How High Is Harrison Barnes' Ceiling?

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistMay 15, 2013

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MAY 14:  Harrison Barnes #40 of the Golden State Warriors takes a shot against Gary Neal #14 of the San Antonio Spurs during Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on May 14, 2013 in San Antonio, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Golden State Warriors rookie forward Harrison Barnes has stepped up in a big way thus far in the playoffs.

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have had the huge games for Golden State in series against the San Antonio Spurs and Denver Nuggets, and Andrew Bogut's defense has been game-changing, but Barnes has stepped up and gathered a lot of what was dropped after David Lee went down.

In his first trip to the playoffs, Barnes is averaging 16.7 points per game to go along with 6.6 rebounds. Barnes' shooting has gone up and down throughout, putting him at just 44.7 percent from the field, but his 38-percent rate from the three-point line has been rather impressive.

Already this postseason he's put up four 20-point performances. He has turned into a solid third scoring option alongside Curry and Thompson.

After scoring 25 points in Game 5 vs Spurs, Harrison Barnes joined a select group according to @eliassports…

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 15, 2013

After watching him in Games 4 and 5 against the Spurs, we were able to see the full gamut of what Barnes is capable of, although it wasn't all happening in a single game.

Barnes led Golden State in scoring in Game 4 with 26 points on 9-of-26 shooting. That's solid output, but way too many shots for a 20-year-old dude playing in just the 91st game of his professional career.

Still, it all came during a game in which both teams shot poorly (San Antonio 35 percent, Golden State 38), so it was excusable.

Throughout the game, Barnes found himself with the ball in his hands being asked to make a play, which is part of his game that is still growing. The result was a few errant shots, four turnovers and eventually 26 points.

Golden State took the bad with the good and ended up coming out on top.

Moving on to Game 5, Barnes was playing a much different role, taking advantage of San Antonio's defensive lapses (which were few and far between) and hitting open jumpers.

When his usage rate dropped a few points and he was more in line with Curry and Thompson, Barnes suddenly became efficient. There were a handful of plays that were being run for him, rather than through him.

This is where we're at with Barnes right now.

He's a decent shooter despite a few concerns coming into the season. There's promise in his game as far as playing in isolation situations, and he's a smart player, capable of realizing when the opposition is making a mistake.

What we've got to realize is that his limitations are real. His speed is up there as far as small forwards in the NBA are concerned, but he's never going to have elite speed, or even elite athleticism.

Problems that we saw from Barnes all season long aren't suddenly gone. His inefficiency looms, as does his relative lack of strength.

However, he's also being used in a way by the Warriors that absolutely maximizes his strengths.

He's not being asked to spot-up shoot, but he'll get an open look or two every game. It's generally been the same deal with him being asked to create off the dribble.

His main goal throughout each game is to play a little bit off the ball with Thompson (or Curry, depending on who the spot-up man is at the time) and keep an eye out for a weak spot in the defense.

If he finds that weak spot, the slash to the rim comes into play and he finishes at the rim with consistency and efficiency, just like he did throughout the season.

We have to realize that he is a pretty gifted player and a definite steal after being drafted seventh overall by the Warriors last summer.

Barnes is a rookie, and he played like a rookie all throughout the season. However, he looks like a much more experienced player since the postseason started.

Not only is that a good sign for the next few steps in his development, but it's a good sign for the Warriors as a team.