Dallas Mavericks: Expectations For Harrison Barnes In 2016-17

Oct 3, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes (40) sets the play against the Charlotte Hornets during the first quarter at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 3, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes (40) sets the play against the Charlotte Hornets during the first quarter at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Mavericks signed Harrison Barnes in an attempt to bring youth to the starting lineup, so what should we expect from him this season?

The Dallas Mavericks made their move of the summer by signing Harrison Barnes to a four-year offer sheet worth $94 million. After the Golden State Warriors were forced to let him walk because of their Kevin Durant signing, Barnes became the newest starting small forward in Dallas.

Since Shawn Marion left the team in 2014, the Mavs had signed small forward Chandler Parsons and had high hopes that he would transform into a player that could take the load off of Dirk Nowitzki.

While he had two great seasons in Dallas and averaged double-digits both years, he couldn’t keep himself healthy and fell to season-ending knee injuries each season. As a result, the Mavs avoided paying him max money in the summer — something that he wanted — and he ended up making the move to the Memphis Grizzlies.

After the Mavs made the signing of Harrison Barnes official, it became clear that there was a something a little different about the situation at hand.

Instead of an aging former superstar at small forward or a possible star with injury issues, the Mavs had a 23-year-old talent with the potential to breakout in the future.

Fast forward to the start of the preseason. His first game in a Mavs uniform saw him put up 12 points, two assists and a block on 3-for-8 shooting from the floor and 2-for-3 shooting from beyond the arc.

While it was only a preseason game, Barnes looked solid. His shooting was an important thing to keep an eye on, but the way he operated on the offensive end of the court was impressive. He looked good on offense and showed strength with his passing, whether it was setting up plays or hitting open shooters.

In his second game, the narrative was a little different. Barnes looked similar to the way he did in his the last three games of his recent Finals appearance, as he went 1-for-10 from the field with just three points in 17 minutes.

However, the most important thing to remember is that these games are getting him ready for the regular season. Good or bad, there’s an expected adjustment period when any player joins a new team. While the Mavs hope this one will be shorter than the period we saw Parsons go through, there’s no doubt it’ll take him a few games to get comfortable once the regular season begins.

But what should we expect from Barnes once the season rolls around? We remember him for how he served as a key player in the Warriors’ “Death Lineup,” but what should we look for as Barnes accepts a larger role in a different system? Here are three realistic expectations for his 2016-17 season:

1. Expect him to show improvement on the offensive end of the floor

When I’ve thought about Barnes in the past few seasons I’ve typically thought about the toughness that he brings and his ability to knock down three-pointers without paying much attention to his overall offensive game.

However, I believe you’ll see him become a more evenly balanced offensive weapon. If you think about the Mavs as a team, their starting lineup lacks a guard/forward that likes to drive the lane.

Obviously Dirk Nowitzki uses his one-legged fadeaway and Deron Williams penetrates sometimes to create plays, but one thing Barnes brings to the table is the ability to use his big body to attack his defenders and get inside the paint for crafty finishes or hard dunks.

Without the likes of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, Barnes will likely get more touches and more opportunities to create shots and work on his midrange game.

Nowitzki had this to say on Barnes’ game for the upcoming season (via Mavs.com):

"“We want him to improve in shooting, off-the-dribble shooting, post him some, and we want him to run some pick-and-rolls. I think he wants it, and he has the work ethic to develop into a great all-around player. I already heard all summer long that, whenever he was here, he’s in the gym all the time.”"

I’m not predicting a James Harden-like breakout, but I believe Barnes will become a key offensive option in Dallas this season even if he doesn’t lead the team in scoring. His scoring average has gone from 9.2 points per game to 11.7 in his first four years in the league and I think it’s fair to expect it to rise a few more points this season alone.

2. Expect to see more leadership from him both on and off the court

This is going to be the first time in Barnes’ career that he’ll be considered one of the top two or three players on a team.

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Though he won’t be the face of the Mavs just yet, the expectations from fans and from individuals inside the organization is that he could be in the future. With a bigger role comes more responsibility that he isn’t used to having.

Since he’ll be operating in a friendly environment like Dallas, I think we’ll definitely see growth in the leadership category. Whether it’s making smart decisions on the court or helping younger players on and off the floor, we’ll see a different side of Barnes.

It also helps to mention the fact that he’s coming off two trips to the Finals and a spot on the Team USA Olympic basketball roster. He’ll serve as one of just four players on the team with a championship ring and one of two players to have won an Olympic medal.

3.  Expect to see his flashy side

The final thing I included as an expectation for Barnes was his flashy side. Think about his game in the past few years. Besides an occasional dunk, he’s lacked that edge that sets him apart from some of the other improving small forwards in the league.

With more ball possession and players like Williams and Nowitzki who love to share the ball, I think we’ll see Barnes open up his skill set — something he’s never really done in the NBA.

Bobby Karalla of Mavs.com shared two great GIFs from the first preseason game of the year that showcased more of what we might see from Barnes this season.

The first shows him making a nifty, behind-the-back play in order to escape his defender and drill a three.

The next play came on a nice drive to the hoop where we saw Barnes toss the ball to Dorian Finney-Smith for the three — a nice little highlight of Barnes’ ability to draw attention and make a pretty pass to the open man.

I think the main thing to remember when thinking about Barnes is not to expect more from him than he is capable of dishing out in his first season with a new team.

This a player that is a couple years away from reaching his prime and he’s making the first big move of his career, which is going to bring in an entirely new situation.

Mark Cuban had this to say about Barnes shortly before the team opened preseason play (via ESPN.com):

"“He is a team player who focuses on the role he was asked to play. His role will be much bigger with us. I don’t expect him to be featured day one. But I do expect it to grow through the season.”"

When young, intriguing players like Barnes make a move and join a team where they’ll be featured more, we often tend to think they’re going to automatically turn into a completely different player and start putting up monster numbers night in and night out.

I’m not saying Barnes won’t have monster nights — because I think we’ll see a few this season — but I don’t think he’s the type of player that’s going to give you 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists a game.

That’s not a knock to his game, but Barnes’ primary weapon isn’t his offense. He impacts the game with his defense and his playmaking ability. I think we’ll see improvements in areas like those before we’ll see him dropping monster numbers on the offensive end of the court. He’ll make a greater impact in the areas that aren’t as noticeable.

Overall, I definitely think we’ll see a much more athletic version of Harrison Barnes. Whether he’s scoring points or serving as a defensive option, he’s going to be better than he was with the Warriors.

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On the other side of things, I do think this will be a major adjustment year for him. He’s going to get better but he’s also going to be finding new parts of his game in a more open system that allows him to take control. Despite that, we should see plenty of good signs from a player who is expected to serve as the future of Mavs basketball.