UNC has three players who would be top 15 picks in the NBA Draft right now if they decided to declare early. In this series we’ll take a look at all three and make a case for their return to Chapel Hill.
North Carolina sophomore forward Harrison Barnes would benefit tremendously by returning to school for his junior season and bypassing the NBA Draft. Barnes returned for his sophomore season to polish his game and become more pro-ready. And although in ways he did that by shooting a higher percentage from the field and taking better shots for most of the season. Barnes did not become the superstar many thought he would become. The expectations were high coming in, and Barnes was almost in a no-win situation as far as meeting those high expectations. But that doesn’t change the fact that he is no longer a sure fire top five pick like he was this time a year ago.
After shining in the both postseason tournaments as a freshman. Barnes regressed badly this season and played two of his worst games against Ohio and Kansas when his team needed him the most. It’s hard to criticize the leading scorer on the nations top scoring team. Even harder when that player is a first team All-ACC and second team All-American.
What Barnes has in shiny stats and highlight reel dunks he lacks in other key areas. Barnes is almost the Carmelo Anthony of college basketball, not the Syracuse version, the NY Knicks, one dribble jump shot guy. Tons of talent, but doesn’t really get to the rim that often. Barnes has big time size for a small forward, especially at the college level. Yet he has not developed any type of high or low post game to speak of. His turn around jumper is okay, but he doesn’t use it nearly enough. Barnes has shown at times throughout his career that he can, sometimes, get to the basket and do some dazzling things around the basket. His overall handle of the basketball is sub par and he cannot get to the rim when he wants too far too often. With his ability to get off a jump shot pretty much whenever he wants too and his habit of falling in love with firing jumpers instead of working for the higher percentage shot has me worried about him as a pro. It’s easy to see Barnes stunting his development in the NBA and falling into becoming a role player.
Harrison Barnes is a fantastic basketball player, no doubt if he goes pro somebody will draft him probably in the top ten still. Could he become an All-Star NBA player someday? Sure, he absolutely could and it wouldn’t surprise me that much if he did. But it’s not going to get any easier to improve the flaws in his game at the pro level. Leaving Chapel Hill now is a big gamble for Barnes and one I don’t think he should take.