Harrison Barnes: Elite Role Player

Harrison Barnes is having a career year for the Sacramento Kings. Barnes has been a top-five rated high school prospect, NBA draft lottery selection, all-rookie team member, and NBA champion! He is now the ROCK for the Sacramento Kings, a leader by example on and off the court, the Black Falcon is trying to help the Sacramento Kings break their 15-year playoff-less streak.

Ahead, I will do some digging into how this season compares to previous seasons for Sacramento Kings versatile wing, Harrison Barnes.

Barnes Career Year

This season Barnes is averaging better than his career averages in multiple categories. Barnes is averaging career bests per game in points, rebounds, assists, rebounds, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, free throw percentage, turnovers committed!

Last season, 2020-21, Barnes appeared in and started 58 games for the Sacramento Kings. He averaged 16.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists per game, 39% from three-point range. This season, Barnes has started 19 games this season for the Kings, averaging 20.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists per game, on 43% from 3 PT range! That is the highest 3 PT FG percentage for his career.

Below, are a few shot charts and data compilations from NBA Shot Charts comparing the 2020-21 and 21-22 seasons for Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes. Below that, I will dive into a few things that stuck out to me.

2020-21 Numbers by Zone on the Court

2021-22 Numbers by Zone on the Court

Breaking Down the Data

From last season to this current season, Barnes has made improvements in the PPS (points per shot) category from three-point, mid-range, and total. He is down from 1.35 to 1.25 PPS at the rim. His frequency is up from last season from three-point range, but down in both mid-range, and at the rim. In short, Barnes is taking more threes and making more threes.

2020-21 Make/Miss Chart

2021-22 Make/Miss Chart

2020-21 Shot Chart by Zone

2021-22 Shot Chart by Zone

Barnes ELITE Role Player

Hoops Addict gives a great definition of what they deem an NBA role player to be:

A role player in basketball is someone who plays a particular duty on a basketball court. They may have one or two specialized skills that his team requires from him. He may or may not be a starter, and if he does come off the bench, he still plays meaningful minutes because of the specific skill set that he has.

Harrison Barnes is not going to be the star to carry the Sacramento Kings to their first playoff berth in 15 seasons, but he can play a HUGE role as a 3rd/4th ‘star’ on the team. Barnes does not need to be a world-beater, he just needs to stay healthy, play defense, take good shots, value the ball, and not really ‘stick’ out good or bad. Just be consistent.

Conversely, Fox has to do a bit MORE for the Kings to win consistently, as he is their ‘game-changer’ with his skill set and role. When Barnes is given too much spotlight and is the ‘2nd or 1st’ option for the Kings … he has shown to be inconsistent, to me.

In the past, Kings fans have shown malaise at the sometimes up and down play of Barnes, where he will go for 20 points for a few games and then throw up a couple of lame-duck games in there. That wouldn’t be such a negative if the Kings had a few players ‘above’ Barnes in the pecking order. If Barnes is able to be a high-level ROLE player, he and the Kings will be more successful. By playing sound, high IQ hoops, with no pressure to ‘create to win’ all the time. Just be a high-level complement, that can sometimes be featured, but not always!

To me, that is why ELITE teams like Boston and Philly have been removed to want Barnes. Those teams aren’t looking for a superstar, but instead a high-level role player to complement their stars. Depending on how the Kings team looks after the trade deadline and more time together as a team, Barnes should be the Kings 3rd-4th best player in terms of whom they rely on most. Does that make sense? Fox, Haliburton, (at times Hield/Holmes). If the Kings try to make Barnes the focal point of the offense too often, the Kings will not do well in the long term. If he is putting up relatively the same numbers as the Kings 3rd-4th option, they will see more success, in my opinion.

Looking Ahead

At the end of the Kings win against Portland on Wednesday 11/24 Barnes left the game with a foot injury which also held him out of the Kings triple OT victory in LA against the Lakers. The injury seems to be a day-to-day type of thing. Going forward, I do not think Barnes will average 20 points per game for the entire season, I think he may go back down to his career averages as the season goes on. That will hopefully be while still maintaining career high shooting percentages!

Will the Kings be in a position to make a franchise-changing trade that involves Barnes? Will he remain on the team for this season and beyond, regardless of how the rest of the team shuffles in the trade market? I think that unless we can get a great deal, Barnes will help the Kings more as a member of the team, opposed to trade bait. The Kings need wings, wings like Harrison Barnes. He may not be the best shooter, or defender, or most athletic … but what he lacks in SUPERSTAR talent in one area, he makes up for that with his VERSATILITY!

What do you think?

GO Kings!

-Tom Witt

Published by Tom Witt

32 years old - I have been in sports media since 2011. I became a Sacramento Kings fans around 1997, MJ retired, and I received a Sacramento Kings Kids Club sign-up sheet in the mail... and I've never looked back! GO KINGS!

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