No, the question isn't who should the number one draft pick be in the 2011 draft. Despite all the hype, Barnes failed to live up to an outrageous pre-season All-American position, and in most cases is out of consideration for the number one pick, for a few, the lottery. However, he's been on the uptick lately, which I thought would happen, as he grew more comfortable in college ball and was teamed with a better playmaker in fellow freshman Kendall Marshall. While the numbers haven't been ridiculous, setting two new career highs in points scored in a span of three games show that UNC and Barnes are finally figuring things out. It boils down to this; there is more substance to Barnes' lofty pre-season expectations than people realise.
Of all the players eligible for the 2011 draft, Barnes remains the one with the most potential as a franchise player in my opinion. Now, some may say that in terms of sheer potential, Perry Jones III is oozing with it, but when I see an inconsistent player, I see potential just waiting to be wasted. That won't be a problem with Barnes; he's the hardest working player in this class, is mature for his age and has a very high basketball IQ. No Barnes won't be the number one pick, in fact, it's likely if he declares this year he'll struggle to make the lottery... which might just be the best thing to happen to him.
For you see, there's another team in North Carolina that started off slow and now seems to be figuring things out. That's right, the Charlotte Bobcats. I read an article a while back saying that Michael Jordan desperately needed to find a young star to be the face of the franchise, and while the team was struggling immensely to start the season, they might have bottomed out enough to do so. However, they righted the ship with a coaching change and they are making a strong push to avoid the lottery for a second year in the row, probably slipping in with the 15th or 16th pick in the draft. Usually, this is the worst position to be in; mediocrity. Not quite good enough to win it all, not quite bad enough to get that franchise changer.
However, in this case, that might be just the right position to snag that star player who can take over as face of the franchise from Jordan. The answer is Barnes. As I said earlier, he has all the raw skills and work ethic to be the best player in this draft class, but given his struggles this season at UNC his draft position likely won't reflect that if he declares. Finally, here is a player that if pushed by Jordan will simply push himself to get better rather than fading like a certain other player drafted by the G.O.A.T. This is the putty that Jordan and the team need to create an identity for a rather uninspiring franchise in the Bobcats.
It would be easy to pitch this to the fans; an intelligent, mature, clean kid from small-town Iowa who played for UNC's beloved Tar Heels to boot. He's got North Carolina and the Bobcats written all over him. Yet, there are some other factors to consider; their only All-Star in Gerald Wallace plays the same position, but he doesn't have that same star potential Barnes has, rather he could serve as a mentor for a few years while Barnes develops his game and is ready to explode, much like Wallace once did in Sacramento. That said, Wallace is the perfect mentor for Barnes in preparing him to be the face of the franchise, and instil in him the defensive principles which allowed Wallace's Bobcats to remain undefeated against Lebron's Cavaliers last season.
Yet, the biggest problem facing this scenario is that others are cottoning on to Barnes' recently improved play, they are figuring out he might not be as over-hyped as he was declared early, and with the way the Bobcats are playing at the moment, the odds of their getting an early enough pick are slim if Barnes and UNC keep winning at the rate they have been. Especially in such a weak draft class. But who knows, maybe this will be one of those magical Derrick Rose situations, where the right player for the right city lands in their laps, or even a less magical Lebron and Cleveland situation. One thing is certain though, if all this falls into place, Barnes won't end up stunting on a Jumbotron.
The best chance for Jordan to find some star-power to change the fate of the Bobcats in this draft? The answer is Barnes.