Harrison Barnes is off to an impressive start to the 2013-14 season. The Golden State Warriors have championship aspirations and his play on both the offensive and defensive sides of the floor will dictate the direction that the Warriors are headed in this season.
After battling left foot inflation in the beginning of the year, Barnes has played fairly well. Through nine games, he has averaged 12.3 points per game on 52.2 percent shooting from the field and he shoots 52.9 percent on 3s.
Barnes relies heavily on his mid-range game. Defensive players always need to account his ability to knock down jumpers, as he is shooting a decent 11-of-28 from that area on the floor. If he instead decides to employ his athleticism, solid footwork and soft touch around the rim, Barnes can back down defensive players and drive to the basket. He has shot an impressive 20-of-30 from the restricted area thus far during the 2013-14 season. Although he does not pose a big threat from long distance, he still has the ability to leak out to the 3-point line and connect on shots from behind the arc as well. He is one of the most versatile players on the Warriors and his start to his sophomore season exemplifies that.
Although Barnes was expected to be the Warriors sixth man, Golden State has dealt with numerous injuries early on this season. Stephen Curry has missed a few games already with a left ankle injury, and more recently, a mild concussion. On top of that, Andre Iguodala suffered what seems to be a serious hamstring injury on Thursday night. Although Curry is expected to return soon, expect Barnes to see extended minutes for the next few weeks, if not months, with Iguodala unable to play.
With Iguodala likely out, Barnes will also need to take on a larger role defensively as well. He currently only averages 3.6 rebounds with less than one steal per game. Moving forward, he will really need to have a much different mindset on defense. He needs to use his length and athleticism to cut off passing lanes, and to force defensive players into contested shots. If he can do so, the Warriors will be able to stay afloat without their best perimeter defender.
The next few weeks will be critical to Golden State’s season. It will be interesting to see how Barnes and the Warriors perform under these difficult circumstances.
Statistics used in this post provided by NBA.com/Stats