NBA Draft 2012: A Closer Look at North Carolina's Harrison Barnes
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After a dominant career at Ames High School in Iowa—where he led the Little Cyclones to a pair of state championships and averaged a stellar 26.1 points, 10.0 boards, 3.1 steals and 3.0 assists per contest his senior year—Tar Heel commit Harrison Barnes became perhaps the most hyped-up high school prospect since LeBron James.
Fate had other plans, however, as the first ever freshman to be selected to the AP's Preseason All-American team struggled early on.
Barnes scored 14 and 19 points in his first two collegiate games respectively, before going on to average just 11.3 over the next 17 games on an abysmal 35 percent shooting. These numbers aren't very good for any starting wing, let alone a so-called superstar who was projected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA draft.
It took him awhile to get going, but Barnes finally found his stroke in a late January game when he lit up N.C. State for 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the floor. From this point forward, the "Black Falcon" averaged over 19.7 points on a very respectable 46 percent shooting.
The season was highlighted by a 40-point, eight-rebound performance in a 92-87 overtime victory against Clemson. Barnes nailed a big three in the final minutes of regulation to bring the game within striking distance and scored 14 huge points in overtime.
Barnes' clutch shooting was also on display in the final seconds of prior games versus Florida State and Miami, where he hit game-winning threes in both contests. He quickly gained the reputation as a cold-blooded assassin.
The season ended sorrowfully for the second-seeded Tar Heels as the fourth-seeded Kentucky Wildcats topped them 76-69 in the Elite Eight.
With John Henson and Tyler Zeller both stating their intentions of coming back the following year in pursuit of a national championship, Barnes announced that he would turn down being a likely top five pick and return to Chapel Hill for his sophomore campaign.
That summer, the Tar Heel phenom's hype reached a new high. Any of the doubters who may have hopped off the bandwagon were now getting back on in anticipation of his future dominance.
Many media outlets predicted him to become the National Player of the Year. One scout even dubbed him, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the "top pick in the next draft, by far" after playing Durant down to the wire in a game of one-on-one.
Quite the praise—especially after having such an inconsistent freshman season.
But Barnes had a disappointing second year to say the least. His statistics stayed about the same and his Tar Heels once again fell short of the Final Four after suffering a disappointing loss to Kansas in the Elite Eight.
How good will Barnes be in the NBA?
He seemed to have lost his swagger, particularly at the end of the season. He scored over 20 points just once in the last 10 games and seemed to lose his killer instinct—a characteristic that originally made scouts ooze over him as a freshman.
Regardless, he entered his name into the 2012 draft and is currently projected to go between picks four and eight.
The consensus amongst NBA executives is that Barnes is a safe pick, though he certainly does not have the potential of some of the other high lottery picks that include Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, Andre Drummond and others.
One believes, according to nba.com, that he is destined to be a catch-and-shoot role-player. He added, "He's not a slasher. He's not a good finisher at the basket. Doesn't look all that athletic."
Another told Sam Amick of si.com, "Is he going to be an All-Star? I don't know, but it's not like he's going to be a bust either."
Talent evaluators love the smoothness of Barnes' game. He is very capable of knocking down threes and is very fluid shooting off one dribble.
His inability to drive to the basket, paired with his poor rebounding ability for a 6'8" small forward however, are why experts believe his game is much more reminiscent to that of Luol Deng than Kevin Durant.
Though Barnes struggled with being a superstar at the college level, the role of second or third banana in the NBA is one which could be much more suiting for him.
Only time will tell.
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