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Harrison Barnes’ playoff scoring surge merely step one of two

May 17, 2013, 4:23 PM EDT

Harrison Barnes, Cory Joseph

Harrison Barnes had a solid regular season, making the All-Rookie first team as a debatable choice for that honor. He started 81 games for the playoff-bound Warriors, but Barnes took a back seat to Stephen Curry, David Lee, Klay Thompson, Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry and, when healthy, Andrew  Bogut.

Again being the seventh banana on a playoff team as a rookie isn’t to be scoffed at. But it’s not exactly special.

Then, in the playoffs, Curry and Lee battled injuries, and the Warriors put more on Barnes’ plate. And again and again, he answered.

Barnes became the first rookie since Brandon Jennings in 2010 to average at least 16 points per game in the playoffs. But unlike Jennings, whose scoring average increased from 15.5 in the regular season to 18.7 in the postseason, Barnes didn’t show this penchant for scoring during the regular season, when he scored just 9.2 points per game.

By exceeding 16 points per game in the playoffs as a rookie, Barnes has already put himself in pretty good company. Just 76 players have done that in NBA history, including four in 1947, the Basketball Association of America’s inaugural year, making everyone a rookie.

In the 15 years before Jennings, the feat was accomplished by just Derrick Rose, Nenad Krstic, Dwyane Wade, Tim Duncan, Zydrunas Ilgauskas,Stephon Marbury andArvydas Sabonis. That’s pretty good company and Nenad Krstic.

No rookie had averaged 16 points per game in the playoffs with a regular-season scoring average lower than Barnes’ since Brian Shaw in 1989. That season, Shaw averaged 8.6 points per game before upping that to 17.0 while Larry Bird and Danny Ainge missed a three-game sweep at the hands of the Pistons.

And therein lies the lesson. These high-scoring playoff outputs by rookies occur in small samples and are often accompanied by strange circumstances unlikely to repeat themselves.

Of the 76 rookies to average at least 16 points per game in the playoffs, 54 averaged fewer points per game in the their second regular season than in their first. Seven more players improved only marginally, by fewer than two points per game.

Of the remaining 15, including Barnes, a majority are Hall of Famers – Hakeem Olajuwon, Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Bailey Howell, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Cliff Hagan and Paul Arizin. Four more – Dwyane Wade, Anfernee Hardaway, Bob Dandridge and Jeff Ruland – became All-Stars.

Nothing can erase Barnes’ awesome playoff run, when  scored so well against two above-average defenses in the Nuggets and Spurs. But he’s unlikely to parlay that scoring success into a great second year.

However, if he does take the next step next season, history says Barnes would be on the fast track to stardom.

  1. thomaskouns - May 17, 2013 at 4:55 PM

    Before the media totally jumps on the Harrison bandwagon consider this – yes, he has the name, the look and the pedigree but as someone who lives in the Bay Area and is a Warriors season ticket holder the ‘hype’ around him doesn’t match the reality.

    – he is the worst defensive player of the Warriors starting 5 which Popovich rightly adjusted to every game.
    – the reason his scoring average climbed in the postseason is Popovich put his worst defender on him throughout the series – usually Bonner – and dared the Warriors to give him the green light which he did and took an enormous amount of shots to get those numbers
    – his scouting report out of college was that he gets flustered after two or three dribbles and that has proved out this season
    – despite great ”measurables” doesn’t have a great feel for the game
    – Draymond Green replaced Barnes in most critical situations during the season but GS owner Joe Lacob wants Barnes to succeed as a lottery pick and gave him most of the time even though Green is a much better defender which a much higher +/-.

    As a Warriors fan I hope he does succeed but this type of things happen all the time in the league when a players gets annointed a future star based on perception, image and numbers without the media taking the time to look beyond the numbers.

    • denverhoopdreams - May 17, 2013 at 9:47 PM

      Man, can’t you just let dude have his moment?

      Coming from a Nuggets fan who can’t afford season tickets, but does go to 20+ games a season, I saw dude (I like calling Harrison this, and that’s what I was calling him when he’d have some of those ridiculously athletic plays, “DUDE!”) play on the TV every time GSW came to Denver (Tough times and missed the playoffs for the first time in 4 years, but usually buy out on those) and definitely show his heart out each game.

      It’s weird considering how much I cant stand Curry (before the Playoffs kind sir, I’m more of a fan of Duke Curry) that I enjoyed this guys play.

      If you guys want to send him to the Nuggets we’ll gladly take his scoring when we need it in playoff games, considering we only have one person that proved he can do that consistently.

      Once again, let the dude have his moment.

