June 20, 2012 Why Barnes Might Be The Best Fit for Washington
The debate between drafting Bradley Beal or Harrison Barnes (as it applies to the Wizards) is one that we’re all going to hear over and over again, likely, for a while into their careers. Both players are great shooters and great scorers who address Washington’s two biggest needs: shooting guard and small forward. With an ample supply of big men in Nene, Kevin Seraphin, and Trevor Booker already in the stable, the Wizards might want to or even have a chance to take Thomas Robinson. So then, the conversation flows back to the next two prospects, Beal and Barnes. While Barnes grades out to be the better athlete and (to this point in his career) scorer, Beal is younger and has drawn some serious comparisons to Ray Allen with his quick release and all-around game. The two would immediately come in and provide a perimeter threat sorely needed in Washington. The question is, who do you take?
By my estimation, it’s Harrison Barnes.
On Twitter yesterday, someone brought up a great point by posing this rhetorical question: Which position needs an upgrade more, Jordan Crawford or Chris Singleton? I’ve been such a huge critic of Jordan Crawford and his inability to be effective in basically any aspect of the game that I immediately decided Crawford. I really don’t think he has what it takes to be a starter in the NBA because when his shot isn’t falling he becomes invisible. His impact on the game is marginal at best, and good starters excel in something even when the buckets are bouncing out. Amongst all guard (shooting or point), Jordan Crawford always ends up in the middle of the pack. Except when it comes to shooting, wherein he remains one of the worst (40% from the field).
Crawford is as streaky as they come in terms of being a shooter, with little or no concern at the defensive end. He is a Jamal Crawford clone, which means his only way to be effective is by inevitably becoming a sixth man specialist. But was he so terrible as a starter that we unequivocally need to revoke his privileges right now and draft a very young rookie to start in his place? At one point last season, when Jordan was finding his groove, he rattled off 7 straight games of 20 or more points. During those games the Wizards were just starting to turn the corner to success, and suffered two 2 point losses, a 3 point loss, and a 4 point loss. Against a few playoff teams to boot. And it shows the impact that Crawford has when his shot is going in. Sure, that fact is not necessarily that often, but with age comes better shot selection, and one can see how Crawford might become a smarter player given more time to acclimate himself with the professional game.
Bradley Beal may actually provide a downgrade to Jordan Crawford at this point, believe it or not. Young guards tend to not be that effective in their first season at the professional level. Just ask Evan Turner, Ben Gordon, Brandon Knight, Wes Johnson, Xavier Henry, Brandon Jennings or anyone not named Marcus Thorton, Stephen Curry, or Eric Gordon. Eric Gordon, the guy whom Beal draws the most comparisons with, was a much, much better college player than Bradley Beal was. He averaged nearly 21 points per game, and while he did struggle with consistency at times, didn’t have the concerns Beal has. I’m not saying that in the future Beal doesn’t become a six-time All-Star and one of the best scorers to ever play the game, I’m just saying when it comes to next year, Beal is more than likely going to struggle.
So I ask again: is Jordan Crawford really the guy we want to replace instead of Chris Singleton? Well, if you thought Jordan was bad, then make sure you don’t have any hot beverages around you because Singleton was historically terrible. Chris Singleton was the worst small forward in the NBA last year by just about any standard you’d like to put him up against. On a team where anyone who could score would be allowed the ball plus plentiful times to shoot said ball, Singleton couldn’t manage. Nine double digit scoring games in 66 games (51 starts). Zero double digit rebounding games; zero games with five assists or more; dead last amongst all small forwards in scoring, rebounding, you name it. It wasn’t a good year for him, as he was forced into a starting role which he was not qualified to handle at all. He definitely tried to play the role effectively, he just wasn’t that good. Singleton’s defensive skills weren’t that great aside from steals because he loved to reach so much. Oftentimes he got himself into foul trouble for that exact reason, and was forced to come out of games early and deplete further an already barren small forward rotation.
I have a hard time believing that a guy who is already old for a rookie at 22 years young, is going to improve by leaps and bounds given another year. Singleton may prove to be an effective defender and a backup in the future, but as a starter Singleton hurts the Wizards more than any other play at any other position. Small forward play by Washington was atrocious, and there’s no real way around that fact. If the Wizards want to go another year with Singleton manning the helm and a rookie alongside of him at the shooting guard position, fine. Just don’t expect it to get any better. In fact, expect it to get worse.
Which brings us to why Harrison Barnes fill the Wizards biggest need and also makes them better in the short and likely long term. Barnes has two years of college under his belt, and while he didn’t quite live up to those lofty expectations going into college, he certainly hasn’t done anything to dispel the notion that he’s a very good talent. His 6’8 height and sturdy build, combined with freakish athleticism as evidenced by the combine, will likely serve him well in the future. He’s a versatile scoring threat who can get up and down the court exceptionally well with John Wall and Jordan Crawford, as well as catch open spot up looks from the perimeter. His game fits so perfectly with what the Wizards are capable of that, though third overall may be a little high for him to be drafted, the amount of sense he makes is almost too undeniable. Sure, he is streaky at times, but with a great point guard like Kendall Marshall (and John Wall), his potential is much more likely to be reached.
The Wizards need to address that perimeter threat, and while Beal has unlimited range, Barnes does as well and provides an upgrade over the incumbent player. Kick outs will look cleaner; plays can actually be ran without worrying about Singleton bumbling them up with a lack of ball handling ability and a competent jump shot. The Wizards will excel and pick and pop shooting and the floor is going to be opened up. Yes, this is best case scenario talk, but that’s what you’re supposed to do during the draft dreaming days leading up to the Wizards picking.
Barnes played in a system that is oriented toward guards and centers, yet he still managed to thrive. Having watched this guy throughout his college career, I’m going to predict that his game is without a doubt more suited for the NBA than it was in college. No, that doesn’t answer why he struggled in the tournament or failed to knock down shots at times, but I simply don’t think he is going to bust out in the NBA. He’s a confident, even keel player who has fought through adversity and shown maturity for his age. Beal is a great player, no doubt, but Barnes is simply a better fit for the Wizards right now if they’re looking to get better right away. For those reasons, I’m going to say we need to go with a 3 at the 3.