A change of scenery for Harrison Barnes brought a new max contract and more importantly, a new role. A new role that will take some time to just to.
Four years ago, Harrison Barnes was drafted into a Golden State team that already had Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in the back court. Combine that with the fact that the Warriors drafted Draymond Green in the same draft as Barnes and suddenly the 7th overall pick found himself as a simple role player.
Coming into the University of North Carolina, Barnes was the top ranked high school player in the country. He had all the hype and Roy Williams had every intention of putting the ball in his hands the majority of the time. If the game was on the line, it was no doubt the ball was in Barnes’ hands at the top of the key in an isolation play.
Then he went to Golden Sate where his whole basketball world would change.
Between Curry, Thompson, Green, Bogut (former 1st overall pick), and Iguodala, Barnes went from being the number one option to a simple role player on a good team.
The adjustment for Barnes took place and Barnes found himself starting 246 of the 307 games he played for the Warriors. His new role was simple; hit the open three and guard some of the best wing players in the game. In his four-year time as a starter, Golden State won a title, reached two Finals, and set the new record for most wins in a regular season.
The 24-year-old did so well at his job that Golden State was ready to bring Barnes back at a hefty price until arguably the best player in the NBA (Kevin Durant) decided to join them. It was at that point, Barnes signed his max contract with Dallas and the adjustment period for Barnes started all over again.
“He’s going from being a 4th, 5th, 6th option to 1 or 2 option on this team” -Bogut
Can Barnes live up to the hype of being a max contract player? Is he worth the money? Can he be a go-to guy?
Questions immediately started to circulate the NBA universe as the last time people saw him play was the NBA Finals where Barnes shot the ball at a very poor rate. With that memory of Barnes fresh on everyone’s mind, he goes out and signs a max contract with the Mavericks.
Now the chatter has only strengthened as Barnes has continued his poor shooting from the Finals into his first couple of preseason for the Mavs.
When his former teammate in Golden State was asked about Barnes adjusting to his new role, Andrew Bogut had this to say.
“Look, he puts a lot of work in. Whether he has a bad game or a good game. He’s usually one of the first guys here looking after his body. He’s in the cold tub, lifting weights, getting shots up. I know he puts the work and effort in. It’s an adjustment for him. He’s going from being a 4th, 5th, 6th option to 1 or 2 option on this team. So he’s going to have to adjust. He’s young, he’ll figure it out. It won’t happen straight away. With the way he works and his work ethic, I think he will be ok.”
“He’s young, he’ll figure it out. It won’t happen straight away.” -Bogut
We all know that Barnes is going from being a role player to a top option in Dallas, but the real question is if he is ready for it and if so, how long will it take for him to get there?
You can’t predict how long it might take, but it’s important to remember that Dallas has a plan for Barnes.
“We are not dumping him into a situation where he’s got to be Paul Pierce on the Celtics type of thing. He’s going to be a system player for us to start with. He’s going to be a great addition to our team” -Rick Carlisle
Carlisle saying that their new maxed out free agent is going to be a “system player to start” might rub some fans the wrong way as a system player normally isn’t someone who is a max contract player.
But what do you realistically expect? Barnes might have a similar situation to when Harden went to Houston, but look at their roles. Harden was coming off the bench in Oklahoma City in a role where he was asked to score the basketball while leading the second unit. He then goes to Houston where he would be asked to score the basketball while leading the first unit.
Barnes is not only changing his whole role on the court, but his whole mindset at the same time. But Carlisle isn’t worried about his slow adjustment or his shooting struggles so far in the preseason.
“I’m not worried about his productivity or his exhibition stats. I look at how a guy approaches his profession. He’s a great worker. He’s young and still developing. He’s going to get better and better. He’s a winner. That’s the biggest takeaway I take from him. Right now we have to keep these guys from the starting group together. Playing and building chemistry and figuring it out. As that happens, he will gain more of a rhythm from that group” Carlisle adds.
Sep 26, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes (40) poses for a photo during Media Day at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The good thing about Barnes is that he has a trait that many of the all-time great quarterbacks have; a short-term memory. When asked at practice on Tuesday if he was worried about his shooting struggles this preseason, Barnes knows that it won’t last forever.
“[Are you worried?] No. A lot of them have been good looks. Just things we have to work out. I have been shooting well in practices and I look forward to shooting well tomorrow night [against Houston]”
Barnes even acknowledged that this preseason is different compared to his past ones.
“This has been one of the more important preseasons I have been a part of. Just because there is so many different guys. So many guys coming together and learning a new offense. When you look at this team over the last couple of years, there is a lot of new faces here. So I think it is cool we are building this chemistry now.”
This is the gamble that Dallas seems to take every year in retooling the roster around Dirk Nowitzki. They swing for the fences, miss, let their own free agents normally walk, and fill the roster with brand new faces.
Fans know it. Dirk knows it. Harrison Barnes knows it.
His role, coach, teammates, city, and bank account have changed, but Harrison Barnes is still Harrison Barnes.
“The thing I like about Harrison is money doesn’t change him. He’s still the same guy from Golden State. There is a lot of guys in this league that get paid and change, he’s not one of them” -Bogut on Barnes as a person.
People might question Barnes contract or even his performance at times, but you will never hear someone question the person he is. The adjustment is inevitable and the growing pains should be expected, but remember what Bogut said…
“He’s young, he’ll figure it out. It won’t happen straight away.”