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Harrison Barnes could help the Wizards, but they shouldn't bet on him being more than what he is

Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Wizards are quickly approaching one of the most important and unpredictable summers in the history of their franchise. The team will have plenty of money to spend on talent and lots of roster spots that need to be filled, even once you factor in the max deal they'll likely offer Bradley Beal to keep him in Washington.

To help guide the process (and give us something to talk about because the Wizards don't have a draft pick this summer) we've created a list ranking the Top 30 players available, based strictly on their talent and how they would help the Wizards.

Previously, we took a look at Chandler Parsons. Now we continue our series with a look at the 5th ranked player on our list: Harrison Barnes.

Do we really know who Harrison Barnes is?

The 6'8 forward was perhaps one of the most decorated players coming into the league in some time. He was ranked #1 on multiple scouting websites as the top recruit in the nation for the 2010 high school class. He, along with high school teammate (and current Chicago Bull, Doug McDermott) led his high school team to two straight Iowa State Championships while going undefeated in both seasons. Once he made it to North Carolina, he started his college career off very slowly, but eventually won ACC Rookie of the Year his freshman year and improved slightly as a sophomore before declaring for the draft.

Given how much potential he showed as a high school player, and the flashes he showed as a college player, he was considered by many to be a potential all-star level wing player in the NBA. But despite those expectations and despite his past accomplishments, Harrison Barnes has been blessed and cursed to be on a talent-laden Golden State Warriors team where he has been forced to be a role player throughout his young career. His role on Golden State's two Finals appearances have left the burning question: Is he simply just a complimentary player on a great team, or is the superstar player that showed tremendous promise as a high school player still lurking inside of him?

How would Barnes help the Wizards?

Harrison Barnes is the prototype for the ideal wing player in the modern NBA. He is long, athletic, a very capable defender, and he can shoot all over the court.

His length and athleticism allows him to play multiple positions out on the court without sacrificing effectiveness on either end. He is also very underrated as a finisher at the rim.

As the starting small forward for the Wizards, he would improve the defense immediately. He's longer, stronger, and more fluid as an athlete than Otto Porter. This makes him at least more capable of defending some of the stronger small forwards, although we did not always see him with the opportunity to do so given that the Warriors preferred to use Andre Iguodala as the primary wing defender.

On offense, Barnes has shown a steady ability to shoot from outside. For his career, he is a 37.6 percent three-point shooter, Last season he shot 38.3 percent from the three-point line.

It also doesn't hurt that he has a championship pedigree. Spending the first few years in a championship level organization can only help his development as a player and his experience could serve as motivation to the Wizards' younger players who want to have the same level of success as Barnes.

Why should the Wizards stay away?

He simply is an unknown commodity that would require a great deal of risk. Any team that is looking at him as a free agent pickup should consider the price versus the productivity. In comparing statistics, there is very little that actually jumps out as Harrison Barnes being able to do more offensively than Otto did this past season. As the chart shows below, they both have a similar low-usage percentage, but they also score a low percentage of unassisted field goals and shoot very similar percentages on the court.

(Note: Usage Percentage - the percentage of the team's offensive possessions that a player can use while on the court (determined by total of field goal attempts, free throw attempts and turnovers for the player over the teams total for each.)


Usage %

% of Unassisted FGM

Overall FG%

3 Point %

Harrison Barnes






Otto Porter







The low rate for unassisted field goals made makes the argument that Barnes is yet another wing player who will be dependent on a facilitator like John Wall to create offense for him. For years this has been an issue with the Wizards when Wall is not on the floor and Barnes' offensive skill set does nothing to solve this problem.

In the NBA Finals, Barnes did not do himself any favors. His performance showed more inconsistency and an inability to be a viable 3rd option in the crucial moments of a championship series. He shot 35 percent from the field, including going a total 2 for 22, (9 percent in Games 5 and 6. His usage percent got a slight uptick during the Finals, up to 16.7 percent, due to the extra attention that the Cavaliers paid to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, which included quite a few wide open looks, but he was not able to consistently make the Cavaliers pay.

Given that the two best players on the Wizards team are guards, would it be fair to assume that Barnes' role would be very similar to what it is currently with Golden State, whose two best players are also guards? If this is the case, then seeing Harrison reject a 4 year, $64 million deal should make the Wizards pause. Would what we saw in the NBA Finals be the norm of what the Wizards would see from Barnes, if teams chose to focus on shutting down Wall and Beal? Tying up large contracts with a core of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Harrison Barnes, does not scream championship much less a contender. It is hard to imagine Barnes commanding more than the 4 year, $64 million deal that he rejected, but if he does demand that amount that may be enough of a reason for the Wizards to move on and focus on other options.

What's the Verdict?

It would be wise for the Wizards to avoid Harrison Barnes. Statistically, there is absolutely nothing that supports the idea that he is going to be a sizable upgrade over Otto Porter, especially for the price that it is likely to cost to get Barnes. He has proven very little in his time as an NBA player to be a player that is capable of handling a larger offensive role. The NBA Playoffs did not help his argument. Anyone who signs Harrison Barnes to a deal that is anywhere close to what he rejected or above would be gambling on the idea that he will become the same dominant player in the NBA that he was in the high school. That is a bet that the Wizards should pass on.