For years, Mavericks fans have been pining to get players who are younger and more athletic. Not to mention players with pedigree. So you would think that if the Mavericks were able to acquire the services of a 24-year-old, former seventh overall selection in the NBA Draft, who was the number one ranked player coming out of High School, that their fans might be high fiving and doing cartwheels. But there has been no such reaction to the arrival of Harrison Barnes.
Indeed, the arrival of Barnes has been met with anger by some, angst by others, and indifference by even more who are convinced that no matter who the Mavericks decide to sign it won’t move the needle one way or the other. Much of it, of course, has to do with the size of Barnes contract: Four years/$94 million dollars (which just happened to be the going rate in an off-season like no other) for a player who didn’t even average 12 points a game last season for the 73 win/NBA Finalist Golden State Warriors. A player who was the fourth option on that historic team, and a player who struggled to score in Games 5-7 of the Finals shooting 5-32 from the floor.
Barnes has continued to take shots, not at the basket, but from his critics, all through the Olympics. Clearly, he made the team after many other stars chose for their own individual reasons not to play. But as the 12th man on a 12-man team that had the likes of Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George playing his position, he was never going to play much anyway – and he didn’t as he played just 31 total minutes in the eight games won by the U.S.
Somehow, this has been portrayed as Barnes just not being very good. Of course, it’s notable that a couple of All-NBA players in Draymond Green and DeMar DeRozan were also cut out of the rotation – especially once the medal round began – and yet there was no mocking of their lack of contribution from fans or from other NBA players (yes we’re talking about you Brandon Jennings).
So what does this all have to do with Barnes coming to the Mavericks? Well, for one, he never complained about his role. Did he want to play? Of course he did, but the team was bigger than his desires. You want players like that on your team.
Does it mean that his time in Rio was a waste for him or the Mavericks? Hardly. You want to be around great players and coaches. Practicing with great players and coaches. Talking with great players and coaches. Taking in all that information and then applying it to his role with the Mavericks.
Now will he use it all? Probably not. He may discard some on his own. Some may be discarded by the Mavericks coaches who may ask him to do things a different way. Indeed, the Barnes we see with the Mavericks is likely a Barnes we’ve never seen before, simply because there is going to be so much more asked of him.
Can Barnes be more than a stand-in-the-corner and wait-for-the-ball three-point shooter? Does he have ball handling skills that might allow him to be a secondary offense initiator? Again, with his previous team he never had to take on that role. He’s already shown himself to be an acceptable defender and rebounder, and from an intangible standpoint, he’s proven to be a great teammate. He’s young and athletic. He’s experienced winning. And did we mention he’s just 24 years old?
No one knows if Harrison Barnes is THE answer for the Mavericks moving into a post Dirk world. Heck, no one really knows if he’s even AN answer to their team building moving forward (obviously, they think so). What I do know is there are too many people who believe they’ve read the book on Harrison Barnes without even getting to chapter one. Excuse me while I do a very uncool thing and actually read that book. Start to finish.