Detroit Pistons Draft Targets: Harrison Barnes, North Carolina

Jay WierengaCorrespondent IJanuary 29, 2012

CHAPEL HILL, NC - JANUARY 26:  Harrison Barnes #40 of the North Carolina Tar Heels beats C.J. Leslie #5 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack on a drive to the basket during play at the Dean Smith Center on January 26, 2012 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. North Carolina won 74-55.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

This is the fifth in my series exploring potential Detroit Pistons targets. In the first four, I discussed Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, Thomas Robinson and Perry Jones.


My Take

I will admit, Harrison Barnes has been a tough nut for me to crack from an analytical standpoint.

Just when I think I have him figured out as a passive, perimeter-happy wing, he breaks out with some amazingly athletic play that makes me salivate for the future.

There is a lot to love about Barnes. He has been playing at a high level for a little over a year now at North Carolina despite the fact that he was hyped like nobody's business coming out of high school.

In fact, he was the first incoming preseason All-American in NCAA history.

He also went to perhaps the most storied program in major college basketball, and despite a rough start, he has really found his groove.

In a lot of ways, he reminds me of Rudy Gay. He is long, athletic and can shoot the rock from deep.

And while I get discouraged by the fact that he can float in and out of the game, he rarely makes a misstep. In fact, if you watch him without the ball, you will really be impressed by the fact that he is always doing what is best for the team.

If there is an exact opposite of the Carmelo Anthony, Alex English-types, it is Barnes.

He is a consummate teammate that plays smart basketball.

I also think he is just scratching his potential, as long as he remains hungry. Given the fact that he seems to have a really good head on his shoulders, I couldn't imagine anything but this happening. Some kids are just raised right, and I believe Barnes is this type of kid.

Defensively, he still needs some work, but he exhibits quick hands and a willingness to do the little things. I could see him turning into a very good perimeter defender similar to Luol Deng if surrounded by the right players.

Offensively, there is not a lot he can't do. He can create his own shot (although I would like to see him force the issue more often and assert himself), he can shoot from the perimeter and he could become a solid rebounder if he sticks his nose in on offense from time to time.

My biggest gripe with Barnes is that he tends to defer to teammates too often. Sure, he is on a loaded North Carolina team that has tons of front court talent, but he is far and away the most talented perimeter player on his team and could easily score 20-pus points per game at the next level.

But it is hard to fault him for playing unselfish basketball since he really is helping his team win.

I go back and forth on Barnes. Just a week ago I was saying that I watch his games constantly and really want to love this kid but maybe the hype isn't on par with the talent. Now I am saying he has top-shelf potential.

I think that the truth is somewhere in the middle. He has a high ceiling, but he also could easily become a complementary player at the next level. It really has to do with the system he finds himself in and the talent around him.


Scout's Take From ESPN

Projection Top-5 Pick
  • Long, athletic wing
  • Does everything, can score from anywhere
  • Smooth player, doesn't get rattled
  • Terrific midrange game
  • Great fundamentals and basketball IQ
  • Can be a lock down defender
  • Has the rep as a smart, well-mannered kid
  • Good athlete, but not particularly explosive or quick
  • Needs to add strength
  • Doesn't have a killer instinct


How He Fits Detroit

The Pistons have been looking for an explosive, athletic small forward since Grant Hill left town in 2000. While some scouts argue about whether Barnes is an elite athlete, he certainly is better than anything the Pistons currently have on the roster at the position.

Tayshaun Prince at this point is not much more than a stopgap option and Austin Daye is way too wildly inconsistent to be seriously counted on going forward.

Also while Jonas Jerebko shows flashes of something special, he probably is better suited as a high energy guy off the bench.

Barnes might fit perfectly with Detroit. He helps where the Pistons have their biggest need, getting the ball into the hoop.

The future of this team is definitely Greg Monroe, but Barnes could potentially help with stretching the court and providing another solid offensive option.

Personally, I think the Pistons are much better off drafting a big man with what will likely be a top-5 pick. But if Davis, Drummond and Robinson are off the board, they could do worse than to draft Barnes.