes. “[They] got to know me, my family, my background, where I see myself as a player.”
“I feel like it was a good meeting,” continued Harrison.
Additionally, Barnes would also complement LaMarcus Aldridge in Portland but if Nicolas Batum is pegged as the team’s future, would Portland slide him over to shooting guard to play Harrison at three?
The pre-draft process will continue until June 28th and while it’s difficult to pin down exactly where Harrison will end up, he’s certainly one of the top talents of his class.
“You can’t really tell who is interested and who is not,” said Barnes. “The only thing you can do is go in there and make the best impression as possible.”
Athleticism Beats Execution
Over the course of a seven-game series, typically the team that executes on a higher level prevails. The San Antonio Spurs have been the hottest team over the past few months with a premium placed on execution.
The Oklahoma City Thunder, while a capable team both offensively and defensively, aren’t necessarily on the same level as the Spurs when it comes to pure execution.
The Spurs involve up to 10 or even 11 players in the offense. They always make the extra pass and find shooters open in the corner. They have the veteran presence inside of Tim Duncan, the star power on the perimeter of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
The Thunder rely on three players to get the bulk of their scoring – Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. If any of those three is off, it’s rare for the role players (Derek Fisher, Serge Ibaka and/or Kendrick Perkins) to carry that load.
It’s a top-heavy team on offense and yet they’re on their way to the NBA Finals.
Much of that has to do with the pure athleticism of the three stars. Guarding Durant, Westbrook and Harden proved too much for the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and Spurs.
Ultimately the gap in athleticism outweighed the difference in execution.
With each step the Thunder have taken, the better they’ve learned to execute, despite their youth – despite their flaws.
That’s what team basketball is about and the Thunder will represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals where they’ll have a chance to take out yet another former champion (Miami HEAT or Boston Celtics) after dispatching of three in the West.
Meet Lazeric Jones
Chicago kid, point guard Lazeric Jones, returned home this week for the NBA Draft Combine. A senior at UCLA, Jones averaged 13.5 points and 4.1 assists last season under Coach Ben Howland.
At 6’0″, Jones is a surprisingly athletic guard who may have an NBA-ready stroke from three. He hopes to show there’s more to his game than was evident at UCLA, joining a long list of fellow alumni in the league (Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison, Baron Davis, Jrue Holiday, Jordan Farmar, Earl Watson and Malcolm Lee).
“They showed some things after they left UCLA and hopefully I can do the same,” said Jones to HOOPSWORLD.
Jones is currently being mentored by former Los Angeles Clipper, Indiana Pacer and UCLA star Pooh Richardson, who notes Jones is a “super athlete,” even comparing him to Westbrook.
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