"With the 5th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Sacramento Kings select Harrison Barnes, forward from North Carolina."
And the fans rejoice. And the coaches rejoice. And Tyreke Evans rejoices. And the wait is over.
Let's talk about Harrison Barnes. This dude was considered the best high school player in the world -- better than Kyrie Irving, better than Brandon Knight, better than Jared Sullinger -- just two years ago. Those high school rankings are imperfect, but they mean something. Scouts everywhere saw in Barnes the makings of a great NBA player: great size, great form on his jumper, work ethic, a comfort in dealing with the media and teammates. None of that has changed at North Carolina. The knocks are that he didn't develop in his areas of weakness (driving to the hoop and finishing at the rim, most notably). But that other stuff, that which made him look like an unbelievable NBA prospect? Still there, still valid.
I'm high on Harrison Barnes because I believe that Harrison Barnes as he is might be one of the very best players in the draft. There's almost no real risk factor here: he's not going to shrink in size, he's not going to forget how to pull the trigger, he's not going to turn into a bum. The only risk factor is that he won't reach his considerable potential and develop further -- that he won't reach a borderline All-Star level, or that he won't be an eventual 20-point scorer. It seems like a risk because the pick is so high. But then you look at the other prospects around No. 5, and you realize that for most, there's not only a chance they'll never be a borderline All-Star or 20-point scorer, there's a chance they'll be out of the league in five years.
There's no chance Harrison Barnes is out of the league in five years.
In a perfect world, the Sacramento Kings take Harrison Barnes and install him as the starting small forward. Tyreke Evans or Marcus Thornton comes off the bench from Day 1, with everyone touting James Harden as the gold standard. The Kings address the power forward position in free agency/trades. The rise continues (at a bit faster pace). So long as Barnes is wearing a jersey that says "SACRAMENTO" across the front in five years, whether he's been to an All-Star Game or not, I'm happy.