Yes, the Golden State Warriors are deadly, maybe one of the best teams in the history of the NBA, and they are on a collision course with their second title in three years. While Kevin Durant arriving last summer solidified their lineup as that of a super-team, they were obviously nothing to shake a stick at the previous two years either (remember, this is a team that set the regular season win record at 73 games only one year ago).
We have constantly heard over the last year, and especially as the playoffs have literally rolled along for Golden State, that Kevin Durant is such an upgrade over last year’s starting small forward, one Harrison Barnes. Now saying Kevin Durant is better than Harrison Barnes is like saying Tom Brady is better than Ryan Fitzpatrick. No one is disputing that. In fact, it can be argued (at least in this year’s NBA Finals) that Durant is the best player on the floor. A floor, mind you, that includes Steph Curry and LeBron James among others. This unnecessary Harrison Barnes hate is unfortunate, as Barnes has done nothing to warrant it aside from not being better than the best player in the game.
Case in point, if you looked at the stats for Harrison Barnes, just over the last two years (last year with Golden State and this current year with Dallas) Barnes has seen his minutes and his points increase, even though he is in a system in Dallas that is far different from Golden State’s in terms of scheme and personnel. It was easy for Barnes to disappear on the Golden State roster. He played with a two-time MVP, and a cast of characters, many of which could easily be a number one option on any other team (Klay and Draymond chief among them) as well as a bench full of starter-quality veterans. So the fact that Barnes didn’t light the basketball world on fire as a member of the Warriors is not totally unexpected. In fact, unhampered by playing with a rotation of great players (on a far worse team, to be fair) Barnes averaged nearly twenty points per game this year (up from nearly twelve last year). While many could say that complementary pieces on incredibly talented teams are vastly overpaid in free agency, it’s safe to say that Barnes is doing everything he can to earn that big contract he signed with the Mavericks last summer.
It’s hard to make a case that revolves around Barnes not being that bad when his replacement is a man among boys on the court much of the time, but it’s important to note that Barnes did nothing to warrant the scorn he’s currently receiving just because he’s no Kevin Durant. Barnes and in-season pickup Nerlens Noel very well could be cornerstones for the next generation of the Dallas Mavericks. He’ll never be Kevin Durant, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be Harrison Barnes…and that’s not bad.