The Celtics are in the market for a small forward, and Harrison Barnes could be an option, even with his free agent status being restricted compared to other unrestricted options like Nic Batum. Barnes is a special case because if a team offers a max deal, which is most likely going to happen, the Warriors are going to have a hard time matching that offer considering all the players they have to sign moving forward. Barnes seems like the odd man out, and that is a perfect scenario Boston, a team starved for a big, talented wing that can knock down threes, rebound, and up the talent level to compete with the Cleveland Cavs.
Barnes, who turns 24 tomorrow, was a big time blue chip recruit coming out of Ames High School in Iowa in 2010. Barnes was the number one rated player in the 2010 class by Scout and ESPNU, and Rivals had him ranked number two. He played with Bulls forward Doug McDermott in high school and they were absolutely dominant. As a junior, Barnes and McDermott led Ames to the Iowa 4A State Championship finishing the season 26-0 and establishing himself as maybe the best high school player in the country.
As a senior, Barnes repeated his run from the year before, once again with help from Doug McDermott. Barnes led Ames to a 27-0 record and a second consecutive Iowa 4A State Championship. He finished the year averaging 27 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.0 steals, and four assists. He was named to the first team All-America USA TODAY and he was also selected to the 2010 USA Junior Select Team. Barnes was also selected for the prestigious McDonald's All-American game, where he scored 18 points and was named co-MVP with current Celtic Jared Sullinger. In the 2010 Jordan Brand Classic, Barnes once again claimed co-MVP honors, this time sharing the award with Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving. Barnes continued to clean up in the accolades category, winning the Sporting News 2009 National High School Athlete of the Year, USA Today's 2010 National Player of the Year, and he capped it off by winning the Morgan Wooten 2010 National High School Player of the Year.
As the top rated high school player, Barnes had no shortage of options when it came to scholarship offers. He was recruited by Duke, Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, UCLA, and North Carolina, the school he ultimately chose to play for. Barnes was thrown right into the mix with the Tar Heels, appearing in 37 games and playing over 29 minutes per night. Barnes averaged 15.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.9 turnovers, and he shot 42% from the field, 34% from three. Barnes helped lead UNC to a 29-8 record and the two seed in the East bracket. They eventually lost to Kentucky in the East Regional Final, but it was still a great season for Barnes, Tyler Zeller, and the North Carolina Tar Heels.
His sophomore year was even more impressive; Barnes averaged 17.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.3 blocks, and he shot 44% from the field, 36% from three. Once again he led the Tar Heels to a great season, finishing 32-6 and finishing as a one seed in in the Midwest Bracket of the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, the Tar Heels lost in the Regional Final again, and Barnes would never get a chance to cut down the nets as he declared for the NBA Draft not long after the Tar Heels season ended. Barnes knew he was projected as a top-ten pick and he had nothing more to prove in college.
Barnes was selected seventh overall by the Golden State Warriors in the 2012 NBA Draft, another top-ten selection the Warriors hit on while building their championship roster. As a rookie, Barnes appeared in 81 games, playing 25 minutes per game while averaging 9.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists. He shot 44% from the field, 36% from three. It was clear that Barnes talent was going to allow him to eventually flourish in the NBA.
Barnes had a bit of a sophomore slump, which happens with many good players. He played in 78 games and played over 28 minutes per night, but his stat line- 9.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 0.8 steals per game wasn't on par for the jump in minutes played. His shot wasn't as good as he finished 40% from the field, 35% from three. One of the reasons for the plateaued production is going from a starter to a bench player, even though he was getting more minutes per night. Playing with the more talented starting five can lead to better numbers than leading the bench unit, a group that is typically flawed.
Barnes was put back into the starting lineup in 2014-15, starting all 82 games. He had his best season to date, averaging 28 minutes, 10.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and he shot the ball better than he ever has in his career, shooting 48% from the field, 41% from three. Considering that Barnes was only taking 10.1 shots per game, his numbers are incredibly efficient and his production is as good as it could possibly be based off his opportunities with the ball. Regardless of the lack of shots, Barnes was a starter and key contributor on a championship team.
Barnes missed 16 games in 2015-16, but he still started 59 of 66 games during the Warriors historic 73-win regular season. He averaged 11.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and he shot 47% from the field, 38% from three. Once again, Barnes just didn't get a lot of shots, averaging just 9.6 shots per game. To get an idea of Barnes role in the offense, take a look at the amount of shots Klay Thompson takes on average- 17.3. He is shooting almost double the shots, and that isn't a knock on Thompson, it's just the way the Warriors run their offense. Barnes is the fourth option behind Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green, a tough situation for a very talented offensive player like Barnes to be in.
Boston not only would give Barnes a chance to take more shots and contribute more offensively, they'd also give him a chance to prove that Golden State should have involved him more in the offense, something that has to bother the fourth year pro. If Barnes was to average 18 shots per game, he'd average more than 20 points and he'd be considered one of the NBA's top small forwards. Danny Ainge most likely has no chance at signing Kevin Durant, the top two small forward on the market, so his best option is to attempt to sign a player that will become an All-Star when he is able to average double figures in shot attempts. Danny, don' t be afraid to offer Barnes a max-deal, he's the type of player (age, production, lack of injury history) that is worth the gamble.
College Statistics Provided by Sports-Reference.com/Harrison Barnes
NBA Statistics Provided by Basketball-Reference.com/Harrison Barnes
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