When executives consider if NBA prospects are worthy of their lottery picks, they look for a few things in particular. Along with physical tools and their basketball past, they ask themselves these questions.
Can the player be turned to in the future? Will his potential be reached? Will he fit in well on their team? Can he be a leader? A playoff performer?
Now, these answers are usually complete mysteries until the player has played a few seasons in the association. But with some players, the answers shine brightly early.
The 2012 draft saw 6 players drafted in front of current Golden State Warrior Harrison Barnes.
Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, Dion Waiters, Thomas Robinson.
Those guys bring some amazing skills to the table. Anthony Davis may be the future of the NBA. Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal have both taken up leadership roles on solid playoff teams. Kidd-Gilchrist and Waiters have shown flashes of promise. Thomas Robinson has settled into a role player position with several different teams.
While there were better players taken both before and after Harrison Barnes at number seven overall, Barnes seems to be forgotten as one of the best players of this draft class.
Barnes has been an extremely integral part of the Warriors team every year since his drafting. Whether it be coming off the bench for Mark Jackson or a key offensive cog in the starting lineup for Steve Kerr, Barnes has set himself apart from the other players in his draft class as a playoff star.
Barnes first made noise as a rookie when he posted big numbers in the Warriors’ playoff tour. He continued to prove himself on the biggest stage, even while teammates like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green got all the media love.
But Barnes has been something that any executive, GM, Coach, Trainer, or player would want from a top ten pick. Barnes has been a playoff contributor and vital part of a perennial contender every year since he was inducted into the Association. What more could you ask for?
Expectations for Barnes were set too high way back before he even chose to go to school at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. He was supposed to be the next big thing in college basketball, a LeBron-esque one man wrecking crew at the small forward position.
But when he failed to make headlines as a Tar Heel, his draft stock became less shiny. He fell to number seven, where Golden State may have gotten the steal of the draft.
The “steal of the draft” isn’t usually a title reserved for the seventh overall pick, and yes, Terrence Jones, Khris Middleton, or Tony Wroten could throw themselves into the competition for that title.
But how many of them, or any members of that 2012 draft class, are playing right now, in the NBA Finals, guarding the best basketball player on earth, and doing a damn good job? That’s right. Just Barnes.