Let’s play a game: Which small forward would you pick?
Player A: 13.1 points on .439/.359/.758 shooting. 5.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, .2 blocks and .9 steals per 36 minutes.
Player B: 15.1 points on .444/.365/.857 shooting. 6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, .4 blocks, and .5 steals per 36 minutes
Player C: 12.5 points on .458/.222/.749 shooting. 8.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1 steal per 36 minutes.
It looks like we’re picking hairs between these three players, right? Player A and B provides slightly better offense than Player C does, but it seems like Player C does the dirty work; grabbing rebounds, blocking shots, etc. Let’s take a look at their sabermetric numbers.
Player A: 11.0 PER, true shooting percentage of 52, 8.9 rebound percentage, 7.2 assist percentage, and 12.4 percent turnover rate.
Player B: 13.8 PER, true shooting percentage of 54.4, 9.4 rebound percentage, 5.1 assist percentage, and 8.3 percent turnover rate.
Player C: 14.0 PER, true shooting percentage of 50.6, 12.9 rebound percentage, 10.1 assist percentage, and 12.7 percent turnover rate.
I’ll give you a hint on who’s who. One of the players is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The other two players are actually one player: Harrison Barnes. One set of data represents his regular-season numbers, while the second set of numbers represents his postseason stat line. Why did I break Harrison Barnes into two people? It seemed like he broke out during the postseason. Try and guess who’s who.
Player A: Harrison Barnes’s regular season numbers
Player B: Harrison Barnes’s postseason numbers
Player C: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
The first thing I notice is that Harrison Barnes didn’t really improve as much as meets the eye. When I first dug into the numbers, I expected a huge improvement from Barnes from regular to postseason. The numbers indicate good, not great, improvement. To my surprise, postseason Barnes failed to beat out Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Barnes can create his own shot at this point in his career while MKG’s offense is still a work in progress. MKG does, however, dominate Barnes in rebounding, passing and defense (even though I’m hesitant to use steals and blocks as measures of defensive ability). Another thing to note is that MKG plays with a significantly worse supporting cast.
So, if you had to pick between Barnes and MKG, who you got? Personally, I’d take MKG because I believe his game will improve as the Bobcats start adding more talent to their roster. I do think Barnes, at his peak, will be a borderline All-Star player, but I believe MKG’s ceiling is higher. He just needs to be surrounding by better talent. Either way, I’m excited to see how much these two second-year players improve.