The Dallas Mavericks fell to 0-2 on the season following a 106-98 to the Houston Rockets on Friday night. If you watched any Mavericks preseason games you’d think this poor start would be directly tied to Harrison Barnes’ play and you’d be wrong.
Despite a worrisome preseason from Barnes that seemed to signal doom for the Mavericks, Barnes has actually been one of the lone bright spots to begin the year.
In the early going Barnes has produced and shown signs of why the Mavericks did not hesitate to max him this summer. He finished an all around solid debut against the Pacers by hitting a clutch three pointer to send the game to overtime and with no Dirk against Houston, answered the bell on the offensive side scoring a career high 31 points on an efficient 13/23 shooting.
The Mavericks have a lot riding on Barnes as they transition into the post-Dirk era and while it’s early Barnes has shown that he’s very much capable of being a vital piece to ease that transition. Following Friday’s performance coach Carlisle was full of praise for Barnes saying, “I think he has a chance to be a very special player, I’ve felt that all along…we expect him to play at a high level at both ends.”
Barnes’ offensive ability has been questioned by many this offseason but he has flashed a nice post-up game this season and has shown the ability to hit the open shots he was missing all preseason by knocking down 50 percent of his three pointers in the early going.
One thing we got a chance to see due to Dirk being out on Friday was Barnes playing power forward and it really let him showcase his talent and versatility. He’s going to be too quick for traditional 4’s around the league on the offensive end and yet is physical enough to not get overpowered by them on the defensive side. That should be a fun little wrinkle the Mavs can use to their advantage this season.
After the game Barnes said he was a fan of playing 4, “when I play the 4 it’s get out and run....our starting unit is not the fastest so when we go smaller, that’s our time to really run.”
And to his career high 23 shots, Barnes said being asked to shoot as much as this will take some getting used to, “It’s definitely an adjustment…but it’s part of the process of developing into this role and taking more shots.” He later added that the increased volume helps him get in a faster rhythm, “once you see one, two going down you start feeling good and they kept getting me the ball.”
However, Barnes said that he remains a defensive minded player, “what I bring to this team is hopefully my versatility, rebounding and defensively. That’s something I can control every single night regardless of making shots or missing shots. “
I would echo that sentiment by Harrison. Defense will always be his calling card. The Mavericks are betting on Barnes growing into an offensive player they can rely on night in and night out and in the early going he’s shown that he’s capable of being that. But it’s a long season and again, it’s been two games. However for those of you like me who are watching this season looking for glimpses of hope into a post Dirk future, Barnes’ play during the first two games has to be very encouraging.