By Brian Martin
Of the 10 players comprising the 2012-13 All-Rookie First and Second Teams, which were announced by the NBA on Tuesday, only one is still playing -- Golden State forward Harrison Barnes.
Barnes, the No. 7 pick in pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, was selected to the First Team along with Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard (6th pick, Portland), Bradley Beal (3rd pick, Washington), Anthony Davis (1st pick, New Orleans) and Dion Waiters (4th pick, Cleveland).
It's not surprising that the other members of the All-Rookie First Team have completed their inaugural campaign already. They were all high draft picks, which go to teams at the bottom of the standings that are looking to rebuild. Barnes and the Warriors are the exception, rather than the rule.
Golden State finished last year's 66-game season with a record of 23-43 (0.348) to earn the seventh pick. With a young core of talent centered around sharpshooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the Warriors were the NBA's runner-up for most improved team in terms of winning percentage, finishing the 2012-13 season with a record of 47-35 (0.573). Only the Nets, playing their first season in Brooklyn, improved more, by finishing 2012-13 with a 49-33 record (0.598), compared to their final year in New Jersey (0.333).
Barnes, along with fellow rookies Festus Ezeli (30th pick) and Draymond Green (35th), helped contribute to the Warriors' success throughout the regular season. But all three have seen their production improve during the postseason. Golden State coach Mark Jackson has not been shy about putting the responsibility of performing in the playoffs on his first-year players. And they have responded -- especially Barnes.
Harrison Barnes -- Regular Season vs Playoffs
With David Lee getting hurt in the first game of the playoffs, the Warriors lost depth on their frontline. Enter Barnes. After averaging 25 minutes per game, while starting all 81 games he appeared in during the regular season, Barnes is now logging 39 minutes in the postseason and has seen his production and efficiency improve with the increased playing time.
In the first 10 games of the playoffs, Barnes is averaging 15.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists -- up significantly from his regular season averages of 9.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists. Barnes has no doubt stepped up his game in the playoffs -- his improved offensive and defensive efficiency help illustrate that -- but for the most part, he's been able to replicate his usual solid production over an additional 14 minutes on the floor. He's shooting nearly the same percentages from the field and from 3-point range, although he's improved his free-throw shooting by nearly 14 percent.
A look at Barnes' regular season stats on a per-40 minute basis -- 14.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists -- shows similar results to his stats during the playoffs, during which he's averaged 39.1 minutes per game.
"There's no rookie who's doing what he's doing right now," Jackson said. "He's starting for a team in the second round of the playoffs. He's defending, he's scoring, he's rebounding, he's playing with an edge. He's elevated his game in the postseason, and it's great to see. His future is incredibly bright."
Barnes saved his best performance for when it counted most. With the Warriors trailing the Spurs 2-1 in the West Semis and playing Game 4 on their home floor to try to tie the series before it shifts back to San Antonio, Barnes posted a career-high 26 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter and overtime, along with 10 rebounds to lead the Warriors back from an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Spurs, 97-87, on Sunday.
But Barnes isn't the only rookie on the floor for the Warriors this postseason -- both Ezeli and Green have played important minutes for Golden State in both the Denver and San Antonio series.
Festus Ezeli -- Regular Season vs Playoffs
While Ezeli's minutes have dropped in the postseason compared to the regular season, he's continued to be a solid role player for the Warriors off the bench, providing a few points and rebounds in about 10 minutes per contest.
Green on the other hand has seen his playing time and production rise in the postseason. He is averaging nearly 20 minutes per game and posting 6.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists -- all up dramatically from his pedestrian regular season numbers. As is his efficiency. Green is shooting 45.3 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from three, compared to 32.7 percent and 20.9 percent, respectively, during the regular season.
Draymond Green -- Regular Season vs Playoffs
His net rating has improved from 0.4 to 6.5, meaning the Warriors are outscoring their opponents by an additional six points per 100 possessions with Green on the court during the playoffs, compared to the regular season.
While Barnes was the only Warrior rookie to get voted onto the All-Rookie Team, Ezeli and Green were among the 23 first-year players to receive votes, and all three are picking up incredible playoff experience at the beginning of their promising NBA careers.