Mar 25, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Harrison Barnes (40) shoots as he is defended by Kansas Jayhawks center Jeff Withey (5) during the second half of the finals of the midwest region of the 2012 NCAA men

The Harrison Barnes Problem

If you’re any type of college basketball fan then you already know who Harrison Barnes is. The 6-foot-8-inch sophomore forward averaged 17.4 points and 5.2 rebounds for the North Carolina Tar Heels during the 2011-12 season. Barnes also averaged a respectable .454 field goal percentage for the first 34 games of the NCAA season. That’s great. Most of those games were heavily covered by news outlets and some were even aired on stations such as CBS and ESPN, giving Barnes the opportunity to impress NBA scouts on national television. It’s UNC we’re talking about, every basketball fan should know who he is by now.

After averaging 15.7 points and 5.8 rebounds his freshmen year, Barnes shined whenever the spotlight was on him and his team. While UNC was in the midst of a Final Four birth (they fell short in the Elite 8 against the Kentucky Wildcats), Barnes was emerging as a star in the national spotlight. In four March Madness tournament games Barnes averaged 21 points and 8.2 rebounds. Pretty staggering stats for a freshmen, right? Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that he shot .427 from the field.

He was on the Cavaliers radar for a little bit, but it was clear that when UNC didn’t make it to the big dance, he wanted wanted more. He can back for his sophomore season only to have his team lose for the second year in a row in the Elite 8. Barnes sat in the locker room after the game with a towel on his head in the wake of the 80-67 loss to the Kansas Jayhawks.

He had a reason to be sulking after the game. He only managed to muster up 14 points in the four tournament games, but that was done on 20-61 shooting (.328 percent). NBA scouts were definitely at the games in St. Louis against the Ohio Bobcats (he shot a personal tournament worst .188 percent) and the Jayhawks, so teams now have reason to second-guess choosing Barnes early in the draft. The Cavaliers are one of those teams.

It’s funny how March Madness works. The whole nation is watching whenever a player is shining, but also, and more so, whenever that same player is cracking under the pressure. Barnes was moping in the locker room for two reasons; 1. Because he had been a contributing (major) force in UNC’s trouble throughout this year’s tournament and 2. because he knew he had ruined his chances in being a high NBA-draft pick.

So Barnes, who could have been, and still may be, drafted by the Cavaliers in part of a big trade. Earlier this month Cleveland traded Ramon Sessions and Christian Eyenga to the Los Angeles Lakers for Luke Walton, Jason Kapono (shortly after the trade he was released) and the Lakers first-round draft pick. What the Cavs were thinking was that they would probably tank the rest of the season after Anderson Varejao and Daniel Gibson had gone down and losing their best bench contributor in Sessions. After increasing their chances to get a higher pick the Cavs would trade up to draft Barnes. Think about that lineup. Tristan Thompson and Barnes on opposite sides and Kyrie Irving controlling the offense. That would be a formidable “Big 3″ for years.

But with Barnes bad showing in the tournament, is he truly NBA-ready? Should the Cavs risk trading up for him after he put on four lackluster performances? Are the Wine and Gold not even thinking about the UNC sophomore? What do you think?

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Tags: Cleveland Cavaliers Harrison Barnes Kyrie Irving North Carolina Tar Heels Tristan Thompson

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