Lost in the Smith Jr. hype, Harrison Barnes by the numbers

Dallas Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes (40) and Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic (44) during the game at American Airlines Center. Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
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The Dallas Mavericks and their fans are understandably excited about what rookie Dennis Smith Jr. can do for the team. His athletic ability is rare around these parts, and his preseason so far has done nothing to quell fans’ elevating expectations. Meanwhile, Dallas’s prize from last offseason has been quietly developing his game. Given his quiet nature, it might be easy to forget that Harrison Barnes is considered a cornerstone for the future. Now more than one year removed from his Golden State days, the team is ready to see what he can do.

One of Barnes’s strengths is his ability to score in the iso, as pointed out here. His shooting percentage actually went up to 49.9 percent the as the shot clock wound down, comparing favorably to the league average of 43.9 percent in late-clock situations. With the Mavs pushing pace this season, it’s unclear just how many isos Barnes will get, but coach Rick Carlisle will always have the option as long as Barnes is on the floor.

Barnes has previously cited Paul Pierce as a player whose game he’s studied. Having previously looked at the stats for players comparable to Smith Jr., here’s how Barnes compares to Pierce in their fifth seasons. 

  PTS TRB AST FG% 3P% FGA
Paul Pierce 25.9 7.3 4.4 .416 .302 20.2
Harrison Barnes 19.5 5.1 1.5 .468 .351 16.4

Pierce outpaces Barnes in points, rebounds, and assists per game, although Barnes is a far more efficient shooter. Pierce also averaged almost 4 more shots a game than Barnes. Pierce was the Celtics’ first option on offense that season, and outside of Antoine Walker, there weren’t many other options available. Barnes, on the other hand, had capable scorers alongside him last year. So here are Pierce’s numbers in his sixth season.

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  PTS TRB AST FG% 3P% FGA
Paul Pierce 23.0 6.5 5.1 .402 .299 18.7

His numbers went down across the board as the Celtics went away from a system dominated by two players and spread the scoring around. (Side note: Mavs fans may remember which team Antoine Walker was traded to, although they might rather forget altogether.) And just for fun, here are the numbers for previous cornerstone Michael Finley in his fifth and sixth seasons.

  PTS TRB AST FG% 3P% FGA
Michael Finley (5) 21.5 5.3 4.9 .449 .357 18.4
Michael Finley (6) 20.2 5.3 4.4 .444 .331 17.5

All these numbers are well within reach for Barnes. He’s been playing well in the preseason, a huge difference from his first preseason with the team last year. He has one year in Carlisle’s complicated system under his belt, and more familiarity with his teammates. If Barnes can keep scoring at an efficient rate while increasing his numbers to Pierce’s levels, the Mavericks will have plenty of reason to hope for a bright future ahead.

Follow Jeff Mapua on Twitter @JeffMapua