There wasn’t a more highly touted recruit coming out of high school, other than LeBron James, than Harrison Barnes. People thought so highly of him that college basketball tabbed him as a preseason first team All-American. But his first few months of his freshman season were anything but All-American-esque.
He tallied six single-digit point-total games in his first 15 collegiate games. One of those games included a 0 for 12 game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Puerto Rico tournament. His production picked up as the season went along, though. He reached double-digits in scoring in 21 of his next 22 games, including a 40-point performance against the Clemson Tigers in the ACC tournament.
In a weak draft, Barnes would have been a Top 3 pick in the 2011 NBA draft. But, due to the uncertainty of the NBA having a season in 2011-12, Barnes decided to return to Chapel Hill for his sophomore season. The majority of his numbers improved, but a lot of NBA scouts don’t know if he actually improved. He had poor performances in the NCAA tournament against Ohio and Kansas, shooting a combined 8-30 from the field in those two games.
His stock has fallen in the eyes of most NBA scouts. He reminds a lot of scouts and GM’s of Luol Deng. I had that first impression of Barnes, too.
But as I watched more and more film on him, Barnes started to remind me of Paul Pierce. I am not saying he is the next “Paul Pierce” or that he will have a career that has been as successful as Pierce’s, but some of the things that Barnes does reminds me of Pierce.
The way he plays, slow and methodical, is Pierce’s trademark. Barnes loves one-dribble pull-ups, preferably going to his left. He loves step-back jumpers, as well. If you leave Barnes wide-open from three-point land, he is knocking it down every time. Both, Pierce and Barnes, are excellent mid-range players, a lost art in today’s game. Barnes will probably never be a 37% three-point shooter for his career and might never score like Pierce used to score (five seasons averaging at least 25.0 ppg), but Barnes has similar qualities.
I also believe that Barnes has some clutch-ness in his game. Remember in his freshman season, Barnes hit game-winners against Miami and Florida State (both games on the road).
Barnes might fall to as low as #12 when the NBA draft rolls around in June. Scouts feel that he didn’t propel himself, in anyway shape or form, ahead of players like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Bradley Beal this season. And I would tend to agree with them. But Barnes has a more-advanced NBA game that either Kidd-Gilchrist or Beal. I could see Barnes going as high as #5, depending on how things shake out the rest of the season.
Keep in mind that the players drafted ahead of Paul Pierce in the 1998 NBA draft were Michael Olowokandi, Mike Bibby, Raef LaFrentz, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Robert Traylor, Jason Williams, Larry Hughes, and Dirk Nowitzki.
Pierce has had a better career than all of those players and Nowitzki is the only other player in his class.
So could you say that Pierce was overlooked in the 1998 draft? Yes, you can say that.
Is Barnes being overlooked in this draft? Yes, but this draft class figures to be a very good draft class.
Barnes is a big-time player, keep that in mind.