Perhaps the loftiest praise for Golden State Warriors draftee Harrison Barnes came from ESPN's David Thorpe who said in a recent podcast that Barnes was a can't miss prospect in this year's draft and reminds him of Paul Pierce in a better body at the same age.
Most opinions of Barnes haven't been that strong, but Thorpe's assessment of his potential reflects the majority opinion on the 6-foot-8 North Carolina wing: the Warriors got the gem they were hoping for at #7 with all that tanking.
Yet as some of you might have figured out by now, I wasn't quite as excited about Barnes prior to the draft and generally seem to see a lot more uncertainty about pro potential.
So there's actually a bit of a backstory to this Q&A: about a week before the draft, I contacted SB Nation's Carolina March's T.H. about three of North Carolina's prospects - Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller - but never posted it because a) it looked as though Barnes would be gone before the Warriors' pick at #7 and b) most of the questions were about Henson before it became apparent that he wasn't on the Warriors' short list.
After it became clear that Barnes was in play at #7 just before the draft, I got back in touch with a couple more questions, in part to work out my own thoughts on Barnes but got so excited about Festus Ezeli (seriously) that I delayed posting the Barnes Q&A. So this one is a bit more scattered than usual, but as we continue to discuss what Barnes brings to the team, I figured I'd still post this now a few days late just to add a fresh perspective from SBN's college ranks.
A lot of this has already been discussed in various places around GSoM and elsewhere, but I always value the perspective of the fans who have generally watched a player - and program - the closest.
GSoM: Based on what you know about the Warriors, how do you like that fit for Barnes?
T.H.: I don't know much about the Warriors at all, but they appear to be a young team and Stephen Curry is strong in the backcourt. I think he'll have the space to really develop into an All-Star.
2. You wrote back in March that, "...Kansas designed a defense focused entirely on him, taking away both his open three and the dribble penetration, knowing there was never going to be more than one person besides Barnes on the court to take a perimeter shot." How would you respond to people who are concerned about that a sign that he'll also likely struggle against bigger, quicker defenders at the pro level?
T.H.: I think he'll be helped by the fact he won't be the sole focus of the defense when he first steps on the court. Barnes was at his most spectacular in one-on-one situations, and although there were some defenders who could shut him down, it was a rare occurrence (interestingly enough, in those situations, he would buckle down and and play terrific defense himself). His success is nowhere near guaranteed, and he never improved as much in his two years as he was expected to, but I'm not too concerned about his scoring ability going forward.
3. Speaking of defense, that's certainly something the Warriors could use more of. Was there ever a performance that stood out to you as evidence of Barnes' defensive ability? Was he the type of guy who would take the opposing team's best player?
T.H. Generally not; that would typically go to Dexter Strickland or, after his injury, Reggie Bullock. Barnes struggled defending Austin Rivers, but generally did very well guarding his assignment. I'd note that his best defensive games were ones where he struggled offensively, and was specifically drawn into competition with his defender. I think his defense has been underrated as it suffered this season when he had to shoulder the full perimeter offensive load.
4. Overall, Harrison Barnes seems to be the type of guy that people either feel could either be a star player (e.g. Rudy Gay, Luol Deng) or more of a role player. One fear among Barnes' detractors is that he doesn't do much other than score - his rebounding and passing numbers are below average for a prospect and some question his ball handling ability. What, if anything, might people be missing about Barnes' game by looking solely at the numbers?