Harrison Barnes and a lack of aggressiveness
The news of the struggles of Harrison Barnes is not new. After watching several of UNC’s games so far, it is apparent to me why Barnes is not on the level of production set by Kyrie Irving or Jared Sullinger – a lack of aggressiveness.
Let’s look at some number before we hit the video. Per the shot chart provided by SCACCHoops (seen here) only 39.6% of Barnes’ shots have come in the paint. Note: Shot chart is not entirely accurate, but I think it is a good representation of Barnes’ attempts so far this season.
His FT% rate is only 30% (shooting 39 free throws compared to 127 field goal attempts) while he only has an offensive rebound rate of 8%. This shows instead of attacking the rim, he is taking jump shots while not fighting on the offensive glass.
To me, all this evidence shows a lack of aggressiveness by Barnes. I can’t get into his mind as to why he does not constantly attack but I think that is his reason for his struggles so far (using struggles lightly, as he has played fine, just not 1st AA great).
Flashes of aggressiveness
What is funny is that Barnes often has flashes of brilliance showing that he can be a top level player but more often than not, chooses to sit back and launch 3’s.
Watch here as he brings in the defensive rebound, goes coast to coast and drives to the basket and draws the foul. That is the level at which Barnes should attack at all game but he instead chooses to launch 3’s at a rate of 4 per game.
In this second clip, Barnes posts up strong, gets the entry pass and powers his way to the basket. Even with two defenders in his way, he finds a way to score. This shows that he can be a great player but needs a scorer’s mentality to demand the ball.
Lack of aggressiveness
What follows is more indicative of Barnes’ play on a regular basis and why he is only averaging around 12 points per game (instead of the 20+ he should be averaging). He is passive in calling for the ball when he has position and chooses to shoot from the outside instead of driving for a layup.
In this first clip, Barnes has a chance to post up in a one on one situation but does not fight for position. The defender is in a poor stance and a quick entry pass would have give Barnes an open lane. He does not even work for post position and the ball gets swung back across the key.
Then, when the ball is driven baseline, Barnes has a clear path to cut to the basket for a dunk. However, he chooses to float back to the three point line for a shot, which he misses. Now you may not have a qualm with this since the shot is uncontested but as I said earlier, Barnes is taking 4 3’s per game, at a rate of 28.9%. That is not exactly a quality shot, especially when you have the ability to finish at the rim like Barnes.
This play epitomizes my frustration with Barnes. He has two opportunities to get the ball in a prime scoring position but ends up with another three point opportunity.
While this next play ends up with Tyler Zeller drawing a foul (a positive play for UNC), it again highlights the passive nature of Barnes. It starts with Barnes making a nice flash to the high post against the zone but not holding it long enough for his teammates to get him the entry pass.
Barnes flashes with John Henson not in a good position to pass him the ball but he abandons it right away, right as Larry Drew gets the ball in a good spot to make an entry pass. This is one time when Barnes needs to get to the open spot and demand the ball. Instead, he goes through the motions with no aggressiveness.
It continues with Barnes posting up weakly again. Dexter Strickland is looking for him but Barnes makes the decision to float to the perimeter, instead of banging in the post.
It ends with Barnes passing up an open lane to wait for Tyler Zeller to make a nice cut to the open space. I believe that some time during this play, Barnes should have taken a shot or created a chance for his teammates off the dribble. Instead, he did not hold his flash nor his post up and passed up an open lane.
The play ended up with a positive result for UNC but it shows how Barnes still has room to grow as a player. He needs to become more comfortable taking over the game and not settling for perimeter shots but getting tough in the paint and finishing at the rim. As we saw in a clip above, he has the explosiveness to do so but would rather play on the perimeter.
Until he chooses to play in the paint instead of around the 3 point line, he will not realize his potential. As we saw in the first two clips, it is there at points, but not for an entire game. If he changes his mentality and cuts down his 3 point attempts and works on driving to the lane, he has the chance to live up to his preaseason AA status.