Harrison Barnes Can Make Another Leap by Being More Aggressive

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 14: Harrison Barnes
OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 14: Harrison Barnes /

After Harrison Barnes made his leap during his first season in Dallas, but the key to him taking another leap is being more aggressive.

Harrison Barnes made a leap his first season with the Mavericks. The 6’8″ swing-man from North Carolina went from averaging eleven points per game his last year with the Warriors to putting up 19.2 points per game with Dallas in 2017. But this season his production has plateaued, leaving him just a level below some of the elite players in the NBA. Could a more aggressive approach vault Barnes into superstar status?

This season, Barnes is averaging fifteen field goal and four free throw attempts per game, respectively. He’s averaging 18.7 points per game. It’s a respectable number, but it could be much higher with an approach that’s slightly more aggressive.

So the next few paragraphs get heavy with math, but it’s important to go over the numbers to get my point across.

Barnes is attempting 11 two-point field goals per game this season. If he took just two more per game with his .484 2PT shooting percentage, he’d score 973 points on just two pointers.

He’s attempting four 3-pointers per game this season. If he took just one more per game with his .346 3PT shooting percentage, he’d score 405 points from behind the arc.

Barnes is also attempting four free throws per game this season. If he took just two more per game with his .827 free throw percentage, he’d score 387 points from the charity stripe.

Added together, it would be 1765 points. If Barnes played 78 games in that season, it would average out to 22.6 points per game. That’s three points higher than his career high of 19.2 per game back in 2016-17.

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That increase comes with just taking three more shots and a couple more free throws per game. That’s not unreasonable. Imagine if Barnes took around twenty shots per game and went to the foul line seven times per game. He’d be averaging 24-25 points per game.

There’s the obvious caveat, however, that increased usage is usually accompanied by a decrease in efficiency. Barnes may not be able to sustain the same shooting percentages while adding that many shots. But on a team that won’t be competing for the playoffs this season and probably won’t be a championship contender next year, I don’t see why Barnes doesn’t attack more.

Perhaps the Mavericks coaching staff is happy with the number of shots he’s taking right now. Maybe he’s playing within the offense that Rick Carlisle has designed. That’s the right thing to do. But if that’s the case, I’d like to see the Mavericks empower Barnes to be more aggressive.

The most important thing the Mavericks can do right now is acquire and develop young talent. Barnes was signed as a free agent to a max contract at a young age. There may still be room for improvement, and the Dallas need to see if there’s a chance Barnes can be a player that can carry a team.

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Right now, I picture Barnes, at best, as the third best player on a championship team. But maybe there’s something more there, ready to be unleashed with the right opportunity. Maybe there’s an All-Star who’s waiting to shine, a superstar the NBA will no longer be able to overlook.