This past off-season, the Golden State Warriors decided to move on from a big chunk of their roster in order to sign a former MVP, Kevin Durant. They got rid of the majority of their bench and even some of the starters. One of the starters who ended up on a new team was Harrison Barnes, the four-year man out of North Carolina. He signed a four-year, $95 million offer sheet with the Dallas Mavericks as a restricted free agent. As the Warriors focused solely on signing Durant, they ultimately opted not to match the offer sheet for Barnes. With the NBA season at the halfway mark, this move has worked out well for both teams thus far.
The Rise of Harrison Barnes
During his tenure with the Warriors, Barnes was a role player. He didn’t have the pressure of being a top option on the team. If he had stayed with the Warriors for his entire career, chances are he wouldn’t live up to his potential. Now that Barnes is on the Mavericks, there is the pressure of being one of the top offensive options on the team. As of right now, he is probably the top option. And so far, Barnes has made the Mavericks happy and is living up to his max contract.
On the season, Barnes is currently averaging 20.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. To put this in perspective, the most points he averaged with the Warriors was 11.7. This improvement in scoring is very similar to C.J. McCollum’s rise last season with the bigger workload. McCollum would end up winning the Most Improved Player award, for which Barnes is now in the running. This season, Barnes has four 30-point games, after having none last season. It is clear that he is taking advantage of the bigger workload and is thriving on it.
In today’s NBA, the majority of teams look to focus their offense on the three-pointer. Many players have adapted their game to this, including big men. Barnes, however, does things a little differently. He gets most of his points from mid-range. Head coach Rick Carlisle has moved Barnes to the power forward position, which has resulted in Barnes posting up a little more. But with the return of Dirk Nowitzki, it is possible that he will move back to small forward. Barnes usually gets the ball around the free-throw line and does his work from there. A big development in Barnes’ game has been his quickness. When talking about quickness, it is more of a reference to how quick he is when making decisions. Since he is more athletic than most power forwards, he can use his first step to get by them and finish at the rim. He has also started to find a solid turnaround jumper.
The Barnes-Nowitzki Relationship
Luckily for Barnes, he has one of the greatest power forwards of all time to guide him in Nowitzki. Unfortunately, they haven’t been able to play much together this season due to a nagging Achilles injury for Nowitzki. But when they have played together, the Mavericks have played their best basketball. It does wonders for both of them to not have to carry the workload on the offensive end, especially since Nowitzki is 38 years old. We have seen Nowtizki take Barnes under his wing and show him the ways of being a top option on a team. He has praised Barnes the entire time and really feels that the sky is the limit for him.
While Barnes has been a bright spot for the Mavericks this season, they are a mere 14-27. Fortunately, they are only three games out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference and have won three games in a row. But even if they don’t make the playoffs, the front office knows that they have something good going with Barnes. He will only grow as a player and will look to lead the Mavericks for years to come.