Grading Harrison Barnes' Early Performance with the Golden State Warriors

Benjamin CruzFeatured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2013

December 18, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors small forward Harrison Barnes (40) looks on during the second quarter against the New Orleans Hornets at ORACLE Arena. The Warriors defeated the Hornets 103-96. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

When the Golden State Warriors landed Harrison Barnes with the seventh overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, many wondered which Barnes would be arriving in the Bay Area.

Was he going to be the player that scouts compared to Kobe Bryant when he was coming out of high school, or would he be the up-and-down player that showed up during his time as a Tar Heel in North Carolina?

Through the first 37 games of his pro career, he's shown flashes of fantastic play coupled with stretches where you forget that he's on the court, but for the most part has been very solid for the surprising Warriors. His 9.5 PPG and 4.4 RPG aren't quite Damian Lillard-esque, but he is still one of the biggest keys to the team's success.

Barnes is quite possibly the Warriors' most versatile player since Brandon Rush was sidelined for the season with a torn ACL. He can shoot, defend, drive to the basket, play a bit in the post and is easily the most athletic player on the team (which the Warriors desperately need given their current roster).

Early on, Barnes was the victim of coach Mark Jackson's strange rotation, often getting benched down the stretch of games. Yet as the season has gone on, he's earned the trust of his coach and has played big minutes for the Dubs.

Of course, the defining moment of his inaugural season was the night he unleashed his alter ego, The Black Falcon, all over the Minnesota Timberwolves' Nikola Pekovic's head.

His confidence is growing as he nears the halfway point of the season and he's not afraid to show that on the court. A seemingly quiet and mild-mannered person, Barnes admitted to Marcus Thompson II of the Bay Area News Group that when the ball tips off, the Mr. Hyde to his Dr. Jekyll side kicks in:

"Who I am on the court and who I am off the court are two different people," said Barnes, who gave himself the moniker in college. "I may say some things on the court I regret, do some things, act a little out of character. But what happens on the court stays on the court."

Just like any other rookie, Barnes has tons of room to grow and plenty of improvements to make, but has proven that he is capable of carving out a solid career for himself as a Warrior.

Based on what he's shown so far this season, Barnes has earned himself a B- and should have punched himself a ticket to Houston to participate in the rookie-sophomore game during All-Star Weekend.