It appears that forward Harrison Barnes will return to the University of North Carolina for his sophomore season. While it is not a foregone conclusion, all signs are pointing to Barnes waiting at least one more year before entering the NBA Draft.
Barnes’ apparent decision has received mixed reviews from scouts and fans who believe that returning to school could only hurt him in the long run. After all, he was expected to be a top ten, or possibly even a top three pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
By returning to school, Barnes is potentially leaving millions of dollars on the table and will need to have an outstanding sophomore season in order to be a lottery pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.
However, Barnes’ decision, albeit risky, will serve him well in the long run.
Here are five reasons why Barnes is making the right decision by staying at UNC..
The most obvious reason here, but one that is relevant, Barnes can receive a (free) education by returning to UNC next season.
We can all agree that Barnes is very unlikely to stay in school long enough to earn a degree, let alone apply for a job that requires a degree. Nevertheless, even for someone in Barnes’ situation, a college education can be extremely useful.
As opposed to college basketball, in which team practices are held on a regular basis, NBA teams typically practice only about once every week during the regular season.
Therefore, there is very little time for teams to work on the fundamentals of basketball.
As a result, we see far too many players enter the NBA without a clue as to how to defend a screen and roll or box out an opposing player, among other skills.
By staying at UNC, Barnes will have a better shot of taking his game to the next level.
There is a strong possibility of an NBA lockout after the season, which has the potential to wipe out the entire 2011-2012 NBA season.
Barnes is an extremely competitive athlete and does not want to be spend the next 18 months waiting around to play.
He still has a lot of room to improve, including his ball handling in transition, an aspect of the game taught through team practice.
Last season, Barnes frequently led fastbreaks, only to pull up and shoot a low-percentage ten or 15-footer.
Prior to announcing his decision to stay at UNC, Barnes was typically projected to be selected anywhere between the No. 3 pick and the No. 7 pick in most NBA Mock Drafts.
If Barnes were to be drafted in the No.3- No.7 range, he would likely be looking at the upwards of $9 million over the next two years.
However, Barnes has the potential to be a top-two pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. It will take an otherworldly performance next season, but Barnes certainly has the capability.
Last season, Barnes averaged 15.7 points per game on 42.3 percent shooting, but he was much better than that towards the end of the season.
During the nine games in march, Barnes averaged over 21 points on 46.9 percent shooting. Many of those games were either ACC tournament games or NCAA Tournament games, matched up against the likes of Duke (twice), Marquette and Kentucky.
Barnes seemed to thrive in big games and clutch moments and could have a much better season in 2011-2012 if he can be at his best from tip-off to the sound of the final buzzer.
If Barnes is the No. 1 or No. 2 overall pick in 2012, he could not only earn a bigger rookie contract, but he could also receive endorsements worth tens of millions of dollars.
Along with the University of Kentucky, UNC will be one of the heavy favorites to win the title next season.
After a disappointing 4-3 record to start the 2010-2011 season, North Carolina and Barnes finished the season on fire. They won 25 of th next 29 games, including three NCAA Tournament games, before losing to Kentucky the Elite 8.
North Carolina is expected to have all five of its starters back for next season. Three of their starters, not including Barnes, are also projected to be first round selections in the 2012 draft; point guard Kendall Marshall, forward John Henson and center Tyler Ziggler. The Tar Heels will also benefit from incoming-freshman forward James McAdoo, who is projected to be a top-five pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.