The black falcon takes flight


Illustration by Brittany England/The Pioneer

Sean McCarthy,

Golden State Warriors 23-year-old small forward Harrison Barnes is often overlooked because he has superstar teammates like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Barnes’ contract is up this year, but the team absolutely needs to re-sign him.

When Curry’s on the court, everyone watches. He’s electrifying. You never know what he will do. Barnes is not supercharged in the same way, but he is consistent.

Barnes was the first round draft pick of the Warriors in the 2012 NBA draft. Before being drafted, he was the top-recruited high school basketball player in the country and was a one-and-done player at the University of North Carolina before coming to the Warriors.

“Harrison is incredibly driven,” Coach Kerr said to Monte Poole in a Comcast Sports interview, when Kerr became the Warriors head coach in 2014. “So we’ve got big plans for him this year. We think he can be a great player in this league.”[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#1e19a8″]Barnes’ contract is up this year, but the team absolutely needs to re-sign him.[/mks_pullquote]

Barnes often deferred to Curry and Thompson his first two years, but has become much more aggressive this year. He is finding “his spots” and creating his shots using the jab step so opponents don’t know if he’s going to drive to the hoop or shoot.

Barnes creates space on the court because of his ability to shoot the three-pointer, opening up the middle of the paint for himself and his teammates. Last year, he shot 39 percent from behind the 3-point line and 48 percent from the corners.

However, what truly resonates with fans is when he seemingly jumps 15 feet in the air and throws down a dunk in the face of a defender. Barnes made Dwight Howard a victim of one of his poster-worthy dunks earlier this year.

Barnes has the physical tools to become a perennial All-Star and he will within the next three years. He is faster and stronger than most players and when he jumps, he soars; this is the reason he is nicknamed the “Black Falcon.”

Barnes has been a reliable player, missing less than 10 games in his first three seasons. However, the injury bug finally caught up to him — Barnes rolled his ankle when he landed after jumping in a game against the Phoenix Suns on Nov. 27. He missed 16 games and finally returned against the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 5 for a win.

Before his injury, the Warriors were rolling as a team, compiling a perfect record of 17-0, however they went 15-2 after his injury. They led the league in point differential at +15.8 points per game but dropped to just +7.6 without him.

Two losses are not a big deal for a team chasing championships, but the Warriors were obviously struggling to replace his skill set in the line up. Excluding the two games they lost during his 16-game absence, the team was forced into overtime twice and six games were decided by six points or less. These tightly-contested games forced the coaching staff to overplay their star players: Curry, Thompson and also Draymond Green.[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#1e19a8″]His potential ceiling is as high as he can jump, and fans know he can fly.[/mks_pullquote]

During the offseason, the Warriors offered Barnes a four-year $64 million contract, which would kick in after this season. Barnes declined the extension because there will likely be more money offered to him in the off-season. He has become a strong member of the Warriors community; he spends time with local Boys and Girls Clubs, is often heard on local radio and volunteers at Facebook in the off-season.

The Warriors cannot afford to lose Barnes. He is a part of the Golden State’s starting lineup, the best five man unit in the league and a growing nucleus of young players that have a long future in the NBA. His potential ceiling is as high as he can jump, and fans know he can fly.

Barnes will enter his prime years as Curry and Thompson decline due to age. This will be Barnes’ true time to shine, proving the Warriors were right to re-sign him.