NBA Draft 2012: Why Harrison Barnes Isn't Worth a Top 5 Pick

Bob BajekAnalyst IIIMay 23, 2012

Harrison Barnes might have been the top college recruit in 2010, but the North Carolina small forward isn't worthy of a Top 5 pick in June's NBA Draft.

The 6'8", 220-pound Barnes struggled at times in big situations, lacks athleticism and has trouble creating his own offense. NBA general managers will likely balk because other players "have more upside" than Barnes.

Barnes, who as a freshman was named an Associated Press preseason All-American, had a very impressive freshman season (17.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.1 steals) while producing nine games with 20 or more points.

Four of those games came in the ACC and NCAA tournaments, including a 40-point performance in a 92-87 overtime win over Clemson.

Barnes decided to forgo the 2011 NBA Draft to play another year at North Carolina, but his seasonal scoring dipped a bit (15.7 points).

What's more concerning are his scoring averages in the ACC (18 from 24.7 points) and NCAA tournaments (14 from 21) are significantly down from his freshman year.

Remember when Tar Heels point guard Kendall Marshall was injured and how Barnes struggled without a great facilitator? Barnes scored 25 points on 8-of-30 shooting against Ohio and Kansas.

When the Tar Heels needed Barnes to live up to his Black Falcon moniker, he faded away. Barnes needs a solid point guard to excel in the NBA, though most lottery teams outside the Cleveland Cavaliers lack one.

Athleticism is a big concern for future NBA small forwards. The No. 3 position is perhaps the most demanding position to play because a baller has to be able to play the perimeter and post well.

Barnes can shoot the ball well, but he struggles consistently getting to the rim. A small forward is most effective when having an inside and outside offensive game.

Barnes might have a killer jump shot, though he will have to improve his driving skills to be an effective NBA forward.

Partly why Barnes has trouble driving to the basket is he lacks a quick first step and can't create off the dribble. While Barnes can be good at catch-and-shoot situations and get open off screens, he doesn't have that one-on-one ability to create isolation opportunities.

Not having explosive speed is a big detriment to Barnes' NBA future prospects, as he has to compete with LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant, who all have explosive athleticism.

Not only is Barnes not worth a Top 5 pick due to his shortcomings, NBA teams will choose from prospects who have "better upside" than Barnes.

Kentucky's Anthony Davis will be the first pick. He is a fantastic defender who passes like an experienced guard and will work hard on his offensive game.

Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is considered a better small forward prospect (6'7", 232 pounds) than Barnes, as he has more explosive athleticism and is a better defender and rebounder. His offensive game is raw, but NBA scouts are confident he will improve.

Kansas' Thomas Robinson has three years under his belt and had a breakout junior year. Robinson is seen as the best forward in this draft, playing with physicality and drive. Robinson was an All-American selection and led the Jayhawks with a solid tournament showing (16.6 points, 12.5 rebounds).

While these three are the top prospects, others like Florida's Bradley Beal (an explosive scorer), UConn's Jeremy Lamb (deadly shooter and scorer) and Andre Drummond (combines great athleticism with finesse) will probably be picked before Barnes.

Barnes was a solid college athlete and has a good chance of having a good NBA career. Yet Barnes will not be a Top 5 pick because NBA general managers will question his athleticism and offensive skills while going for players with "more upside." 


Bob Bajek is an NBA/Chicago Bulls featured columnist. He is also a freelance reporter and can be followed on and Twitter.