Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Harrison Barnes

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  • Measurables: 6-foot-8, 215 pounds, sophomore forward from North Carolina
  • Key Stats: 17.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.1 steals per game, 44 percent shooting, 35 percent 3-point shooting
  • Projected: Top 10
  • Hickory High Similarity Score

Why I’m intrigued by this guy

Despite Barnes’ up and down college career, I would love to see him on the Pistons for one reason: Barnes’ presence would mean a reduced role for a certain inefficient small forward.

Pros for the Pistons

One of the biggest knocks on Barnes is that, despite lofty projections coming out of high school, he never turned into the consistent go-to player UNC thought it was getting. What he did turn into, however, is a very good scoring option who, if surrounded by good talent, can flourish. Since the Pistons already have a go-to player established in Greg Monroe, Barnes could be a very good fit as a second or third option on offense.

The biggest thing he’d bring to the table, however, is an upgrade of the small forward position. Tayshaun Prince plays far too big a role on this team. Frankly, it’s impossible to argue otherwise. He scores inefficiently, shoots too much and the offense slows to a snails pace of iso after iso when he’s touching the ball a lot. That’s fine for Prince — he’s comfortable in iso sets and he takes care of the ball. Unfortunately, it plays against the strengths of the rest of the team’s key players, particularly Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey, who are much better in a faster, more free-wheeling offense.

Barnes is not only a good enough athlete to compliment that style, he’s good enough to push Prince for minutes immediately. The Pistons other small forward options this season — Austin Daye and Damien Wilkins — were nowhere near good enough to provide much positional competition for Prince. Jonas Jerebko may have been good enough to take at least some of his minutes, but unfortunately, his skills were more needed in the weak frontcourt. If Ben Wallace retires and Jason Maxiell opts out and leaves, that frontcourt will only get weaker, too, so it’s a possibility Jerebko will once again be assigned primarily to the power forward spot.

I’m resigned to the fact that Prince is probably going to be on the Pistons roster for a while. But I refuse to believe that they shouldn’t be doing everything they can to upgrade that position. If Barnes is on the board when they pick, he’d be a clear and significant upgrade.

Cons for the Pistons

One knock on Barnes that showed up this season came in the tournament, when UNC’s star point guard Kendall Marshall was injured. With Marshall out of the lineup, Barnes’ production also decreased significantly, leading many to posit that Barnes is a much less effective player if he’s not next to a good playmaking point guard.

That would make him at least a questionable fit for the Pistons. Knight has loads of potential, Stuckey occasionally flashes some passing ability, but neither guy can legitimately be called a point guard who instinctively makes plays for others yet. Setting up others is a clear weakness in both players, so if Barnes thrives next to a good passing point guard, he may struggle a bit unless Knight improves that aspect of his game in the offseason. It’s a possibility that Knight does just that and it’s certainly not a reason to not take Barnes, but it could mean that it takes him some time to develop a role and some cohesion with Detroit’s guards.

What others are saying

Chad Ford:

Both last year and this year, Barnes was considered a possibility for the No. 1 pick. He’s played well, but not up to the standard that scouts had projected him. Barnes is a terrific shooter, is unafraid to keep firing and can defend multiple positions. But at times he looks one dimensional on offense and can disappear or coast for stretches. Barnes’ struggles handling the ball often limit his ability to get shots where he wants them. That was never more evident than in the last two games of the season for UNC without Kendall Marshall. We currently have Barnes ranked No. 8 on our Big Board and have him going No. 7 to the Sacramento Kings in our latest Mock Draft. Barnes, however, could still go higher with great workouts. A number of teams including the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors could use a player like Barnes and could pull the trigger earlier.


Barnes is an outstanding shot-maker, and should benefit from the greater spacing he’ll see in the NBA, giving him more room to operate and create space for himself off the dribble. He should end up being a versatile scoring option who can catch the ball in different areas of the floor, whether it’s posting up smaller players, catching the ball in the mid-range, running off screens, or being used in isolations and pick-and-rolls on the perimeter as he improves his ball-handling.

No one’s stock was damaged more by Kendall Marshall’s injury than Harrison Barnes, whose inability to create shots for himself was exposed … The microscope has been focused on Barnes after choosing to return for his sophomore year… Barnes has a high basement, in that worst case scenario he serves as an outside threat that can slash and defend … He’s proven that his game is better suited complimenting a top scoring option then being one himself … Still, he has the potential to become a team’s fixture at the 3 if his ceiling is reached.


“He has a chance to be the second pick. He’s as safe a pick as there is. He’s consistently scored since high school. He consistently scored more than most in the draft. Some say he’s one dimensional, but he can shoot the ball, which every coach wants.”

What is the best thing Harrison Barnes does for his team?

Nick Fasulo (follow him on Twitter) is a college basketball writer for SB Nation and contributes to NBC Sports:


Harrison Barnes is not going to be a star in the NBA. An over-hyped wingman coming out of high school, Barnes disappointed in his freshman season and again this March when playing without point guard Kendall Marshall.

But that being said, Barnes could serve as a terrific complimentary piece for a team looking to build around a quality point guard and big man. He’s got a great basketball IQ, can score and defend, and seems to thrive more as part of an ensemble rather than the go-to-guy. Best case scenario for Barnes: he becomes a dangerous and sneaky second or third option for a winning franchise. Worst case: he finds himself being asked to take the majority of his team’s shots and struggles to consistently score at a high level.



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