Cavs Draft Preview: Harrison Barnes

In the days leading up to Thursday’s NBA Draft I will be previewing potential picks for the Cavaliers at #4. Yesterday I previewed Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Today’s prospect is North Carolina wing man and complete mystery, Harrison Barnes.

Harrison Barnes: SF, North Carolina

  • Height: 6’8″/Weight: 228 Lbs./Wingspan: 6’11.25″’/Vertical: 39.5 in.
  • 29.2 minutes per game
  • 17.1 ppg/5.2 rpg/1.1 apg
  • 46.9 2pt%/35.8 3pt%/72.3 ft%
  • Best Case Scenario: Rudy Gay or a more athletic Glen Rice
  • Worst Case Scenario: Marvin Williams
  • Most Likely Scenario: Danny Granger

Cavs fans take one look at Harrison Barnes and his resume over the past two years at North Carolina and immediately draw two conclusions. Either the Cavs will take him and he’ll be a flop, or the Cavs will pass on him and the most highly regarded high school prospect since LeBron James will finally realize his potential and become a superstar. Obviously, given the massive amount of emotional scarring Cleveland sports fans have endured, no one takes into account a third conclusion. The Cavs could take Harrison Barnes at #4, pair him up with Kyrie Irving and he might end up being really, really good.

There’s reason to believe Barnes might be a really good pro in the right situation. Yes, he struggled mightily in his freshman season. He was also thrown a ridiculous amount of pressure early on, including an unwarranted preseason all-american distinction, and was seen as the next savior of the North Carolina basketball program. Of course he struggled, anyone thrown into that situation would. Perhaps the most impressive thing about his freshman season is that fact that Barnes was self-aware enough to know he wasn’t ready for the jump to the NBA. It was the right move.

In his sophomore campaign, Barnes showed more confidence and looked more like the player North Carolina thought they were getting. Gone was the timidness and the hesitation that worked its way into his game. He was more accurate and showed more confidence taking his shot than he did as a freshman.

Unfortunately, that’s all he really relied on. Barnes m.o. is that he has a sweet stroke but lacks true playmaking ability. He can’t really take anyone of the dribble, and he can’t create a shot for himself. It was never more apparent than during the NCAA Tournament after point guard Kendall Marshall broke his wrist. Marshall is an exceptional point guard with great court vision. As a result, he’s able to get the ball to players in a position where they can make the most of it.

Without a proper point guard getting him the ball, Barnes wasn’t able to score at all. When defenses were able to focus on solely on him, Barnes couldn’t generate the necessary spacing required to get a good open look. His inability to take the ball to the basket with any type of authority all but eliminated any effectiveness Barnes had shown up to that point.

And that my friends is why Harrison Barnes is so interesting for the Cavs at #4. They have an exceptional young point guard in Kyrie Irving that’s able to get the ball where it needs to be to make the players around him better. Irving’s ability to drive to the basket and collapse the defense around him would create the necessary spacing for Barnes to get off that sweet jump shot of his. Also, Irving’s ability to put the ball in the hole and be the go to guy during crunch time means Barnes doesn’t have to be the guy, at least not right away.

Now, try to tell me that doesn’t sound like an interesting combination to build around.

The final positive when it comes to Harrison Barnes is his ridiculous athletic ability. He wasn’t believed to be this super uber athlete, but during the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, Barnes blew away the competition when it came to both speed and his vertical leap. In fact, he was better than both Bradley Beal and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in that regard.

Off the court however, you could question Barnes’ committment to basketball. Even since he first declared he would attend North Carolina during a ridiculous press conference in which he used Skype to announce his decision and talk with Roy Williams, Harrison Barnes has been all about the Harrison Barnes brand and his “Black Falcon” nickname. He’s mentioned it in interviews, he’s had his “logo” prinited on all sorts of different crap, and some say going back to UNC was more for his brand than his development as a basketball player. After all, what could be better for the brand than leading North Carolina to a title? Yes, it’s nitpicking, but for a basketball fanbase scarred by a player who was all about his brand, I can see how this could be a huge red flag. All of that aside, he’s supposed to be a really good kid with a good head on his shoulders. He’s not a knucklehead.

In terms of his potential outlook, he could end up being about as good as Rudy Gay if he’s able to develop any type of driving take it to the basket mentality. He’ll score a lot of points, but he’s not exactly going to wow you with his assist totals. If that doesn’t happen and he relies solely on his jumper, then Barnes could be a more athletic version of Glen Rice, who had a solid and long career with multiple teams.

If Barnes were to bottom out, than he most likely would compare to Marvin Williams. If you recall, Marvin Williams was a highly touted freshman coming out of North Carolina who was supposed to be the next big thing. Unfortunately, he underwhelmed at UNC and so far in his career he’s underwhelmed in Atlanta. That’s the scariest part about Barnes right now. When you watch him play, everything about how he carries himself looks an awful lot like Marvin Williams.

Realistically, I’d say Barnes could be the second coming of Danny Granger; a long semi-athletic player who can score in bunches, but if he’s the best player on your team you probably aren’t going to win a lot of games. That’s not to say Danny Granger is a bad player, but he’s always left you wanting more. He made an all-star team, he’s scored 25 ppg, but he’s just not good enough to make a team better. Make him your #2 option and then you have something to work with.

So will the Cavs take Harrison Barnes? I have no idea. All I know is that the Cavs were infatuated with him all of last year until he went back to school and were infatuated with him again this year until recently. Whether or not this Kidd-Gilchrist/Beal talk is all a smoke screen to ensure themselves of Barnes I have no idea either. All I know is that something about Harrison Barnes and the possibility of teaming him with Kyrie Irving is an extremely interesting proposition. A risky proposition, but one that could pay off huge dividends in the long run.

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