Before James Harden transformed into a top-scorer in the NBA, he played third fiddle behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City. While Harrison Barnes doesn’t come off the bench for the Warriors like Harden did, he lands in a similar situation. Barnes is the fourth option on offense, behind Curry, Klay, and Draymond Green when running with the starters. If he gets time among the second unit, he then becomes the go-to guy. Much like Harden in OKC. 

With Harrison Barnes’ contract with the Warriors expiring after this year, it’s possible that he abandons Golden State for a team that offers a heftier contract.

Stacking the two side-by-side and comparing their first three seasons illustrates an eerie similarity. Harden boasts a higher usage rate, and thus a higher scoring average because of how the Thunder utilized him. Being a proficient ball handler and finisher, Harden ran a lot of pick-and-rolls with the Thunder bigs. Barnes, on the other hand, is a product of a system with a lot of ball movement. 

 Harrison BarnesJames Harden
Games Played241220
FG% 44.0%44.4%

Barnes has a nice all-around game, as does James Harden. Where Barnes has a slight edge over Harden is with his size and athleticism. His 6’8″, 225-pound frame gives him three inches and around five pounds on Harden, and Barnes potentially sports a vertical over 40 inches (the NBA Draft Combine recorded 39.5″ in 2012). 

His three-point shooting is consistent and is a career 38% shooter from the arc. As a mid-range shooter, Barnes has improved his shot from 10+ feet every season since coming into the league. Being an improved shooter and ball handler will allow Barnes to operate out of the pick-and-roll; his consistency from the behind the arc will also help him become better off the dribble. If defenders close out too hard, he’ll use his quickness to attack the hoop, and his athleticism to finish.

Year3-10 feet10-16 feet16 < 3

As a defender, however, Barnes’ defense is suspect at times. While he’s not a terrible defender, his potential to be so much better makes it feel worse than he is. His DRtg for this season is a 105, right around the NBA average. Fortunately, his defense doesn’t look horrendous on Golden State, and their defense is fantastic. If he was to sign with a team that has shotty defense, I’m wouldn’t be too confident in his individual abilities. 

Harrison Barnes, if he leaves Golden State this summer, will not explode into a 25+ PPG guy like Harden did. Best case scenario is that he becomes a guy who can consistently put up 18p/6r/6a a night. His evolution would be into a borderline max contract player, while turning into a potential all-star if he went to a team where he could be the first or second option. 

*All data courtesy of Basketball-Reference*

*Photo Credit: Bob Donnan / USA TODAY Sports*