The Washington Wizards’ pre-draft evaluation process moved into the final stages on Tuesday, with elite propsect Harrison Barnes working out for Coach Randy Wittman, team president Ernie Grunfeld and other decison makers at Verizon Center.
Barnes is considered a top six pick in the June 28 NBA draft in which the the Wizards own the No. 3 overall selection. The 6-foot-8 wing player from North Carolina has a game some scouts have said is a much better fit for the NBA than college, where Barnes had to adjust to a system perhaps best suited for point guards and interior players.
At North Carolina, Barnes played with three other potential lottery picks in Kendall Marshall, John Henson and Tyler Zeller, and he at times deferred to those other talented teammates. These days as he auditions for professional teams, Barnes is showcasing his jumper coming off screens and a mid-range pull-up in transition.
Although the Wizards did not permit media to view any portion of the workout on Tuesday, Barnes said much of the session included coming off curls and footwork without the ball as well as one-on-one and transition drills.
“I feel like I’d fit right in,” Barnes said. “Obviously you’ve got John [Wall], who’s a good playmaker. Extremely quick. He can get guys open shots. Then with the addition of Nene, I think that helped this team mature a lot. I feel like I’d fit in nicely and help their perimeter scoring.”
Tuesday’s workout included forwards Kris Joseph (Syracuse) and John Shurna (Northwestern) and was the second opportunity for Barnes to speak face-to-face with Wizards front office officials and the coaching staff. Barnes first interviewed with club officials during the NBA combine two weeks ago in Chicago, where his measureables were among the most impressive of any player in attendance.
Barnes’s no-step vertical was 38 inches, the fourth highest all-time at the combine, and he benched pressed 185 pounds 15 times, matching chiseled power forward Thomas Robinson (Kansas), another projected top six selection who worked out for the Wizards last week.
“It’s always good to come see a team obviously in their own environment,” Barnes said. “Chicago, it’s in a hotel room, so that was kind of awkward, but it’s nice to be able to come here, see their facilities, see their coaching staff and just kind of see how they do things.”
Part of Barnes’s pre-draft process has included addressing the preception he may have underachieved at North Carolina despite his physical gifts. Barnes averaged 17.7 points for the Tar Heels during the regular season, but he averaged 14 points and shot 33 percent during the NCAA tournament.
During North Carolina's 80-67 loss to Kansas in the Midwest Region final, Barnes shot 5 for 14, missed all five of his three-point attempts and finished with 13 points, four rebounds, four assists, three turnovers and four personal fouls.
“It is what it is,” Barnes said of the criticism. “That’s people’s jobs, to critique people, and I just happened to get a fair amount of that.
“Obviously that’s behind us now. You can’t dwell on it. At the time you have to continue to work, continue to play because we had an opportunity to potentially go to the Final Four.”
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