2012 NBA Draft: A Cleveland Cavaliers Scouting Preview of UNC's Harrison Barnes

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterApril 3, 2012

This is Pt. 1 of an eight-part series detailing potential draft prospects for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Up first, University of North Carolina sophomore Harrison Barnes. Up next, University of Connecticut sophomore Jeremy Lamb.

University of North Carolina sophomore forward Harrison Barnes has been an intriguing draft prospect for two years now, ever since he was the top-rated high school player in the nation in 2010.

Plagued by inconsistency and the pressure of being a star right away at one of the nation's top college programs, Barnes struggled through his freshman year. He made only marginal improvements this year, but he still showed signs of being a future NBA star with his jump shot, high character and intelligence.

Here's what Barnes would bring to the Cavaliers...

Reasons to Draft Him

  • Knock-down shooter who has an ideal body for the small forward position at 6'8" and 223 pounds.
  • Athletic with a near seven-foot wingspan.
  • Played his best basketball when point guard Kendall Marshall was on the floor and struggled without him. Playing with Kyrie Irving, he should be at his best.
  • Position-wise, the Cavaliers need another athletic wing so Barnes would fill a huge need.
  • Despite receiving nearly the same amount of playing time from his freshman to sophomore seasons, Barnes improved his scoring thanks to an increase in field goal and three-point percentage.
  • Barnes proved he can come through in the clutch, with game winning shots against the University of Miami and Florida State.
  • Barnes and Irving already have a good relationship, as they played in and were co-MVPs in the 2010 Jordan Brand Classic. Instant chemistry like that could prove to be invaluable.

Reasons to Pass Him

  • While he enjoyed a successful college career, Barnes never lived up to the hype of being the No. 1 freshman of the 2010 high school class.
  • Struggled as a play-maker and creating his own shot at times.
  • Doesn't always seem to have the "killer instinct" that you could find in other stars around the league. The Cavaliers need a second star to pair with Kyrie Irving, not another role player.
  • In the 2012 NCAA tournament when most thought he would step up and lead the Tar Heels, Barnes struggled mightily, shooting only 32.8 percent from the floor.

Bottom Line

It's quite perplexing why Barnes never became a better player than he's ended up so far. The question is "Why?" As an NBA scout or general manager, I would want to find out before drafting him.

That being said, Barnes just has the look and feel of a future NBA star. His shot is one of the prettiest in college, and it's a great sign that his shooting percentages went up with a year under his belt. Also worth noting, Barnes increased his free-throw attempts from 3.4 to 5.1 attempts per game from his freshman to sophomore year, which shows he was more aggressive getting to the basket.

I would feel quite comfortable making Barnes a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. I think he would be motivated to prove the critics wrong who were tough on him in college. Playing with friend and budding star Kyrie Irving would only increase his work ethic and desire to succeed. 

Being the first player evaluated in this series, Barnes naturally tops the list for now, but he could easily remain up there as the series continues.

Current ranking: 1 of 1.

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