      • polonelmeagrejr - May 18, 2013 at 7:08 AM

        Derrick Rose, Nenad Krstic, Dwyane Wade, Tim Duncan, Zydrunas Ilgauskas,Stephon Marbury andArvydas Sabonis. That’s pretty good company and Nenad Krstic. That’s excellent writing for a basketballl writer.

    • cmehustle - May 19, 2013 at 4:08 PM

      I can see youve done a lot of research on this topic. I will say this tho, as a Nets fan I would love to have kept our number six pick and took Barnes. For some reason Billy King traded that pick for Gerald Wallace who is a nice player, but I would much rather have kept that pick and took Barnes. So you guys got Curry with the seventh (??) pick in 09 and Barnes with the sixth pick in 12. I think when you consider the alternative you guys should be incredilby happy with your recent draft picks.

  2. herkulease - May 17, 2013 at 5:38 PM

    I feel that you’re making a bigger deal than it really is. Some of the of the 54 guys who actually saw decrease in the scoring from season 1 to season 2, majority of them are minor drops of less than 1 point, that one can argue really is just on par. Same deal with increases. A few of the drops are more than 2 points likely due to injury. Michael Jordan is an example. the remaining drops of 2 points or more I don’t know if there is an explanation or they just regressed.

    Anyways Barnes production on a per 36 minute basis between regular season and playoffs are rough the same. 13.1 pts vs. 15.1 pts. It highly unlikely that next season given his performance in the playoffs that he would only be getting 25 minutes per game.

    He won’t be getting 38 minutes a game like he did in the playoffs but he definitely earned himself more minutes.

    I would consider his

  3. dgbk - May 17, 2013 at 6:12 PM

    @ Thomas

    your very critical of a player that’s not even 21 yet.. Bonner played about 14 mins a game compared to barnes almost 40 so it wasnt bonners fault he scored so much…. barnes shot well also in the denver series was that a fluke as well or bonner guarded him then?

    Your point of the owner basically making him play in the playoffs is also flawed..I’m sure he rather win and have more playoff home games than playin a lottery pick.

    Green is a solid player but if he maximize his potential he will be some where between Shane battier and tony Allen Barnes can become an all star.

    • thomaskouns - May 17, 2013 at 9:02 PM

      I agree with you that he is very young and by all accounts is a very hard worker but I and some other Warriors fans wonder if he has the inate basketball ability to take it to another level.

      • denverhoopdreams - May 17, 2013 at 9:48 PM

        Dude, just because me and a few Nuggets fans think that Gallo is a chump, doesn’t mean were the voice of the Nuggets…. also, I’m probably one of the biggest McGee fans to show up to the games.

      • anhdazman - May 18, 2013 at 2:27 AM

        It’s his rookie year. Give the young kid a chance. If anything, he improved his game during the Playoffs so how could you possibly dwell on the negatives on that? Sure he took a lot of shots in game 5 but that’s the learning experience he needs to improve his game in the offseason.
        Also, if you’re going to compare Barnes and Green, hands down Barnes has a much higher ceiling than Green. Barnes more athletic, better offensive player and once his confidence catches up to his pure physical talent, he’s going to be a star.

  4. dbones750 - May 17, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    This article is a stat dorks wet dream

  5. saint1997 - May 17, 2013 at 7:03 PM

    Hahahahha that Kristic joke is gold

  6. therealkennypowers55 - May 17, 2013 at 7:37 PM


    Your analysis and statistics are insightful but opinions and numbers can generally be spun to prove a point, just ask the current white house administration about that. The title had the words step one of two as in he is on his way but not there yet and like dgbk wrote he’s just 21. I think we can all agree he passed the eye test for a rookie playing against one of the most fundamentally sound defenses in the eague. If he continues to step up when called upon he will get more chances. I am excited as I think the Warriors have an amazing cheap and young core of high IQ, character and talent in Curry, Thompson, Barnes and Green. When Bogut and Lee are healthy those are somebsolid bigs. Mix in some vets and I think there may be something special happening in the Bay Area. Its too early to crown them but if they progress and use the experience of these playoffs anything is possible. I hope Mark Jackson learns from this series as he was definitely out coached but hendidngo up against Pop so that’s notbsayingbl much.

    • Kurt Helin - May 19, 2013 at 12:15 PM

      Just for the record, every White House, every politician regardless of party spins stats and figures. This one is no different than the last one that way.

  7. kublakhaan - May 17, 2013 at 8:49 PM

    Your suggestion that Barnes didn’t belong on the all rookie team would have been more convincing if you had named five rookies with clearly better stats than Barnes–but you didn’t cause there aren’t any.

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