The Rise of Harrison Barnes – The Black Falcon Soars in the 2015 NBA Playoffs


In the 2012 NBA Draft, Harrison Barnes was a sophomore small forward from the University of North Carolina chosen as the No. 7 overall pick by the Golden State Warriors. Fast forward to 2015. Barnes, also known as “The Black Falcon,” won his first championship as a three-year player for the Warriors. Barnes started all season, made big plays and did not back down from adversity. Barnes had to guard the likes of LeBron James and Tristan Thompson. One player is arguably the best basketball player in the world. The other player is a legit power forward, which is not Barnes’ natural position.

The interesting thing about Harrison Barnes is the transformation his skill set. At UNC, Barnes was a small forward. He rarely played down low. Now, Barnes spends a great deal of time in the post defending players bigger and stronger than him as a power forward.

Some people feel as though Barnes was a disappointment at Carolina because he did not play at this level. This is completely false. Barnes showed flashes of brilliance while at UNC and helped steer the Tar Heels to two consecutive Elite Eights in the NCAA Tournament. UNC was one game away from making the Final Four in 2011 and 2012 and Barnes was a huge reason why this happened.

North Carolina Tar Heels
North Carolina Tar Heels /

North Carolina Tar Heels

Numbers don’t lie. When looking at Barnes productivity at UNC, he averaged 16.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 47% field goal percentage, 35% three-point field goal percentage in 75 games. He averaged 29 minutes a game. These statistics do not echo a failure disappointment. Do not forget that Barnes was a second team All-ACC selection as a freshman. As a sophomore, he was first team All-ACC selection and it was well-deserved.

As an NBA player, Barnes may not be an all-star or all-NBA for a few years, but only due to who his teammates are. He plays with the “Splash Brothers,” better known as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Curry and Thompson are all-stars and are all-NBA selections. This should not be the sole measure of a player’s success, though.

In the 2015 postseason, Barnes averaged 10.6 points, 5.2 rebounds in 32.4 minutes. Barnes alleviated pressure off the Splash Brothers with his three-pointers and highlight reel breakaway dunks. Barnes put up solid numbers against the Cavaliers. His worst performance during the Finals came in Game 3, when he went 0-8 from the field. In Games 1 & 2, Barnes had 11 points and 6 rebounds. In Game 4, he had 14 points and 8 rebounds in a 20-point blowout win; Game 5, 8 points and 10 rebounds; Game 6; 9 points and 2 rebounds. The numbers may not be impressive, but again, this is not a fair way to see how significant Barnes’ play was for the Warriors.

Barnes was successful more as a defensive player in the playoffs. This is the curveball that many people fail to realize. At UNC, Barnes was more of an offensive threat. Barnes revamped his style of play in three seasons. This is how he should be assessed. At Carolina, he played on the perimeter. In the NBA, he plays more in the low post and defends many players who are bigger. His willingness to adapt to his team’s identity made him a champion.

Next time someone criticizes Barnes for not bringing it at Carolina, bring up how he scored 40 points against Clemson in the 2011 ACC Tournament. This performance marked the first time a freshman scored 40 points in the conference tourney. Barnes also scored the most points of any UNC freshman ever in the 2011. He accomplished the same feat during the 2011 NCAA Tournament, setting a record for most points by a UNC freshman (84). Better yet, bring up his game-winning shots against Miami and Florida State during the 2010-2011 season. In 2012, he was a second team NABC all-american.

Harrison Barnes, also known as “The Black Falcon,” soars high now. The world is his oyster. This young man will continue to be a part of the Warriors’ core for some time. Expect another impressive season from Barnes and the Warriors in 2015-2016.