We all have favorite rookies each year, aside from the number one guys. My guy this year is Golden State Warriors forward Harrison Barnes.
Maybe it is because I think scouts were a little too rough on him throughout the draft process. Or maybe it is because he reminds me of Sean Elliott and Glen Rice, two of my favorite wings of the 1990's.
Or maybe it is because while he can seem a little rehearsed at times, Barnes is genuinely one of the smartest and most fascinating rookies of this year's crop and probably in recent classes too.
Take this interview he did with Lang Whitaker for GQ Magazine. In it, Barnes discusses the differences between growing up in Iowa and living in the Bay Area (Iowa has awesome steak, Bay Area has awesome sushi), and he also talked about the differences between his play now and his play at North Carolina.
"We have such good shooters on our team — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson — guys who can really fill it up. There's no need for me to be out there shooting threes. Go to the basket, go strong, and finish."
It may sound simple for a rookie to say he just needs to be aggressive. However, his answer shows an awareness that you do not see from a lot of rookies.
He knows he needs to be more of an energy guy, a guy who get to the rim and finish (you have seen the Pekovic dunk). He is also the Warriors' best perimeter defender and has been tasked with guarding the likes of Kevin Durant and LeBron James and even guarded Tony Parker at times against the San Antonio Spurs last week.
Having said all that, Barnes should be playing more.
Barnes seems to suffer from having a coach who does not seem to completely trust Barnes in key moments. Mark Jackson loves his three-guard line up of Stephen Curry, Jarrett Jack and Klay Thompson. On the surface that sounds great because of how well each of those three can score. However, Thompson can still be really inconsistent. He is shooting 41 percent from the field and 38 percent from three.
By contrast, Barnes is shooting 44 percent from the field and 36 percent from three. Barnes' net rating is slightly higher than Thompson's, mostly because Thompson is not a very good defender.
Despite all that information, Thompson plays 10 more minutes a game than Barnes. My question is why doesn't Jackson use Barnes with Jack and Curry more. Why aren't both averaging 30 minutes a game?
According to the NBA's new, amazing stats site, the five man line up of Curry, Jack, Thompson, David Lee and Carl Landry has played the second most minutes together for the Warriors and have a net rating of 5.8, which is not bad. However, substitute Barnes for Thompson and that lineup gets a net rating of 13.5, which is excellent (it should be noted that five-man line up has only played 80 minutes together).
We all have our favorites and I am certainly writing from a place of bias, but Harrison Barnes should be playing more. Not a lot more, but a little bit more. It will improve Golden State's defense and will not hurt the team's offense.
Plus the more he plays, the more likely it is he dunks on another big, white center.
Photo: USA Today