Harrison Barnes has long been one of UNC’s most interesting alumni. From high school standout to UNC stardom to NBA champion, he has always been in the spotlight. This spotlight, however, has not been without it’s repercussions.
Barnes has been viewed as unfulfilled potential in Carolina blue, a role player for the Golden State Warriors, and the goat (not the kind Michael Jordan is) in the 2016 NBA finals. Now that he has gotten his four-year, $94 million mega deal from the Dallas Mavericks, Barnes seems to have settled into his role as a first option scorer. Let’s take a look back at Barnes’ 2016-2017 season.
After the 2016 NBA Finals, where the Golden State Warriors blew a 3-1 lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Harrison Barnes seemed to become the butt of many jokes. It is tough to say, as a Tar Heels fan, but some of that may have been deserved. Harrison shot only 35% from the field in the seven-game series and 60% from the free throw line.
Many fans on social media began to scoff once NBA experts said that, even after the tough Finals, Barnes would still be one of the most highly sought after free agents on the market. The Dallas Mavericks ended up offering Barnes a four-year, $94 million deal that Golden State had the ability to match or turn down. This, of course, ended with Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors and Golden State letting Barnes walk to over to Dallas.
The dynamics and team setup for Dallas could not have been any different from where Harrison was in Golden State. The Mavs were rebuilding with an aging superstar in Dirk Nowitzki, while the Warriors had just reloaded with the second-best player in the NBA in Durant. By going to Dallas, Barnes was finally a top offensive option vs. being fourth in Golden State. He certainly took advantage of his opportunity, considering they put the ball in his hands far more frequently than in Oakland.
Harrison’s offensive numbers sky-rocketed with Dallas this past season. His minutes jumped to 35.5 per game, while averaging 19.2 points and shooting a career high 86% from the free throw line. This may be viewed as only because his minutes increased, but his per 36-minute average points per game also improved from his original career high of 13.6 to 19.5.
He was also free to hunt for his shots more. One of the largest knocks on Harrison’s UNC career was him not looking for his own shot, and he finally got his chance to do so in the NBA. His FGA jumped from 9.6 to 16.2, and his FTA went from 2.0 to 3.6.
Although his individual stats improved immensely, the Mavericks as a team struggled with injuries throughout the course of the season. They finished with a 33-49 record and missed the playoffs.
Harrison Barnes had an offensive breakout year in the 2016-17 season, and proved to the league that he can handle being a top offensive option. He has also worked toward proving he is deserving of the huge contract Mark Cuban and company gave to him in the offseason. All of us Heels are looking forward to Barnes continuing his NBA success.