Uncertainty has bled through the Mavericks’ rocky season thus far. They’ve spent the duration of the season dwelling in the basement of the Western Conference, an unfamiliar place for a franchise with 15 playoff appearances in the last 16 seasons. The season has been railroaded by both injuries and cognitive dissonance. Depending on who you talk to, the injuries transforming playoff hopes into ping pong balls may be a blessing in disguise.
The great debate around tanking, whether by choice or circumstance, boils down to a debate on unpredictability. The draft is unpredictable; the playoffs—to a lesser extent—are unpredictable. This debate will persist until the All-Star break, but an unexpected constant must now be accounted for in this or any other Mavs debate over the next four years: Harrison Barnes.
Harrison Barnes is a 20-point scorer. He scores 20 when it rains; he scores 20 when it shines. He scores 20 at home; he scores 20 on the road. He scores 20 on back to backs, and he scores 20 with ample rest. This level of scoring consistency, outside of Dirk, has not been seen in Dallas since Michael Finley. Looking at Barnes’ statistical splits, the production and efficiency is remarkably similar across several categories.
For the season, Barnes sits at 20.6 points per game on 47.3 percent from the field and 5.5 rebounds per game. At home, Barnes shoots 47.2 percent from the field and pulls down 5.8 rebounds compared to 47.4 percent on the road and 5.3 rebounds. In wins, Barnes shoots 47.1 percent from the field compared to 47.4 percent in losses. In November, Barnes scored 20.6 points per game compared to 20.4 points per game in December. The numbers are mind-numbingly consistent throughout his statistical profile. Three-point shooting is the only outlier with 39.7 percent at home compared to 28.3 percent on the road.
The consistency bodes remarkably well for Barnes’ future with the Mavs. Any time a player increases his scoring output by nearly 10 points per game, sustainability is the first thing to look for. Barnes shot 48 percent from the field in 2015, 46 percent in 2016 and now sits comfortable at 47 percent even with a nine point-per-game increase. That is an astounding accomplishment by Barnes and one that should be lauded. No one, not the Warriors, not the Mavericks and certainly not this website, thought Barnes was ready to make this leap at the beginning of this contract.
Barnes making the leap so early in his time with Dallas speaks to his insatiable work ethic. Any time Carlisle gets the opportunity to speak about Barnes’ work ethic he gleams like a teen getting their first sip of beer. Carlisle has compared Barnes’ work ethic to both Dirk and Larry Bird. It’s a compliment not given lightly and one that Nowitzki himself has echoed.
Aside from work ethic, Barnes’ elite shot-making ability feeds into his consistency. In isolation, Barnes ranks third in possessions, third in total points and 11th in efficiency. In post ups, Barnes ranks 14th in possessions, 10th in total points and seventh in efficiency. In other words, Harrison Barnes can get you a bucket. And in the NBA, the ability to get a basket no matter the defensive climate is the most valuable skill.
Through two months of the season, Barnes has proved to be worth his contract. His consistency projects him to be a staple of this organization for the next decade. In a season of uncertainties, Harrison Barnes is a welcome sight.