The 2017 season was a neutral shift for Harrison Barnes. Some expected quantum leaps, and they were likely disappointed with the end result. However, the reasonable portion of the fan base saw the same old, solid and steady HB. Some gripe about his contract, and maybe they are justified in doing so, but a player like Harrison is becoming increasingly more valuable with the current trends of the league. Coaches have become more reliant upon switching defenses, which obviously creates mismatches across the court. This is exactly where Barnes is at his most efficient; attacking advantageous matchups from either the post or perimeter. Having such a steady presence in the offense is really beneficial, regardless of what some of their efficiency numbers might have said. HB gives them a place to go on offense, and that is a difficult thing to find in this league. So let’s not take what he’s done these last two years for granted.
Areas of growth
With Harrison, it’s a fair question to ask if he has peaked. We have seen essentially the same player for the last two seasons, with similar production and efficiency in relatively the same role. We will touch on his likely new role later, so what areas of individual growth should we hope to see? First and foremost, you would like to see his 3p% return to that of his Golden State days. He is a career .367 shooter from deep, which is about league average. But during his last two season with GSW, Barnes shot about 39% from three. If he can rediscover that efficiency from beyond the line, the Mavericks offense will be much more prolific, and it is especially needed after the departure of Curry and McDermott in free agency. Thankfully we saw signs of improvement towards the end of last season, so lets hope he picks up where he left off.
Essentially, you should hope Barnes continues to develop a more traditional three man’s skill set. That would entail improving the three point stroke we talked about, and really developing that handle. Barnes often operated from about 18-feet and in, in the area known as the “mid post.” This isn’t a bad thing, because he is absolutely fantastic from this area. But too much of one thing lends itself to being one dimensional and predictable. If HB can become more comfortable shooting and handling the ball from the perimeter, it just unlocks a new dynamic that can help him get to that next, maybe even all star level that some were clamoring for.
How will his role change?
It is a good thing for both the Mavs and Harrison that he will likely be taking on a new role. Not that he was bad in his old one, but we have been harping on how he should be trying to develop that “traditional wing” skill set. With the arrival of Doncic and the development of Dennis, HB likely won’t be getting as many of those iso post ups he’s used to. So he has got to function more optimally in an off ball/support role that he manned with the Warriors, a role he was solid in. But we want more than solid from HB. We are hoping he is the Finley to Dennis and Luka’s Nash and Dirk. Now, we may be getting ahead of ourselves, but these three have the chance to be special together, and HB’s fitting into his likely new role will be a big part of that.
And while the two kids are certainly going to make HB’s life easier, he could have the same affect on them. While they set him up with open, easy looks, he trades that off by giving them a place to go late in the clock or when a bucket has to be scored. Harrison is also the consummate professional, and a great guy for the youngins’ to fall in line behind. It’s a relationship that can be mutually beneficial, and one that can carry the Mavericks into a new era of basketball.
What to expect?
One thing we can count on during the off season is that HB is working on his craft. That doesn’t always translate to immediate improvement though, as we said earlier he has been basically the same player he was the last few years, so it’s hard to say how much growth we should expect. I do think with new pieces in place, we can expect to see a more efficient Harrison. Better playmakers = better looks and he will probably be operating from different areas on the floor as well, which would lend itself to greater three point volume, with a greater success rate.
But even if he falls short of these goals we are setting for him, he still has tremendous value as a one on one shot creating machine. That shouldn’t change. But just as a reminder, lets make sure to appreciate Harrison for who he is now, and hope he can grow into the all star he’s capable of being.
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