Will Playing as Warriors' 6th Man Stunt Harrison Barnes' Potential

Scott BurnsCorrespondent IIIJuly 21, 2013

Harrison Barnes will have to adjust to coming off the bench.
Harrison Barnes will have to adjust to coming off the bench.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors made a big statement with the free-agent acquisition of Andre Iguodala, but will that transaction stunt Harrison Barnes’ growth potential? The Warriors are getting the missing puzzle piece on their young, dynamic team, but the cost might be prohibitive.

Barnes played in 81 of the 82 regular-season games and started every one of them. He was competing with Brandon Rush during preseason for the small forward job, but he won out and secured his position when Rush suffered a season-ending injury in the third game.

Barnes really evolved as a player during his initial playoff run, as he brought a strong presence every night. Instead of being as inconsistent as he was during the regular season, he gained the trust of head coach Mark Jackson, who increased his average minutes per game from 25.4 to 38.4.

In Game 4 versus the San Antonio Spurs, Barnes took his game to a new plateau. He was the guy who started the rally in a must-win home game by scoring 26 points, securing 10 boards and going perfect from the free-throw line.

Here is a glimpse of some of his highlights from that game.

Barnes proved he belonged by elevating his season averages of 9.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 1.2 APG to a playoff-level 16.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG and 1.3 APG.

With all of that potential shooting forward like a rocket, Barnes has now been relegated to the bench after the Iguodala free-agent acquisition. Barnes will have to adjust to coming off the bench instead of being comfortable starting with the same four teammates around him.

The return of a healthy roster and six starters to fill five positions will limit the amount of minutes to go around. Barnes will see his minutes drop from the 38.4 that he earned in the playoffs to the neighborhood of 25-30 minutes if Coach Jackson administers the roster correctly.

Barnes is known for his team-first attitude and his hard-working style of play. In a recent interview, courtesy of HoopsHype, he carefully says all of the right things regarding a potential bench role.

As shown in this tweet provided by Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group, Iggy and Barnes should get along just fine.

Barnes will have to continue to stand out at practice and maximize his efficiency in the games. He is not at the same skill level as Iggy, but if Barnes can show his improvement on a daily or weekly basis, Coach Jackson is going to have to include him in the lineup. 

The benefit of having to fill in at the power forward position during the playoffs gave Barnes a new wrinkle. He is no longer limited to playing solely at his standard position and can be used to exploit other teams' power forwards.

His 6’8” size and a long wingspan are great tools to fill passing lanes, and Barnes is becoming a better defender. He is also developing his dribble penetration and is more confident with the outside shot.

As you can see from the video, Barnes is surprisingly effective, as he can fit in the stretch 4 position by drawing the big man out. He can shoot over him or drive to the basket and make an athletic move.

Although Barnes finished games and was a clutch shooter in the final minutes of the playoffs, he did not earn that role during the regular season. As Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group reported, Jarrett Jack was usually the choice in crunch time.

With the addition of Iggy, the Dubs’ lineup will be even harder to crack in those final minutes. If Barnes is shelved and doesn’t get the chance to show his skills or can’t adjust to coming off the bench, he might repeat the inconsistencies of last season.

Barnes will have a chance to attend the Team USA minicamp, where he will have a chance to develop among 27 other high-quality up-and-coming NBA players. He will be able to refine his techniques and build upon what he accomplished in the playoffs.  

Barnes has many more moves than the dribble-drive and pull-up jumper. He can also float back and hit the fadeaway jumper.

So, this is where we stand now. Barnes can choose to accept the assignment and become a difference-maker off the bench, or he can take it as a demotion and play at a lesser level. 

The Warriors could also use Barnes as a trade chip and send him away for an upgrade at one of the front-line spots when they get closer to playoff time. He would have to really be struggling, or the Dubs would be in desperate need for a certain position.

I believe Barnes can make the transition, even if it takes the first quarter of the season to do so. He really will have a chance to show off that he is a multi-dimensional player who can slash and attack the rim, make the clutch jumper and play good defense.

Barnes will see fewer minutes on the floor, but he will be able to adjust to it and maximize his value when he plays. He will team up with Iggy or fill in as his substitute while this new and exciting group of Warriors strives for a new plateau.

I would not expect Barnes to be an All-Star overnight, but he will progress and show off his basketball IQ. Barnes should improve upon his statistics of last season and put up numbers closer to 12.1 PPG, 1.5 APG and 5.2 RPG.