Harrison Barnes Is NBA Postseason's Rookie of the Year

Jimmy Spencer@JimmySpencerNBANBA Lead WriterMay 13, 2013

There’s an arrogance that must exist in these moments.

On the exaggerated stage of the NBA playoffs, a Sunday matinee no less, it was the audaciousness of a 20-year-old that stole the show.

With the Golden State Warriors offense ailing, rookie Harrison Barnes scored 26 points on a career-high 26 shots to lead the Warriors to a 97-87 Game 4 overtime victory against the San Antonio Spurs.

Expect no less from the Warriors' lottery pick, the guy veteran teammate Richard Jefferson calls very, very arrogant.

"Harrison is very, very arrogant,” Jefferson said in an interview earlier this postseason. “He's one of the more arrogant rookies I've been around.”

He isn’t joking.

But he also says it with esteem.

“I say that with a lot of respect because arrogance isn't a bad thing all the time....He expects to be here. His demeanor hasn't changed; his attitude hasn't changed. He works extremely hard, so this isn't new to him.”

Barnes, the youngest player on the youngest team still standing, also grabbed 10 rebounds and was 7-of-7 from the free-throw line.

Since the injury to Golden State’s All-Star power forward David Lee in the first round of the playoffs, Barnes' role has increased.

Regular season 25.4 minutes 9.2 points 4.1 rebounds 43.9 FG%  
Postseason 39.1 minutes 15.9 points 6.6 rebounds 45.5 FG%  



Barnes laughed off Jefferson’s claim of arrogance, saying, “[T]hat must be from all those one-on-one battles we have in practice.”

Barnes did agree to that confidence, though:

"Coming into this league, a lot of veterans like RJ told me that confidence is the biggest thing," Barnes said in an interview with Bleacher Report earlier this postseason.

"You really have to believe in yourself, you really have to believe in your abilities, because in 82 games you're going to make some shots, you're going to miss some, but as long you have confidence in yourself you're always going to be able to improve."

Barnes needed plenty of arrogance in carrying the offensive load in the Game 4 win.

The rookie became the go-to offensive threat, as Stephen Curry was barely clinging to the floor with a sprained left ankle, Klay Thompson was smothered by the Spurs defense and Warriors bigs Carl Landry and Andrew Bogut were in foul trouble.

The ball often ran to Barnes in isolation. While he shot just 34.6 percent, he never stopped attacking when the Warriors needed somebody, anybody to lead a charge.

Down the stretch, he made all the difference.

Barnes led the Warriors in overtime with four points on 1-of-2 shooting and 2-of-2 from the free-throw line. He also shined in the fourth quarter, shooting 3-of-6 for seven points.

"He carried us throughout so much of the game," Jarrett Jack said after the Game 4 win. "He did a tremendous job of leading the way, being aggressive, attacking the basket and we kind of followed his lead."

The backbone of that certainty comes with being labeled one of the best players of his class since his days at Ames High School in Iowa.

Barnes came to North Carolina with plenty of accolades his senior year of high school in 2010: McDonald's All-American, No. 1 in his class by Scout.com and ESPNU and Iowa's Mr. Basketball in 2010.

Dubbed “The Black Falcon,” a nickname he said he doesn’t actually like, Barnes was selected out of North Carolina with the No. 7 pick in the NBA draft for his 6'8" size matched with athleticism and an outside shot.

The Warriors' first-round pick is matching the hype that began in high school and continued into North Carolina.

No other rookie is contributing this postseason even close to what Barnes is doing. The rookies closest to matching his production are his teammates, Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli.

"In the postseason he's been called upon to play a bigger role offensively with D-Lee out. He stepped into that role better than most expected," Curry said in an interview with Bleacher Report earlier this postseason. "In the locker room we had so much confidence in him and I know he had confidence in himself to do it."

Without Barnes, the Warriors would not be amidst this unforeseen playoff run, tied 2-2 in the Western Conference Semifinals with the Spurs.

No one expected the Warriors to be here or thought Barnes would be a guy helping lead the way.

No one except the confident rookie, of course—he's certain of what he can do.


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