There’s no going around it: next season is incredibly important for Harrison Barnes. The Warriors have a team option on Harrison Barnes’ contract for the 2015-2016 season, and his level of play in the upcoming year will determine whether they choose to exercise that option.
Barnes was relatively unspectacular in his rookie season, putting up per-game averages of 9.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.2 assists. But, he did manage to earn a reputation around the league for his elite athleticism, and flashy dunks (Nikola Pekovic still has nightmares).
What happened in the 2013 Playoffs, however, was unprecedented. Not only did the Warriors topple the third-seeded Denver Nuggets – favored by most to win – but they did it with the help of a polished Barnes. 2013 Playoffs Barnes was an entirely new player – one the regular season had shown glimpses of, but the postseason brought to fruition.
Barnes averaged over 16 points and 6 rebounds per game across the span of the postseason, playing extended minutes at the power forward position as opposed to the small forward spot he’s accustomed to. He was significantly more efficient as a perimeter shooter, shooting at a clip of 37 percent from long range and 50 percent between 16 feet and the three-point line.
In the 2013-2014 season, Barnes failed to replicate the success he displayed in the Warriors’ postseason run. While he increased his scoring average marginally, Barnes had major shooting woes, ending the season at 39.9 percent from the field. To the Warriors’ dismay, he had regressed in spite of increased minutes.
A factor that contributed to Barnes’ seeming inability to get into a consistent offensive rhythm was the fact that he was misused at times. Barnes thrives off the ball, but was often forced to play the role of a point-forward, a duty that should be left to Andre Iguodala. Due to his less-than-ideal ball handling skills and relative unease at creating his own shot, his percentages plummeted and his confidence appeared to be at an all-time low.
Enter Steve Kerr.
Kerr holds the reputation for being a player-friendly executive, and is expected to bring the same mindset into his coaching role. He also proposes to introduce significant ball movement, which will lessen the burden on Barnes to create his own offense.
This offseason is key for Barnes. If he is able to refine his shooting touch and effectively utilize his explosiveness to finish on drives, he can become an offensive threat. But more than that, Barnes need to regain his self-confidence and put himself in the right place mentally.
A new season is starting soon and a fresh start might be exactly what Harrison Barnes needs.
Photo Credit: Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports
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