In a previous article “Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Is He Worth #2 Pick?” I discussed my misgivings with taking MKG as your number 2 pick due to his lack of fundamental wing player skills. This article brought into discussion just who is the top wing player in the 2012 NBA draft?
The candidates- Harrison Barnes, Terrance Ross, MKG, Royce White.
I did not consider any combo guards or stretch 4’s as wings.
Let’s first determine what we look for in a prospect, as we expect these guys are not the finished article. What I am looking for is the guy with the most NBA ready skills plus some remaining upside. Why not a ton of upside? A ton of upside means I am starting with a very raw prospect. I want a player who has 80% of what I need. You want to add a skill or two of course but you want a player who is refining existing skills not a total build from an offensive perspective. They will all have to learn NBA defense even the talented defenders.
Here is a list of qualities that translate and are for most part measurable and projectable. Now nothing is an exact science. You never know what money, fame and outside influences will do to a player. We will assume, for arguments sake that personalities stay similar to what they are now.
Shooting fundamentals, range, pull up jump shot, ball handling, rebounding, post play, passing, basketball IQ, intangibles, body, and athleticism, defensive ability and shooting off screens.
At this point in time, the player that has the most NBA ready skills along with ability to grow in to an elite player is…… Harrison Barnes. (I can already hear the WTF coming out of people’s mouths). Did you watch the tournament? Did you see him choke? He can’t create his shot. You must be crazy!!!! Yes other players are better in aspects of their game but as far as overall packages go, Barnes meets my criteria best.
For the doubters let’s review Mr. Barnes by category;
- Shooting fundamentals are consistent with text book form out to NBA 3-point range
- Pull up jumper is also very strong including jab steps and pull backs.
- Foot work coming off screens and squaring his shoulders is well above most of his college peers.
- Willing and able to go into post and is already developing strong fade away move.
- Willing passer, contrary to low assist numbers at UNC which is a point guard dominant system. (When Marshall went down he had 4 assists in each game without him, this part of his game is definitely work in progress).
- Solid rebounder, career avg 5.5/game with room for improvement
- Shows good basketball IQ, and a willingness to take big shots. (He hit 7 game winning or game tying shots in last minute in his 2 year career).
- Not an elite athlete but is superior athlete and I believe underrated one.
- Defensively he will be able to guard his position in NBA
- Has NBA ready body / 7 foot wing span / 6’9” in shoes.
Now to the major red flag; Barnes ball handling. Barnes struggled in the tournament to create his own shot. How on earth can he still be considered an elite prospect? There is no draft pick that is coming with the full package they all have things they need to work on, as I said 80%. Barnes is the most offensively ready prospect in the draft. People argue if he can’t do it now then won’t be able to do it later. Well isn’t that contrary to everything about the draft? Isn’t the draft all about potential? Isn’t everybody expected to get better work on their game? It isn’t a lack of athletic ability that stops Barnes, it’s a lack of skill and skills can be learned.
The problem right now is Barnes is an east west dribbler and must learn to be a north south dribbler. The best friend of any player that wants to get to the basket is what….. a jump shot and Barnes has that. I watched the slow footed, unathletic, Larry Bird pump fake and get by players over and over in his hay day. I have watched players from recent past like Rudy Gay become a star and Paul George a budding star who both entered the league with same issue. As his handle tightens up and he learns to go north south, he will become the full package.
If you doubt it, watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AJFWX-yLgY
As a freshman he helped bring his team back by scoring 40 points on 12-17 fg , 6-8 3pt, 10-11 ft 8 reb in 41 mins . It is an amazing display in ACC tournament win or go home game for a freshman.
There is also a contention that he did not improve in his 2nd year. I disagree. As previously stated, prior to Jan 31st Barnes was shooting an impressive 49%fg and 45% from 3 and getting to basket with regularity. It was after his injury and into the tournament, his percentages dropped to 39% and 28% respectively. He lost a step and was far less explosive.
For his development it was a mistake to return to UNC. It pains me as a huge UNC fan but Roy Williams is not the best developer of wings. His system feature players are pg’s and bigs. It wins but there is very little dribble driving or 1 on 1 play for wing players.
Let’s check the mental and intangibles. The reason that Harrison will be great is simple…..he wants to be. He has all the physical tools be successful, with a work ethic to match. Any and everybody that knows Harrison Barnes will tell you he wants to be great. After bad games he been known to go back onto the court and shoot for hours. His work ethic is unquestioned.
He has a stars confidence. He knew in the tournament he wasn’t shooting well. He knew that if he missed, if he didn’t hit the big shots he would be the goat. Yet he never shied away once. Against Ohio in OT he hit go ahead 3 and got fouled twice to go to the line. He stunk it up against Kansas in second half, but again he never passed it away he never ducked the pressure. As MJ said;
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
This may not be a popular point of view but it is the truth. If you peel away all the hype from when Barnes arrived and you don’t listen to all the same guys that jumped off the bandwagon the minute he struggled. Look at his game, his body, his work ethic, and his desire. There isn’t a better wing prospect in the draft.
Final ranking by above criteria:
1) Harrison Barnes
2) Terrance Ross
3) Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
4) Royce White