It’s safe to say that this current NBA season has been a struggle for the Dallas Mavericks as they are on pace for their first losing season since the 1999-2000 campaign. The Mavericks are currently 12-27 and they are in last place in the Southwest Division. But as bad as things have been for the Mavs who began this NBA season 0-5, while also having to endure an eight-game losing streak, they may have found a future building block for their organization in small forward Harrison Barnes.
The Mavericks landed Barnes in free agency last summer as both sides agreed on a four-year deal that is worth $94 million. Barnes joined the Mavs after he spent the first four years of his NBA career with the Golden State Warriors. Barnes was a first-round pick by the Warriors in 2012, but he found himself taking a backseat to point guard Steph Curry and shooting guard Klay Thompson who were the focal points of Golden State offense. And there was absolutely nothing wrong with that as Curry along with Thompson are two of the games better perimeter shooters which led to an NBA Championship for the Warriors in 2015.
Barnes was still a valuable role player for the Warriors, however during his time with Golden State he appeared to be disrespected by some fans who thought that he was hindering instead of helping Golden State’s cause. And when small forward Kevin Durant became an unrestricted free agent last summer, that made Barnes very expendable in Oakland.
But whereas the Warriors showed Barnes the door, the Mavs have welcomed him with open arms as this is an organization that is desperate for an infusion of youth.
The Mavericks won their first and only NBA Championship in 2011, but they would ultimately be done in by a new collective bargaining agreement for the following season which limited their financial ability to re-sign players and hindered the chance for them to get back to basketball glory. The Mavericks have made the playoffs four times since 2011, however they have been unable to make it past the first round. Dallas has attempted to keep it together with spit and glue around power forward Dirk Nowitzki who is still the face of the franchise, but at the age of 38, he cannot be counted on in the same fashion to produce like he did in the prime of his career.
Barnes has begun to fill that void as his 20.8 points per game currently lead the Mavericks, while it is also a career-high for him. Barnes has scored at least 10 points in each contest this season which was highlighted by going for a season-high 34 points in an 86-75 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on November 6. But anyone who has followed Barnes’ basketball career should not be surprised.
Barnes grew up in Ames, Iowa and was one of the top high school players in the country. Barnes could have gone to any college that he chose too, but he settled on playing basketball for the North Carolina Tar Heels. In two years at North Carolina, Barnes averaged 16.4 points per game as he was the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Rookie of the Year in 2011, while also helping the Tar Heels make consecutive Elite Eight appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
Barnes has always had to share the spotlight as in high school, he was teammates with Chicago Bulls small forward Doug McDermott, while at North Carolina played alongside Boston Celtics center Tyler Zeller who was the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Player of the Year in 2012, along with Milwaukee Bucks center John Henson. And of course with the Warriors, Barnes took a back seat to Curry and Thompson.
But now Barnes has the green light to show his scoring ability from the wing as his combination to get to the basket along with a solid mid-range jump shot make him one of the NBA’s rising stars. And although that all roads point to the Mavericks heading to the NBA’s Draft Lottery this spring, Barnes is giving them a star for the future, while also being a transition for the organization from an aging Nowitzki. I’m not saying that Barnes will have to ability to put the Mavs on his back in the fashion that Nowitzki did, but he is a start.
This is an organization that was hurt by the NBA Lockout in 2011, while also being spurned in free agency by the likes of Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan who was all set to come to Dallas in 2015 until he had a change of heart. But going forward for the Mavericks, drafting will be the key and if they can show quality free agents that they are putting a team together that includes Barnes, a quick turnaround in the Lone Star State is not out of the realm of possibilities.