Barnes’ first challenge starts next week

Nick Laham/Getty Images/ZimbioLess than 24 months ago, Warriors rookie Harrison Barnes was the projected number one pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. After a great freshman year, Barnes and the rest of UNC's starters opted to return to UNC for a run at the NCAA Championship. His sophomore season showed little improvement over his freshman one and he was chosen number seven in the 2012 NBA Draft.

So things did not go exactly as expected. 

The good news is Barnes may have found himself in a better position with Golden State then he would have had he been taken first or second overall in 2011. Nothing is promised though and Barnes' first test comes when training camp opens next week where the starting small forward position is up for grabs.

Here is what we know about Barnes. He has an excellent midrange game and good long range shot. He is athletic enough to be able to take opponents off the dribble, but admits he still needs work on setting up his teammates off these drives. He showed at the Las Vegas Summer League that he can play well off of shooting guard Klay Thompson (one can assume he will have no problems gelling with Stephen Curry either). Barnes also showed he is an excellent rebounder and an engaged defender.

So everything is there for him to be the Warriors' starting small forward from the get go, but nothing is promised. 

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images/ZimbioThe Warriors currently have veterans Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush as well as fellow rookie Draymond Green all looking for minutes at the small forward position. However, none of these guys show the promise Barnes does or have his long-term potential.

Barnes' first test is to show head coach Mark Jackson that he is ready to be the Warriors' starting forward from the get go.  When I spoke to ESPN's David Thorpe at Summer League, he told me Barnes' biggest weakness is he has not learned to grind yet. What Thorpe meant was Barnes needs to get consistently better at doing all the other little things when his shot is not falling.

If he does that in addition to being the Warriors' second or third best scorer, he will be starting for the Warriors in Phoenix on Halloween night.

What do you think of the Warriors' picking of Harrison Barnes? Is he the team's small forward of today and of the future? Join the discussion in the comments section below or on Twitter by hashtagging your response #WarriorsDay.