Top NBA Prospects in the ACC, Part Nine: Prospects #21-25October 15, 2015
Though Anthony “Cat” Barber finished his high school career as a McDonald's All-American and top-25 recruit in the class of 2013, he had a particularly rough transition into college basketball. As a freshman, Barber struggled with the speed of the game and ended the season coming off of the bench. He became a different player halfway through his sophomore season, however, emerging as North Carolina State's go-to option and leading the Wolfpack on a surprise run to the Sweet 16 . Barber developed into a player to watch in the process, but is he an NBA prospect?
At 6'2, Barber has solid size for the point guard position, even though he must continue to add weight to his skinny frame and his average length does him few favors. As his nickname suggests, however, he is incredibly quick both on and off of the ball, ranking among the quickest players in college basketball. Additionally, Barber can change directions on a dime, demonstrating excellent agility alongside of his speed.
Barber's 15.3 points per 40 minutes pace adjusted do not jump off of the page, but he came into his own as a scorer as the season progressed while showing intriguing versatility and increasing confidence in the process.
As was the case during his freshman season, Barber spent most of his time on the ball, seeing over 70% of his possessions in isolation, transition, and pick-and-roll situations. There are few players that can stay in front of him at this level, as his repertoire of moves, particularly his crossover, and quickness off of the dribble allow him to create separation with ease. He made an impressive 41.4% of his looks off of the dribble, which points to his potential as a shot creator, particularly in pick-and-roll situations. His 34.2% completion rate from mid-range leaves a bit to be desired, but this speaks more to his shot selection than it does his abilities as a scorer.
He developed as a jump shooter, as well, making 38.2% of his overall attempts while increasing his shooting efficiency metrics across the board. His perimeter shooting improved considerably, from 26.1% 3FG on 46 attempts as a freshman to 38% on 71 attempts as a sophomore. Most impressive, however, was the fact that he made 52.6% of his open catch-and-shoot looks. On film, his form from a standstill looks good, but his mechanics becomes inconsistent when he lacks the time and space to set up his shot. Therefore and while he has come a long way, he must continue to refine his shooting mechanics and improve his shot selection as a junior.
Barber made some impressive strides as a sophomore, but his weaknesses remain quite pronounced at this stage. He continued to noticeably struggle as a finisher around the basket, where he made an average 52.8% FG, including 47.4% of his looks in transition. He gets blocked frequently, as his lack of standout explosiveness, strength, and length significantly limit his ability to finish in the post. He still prefers to drive left while avoiding finishing with his left hand, which makes him somewhat predictable as a finisher, as well.
His abilities as a point guard remain a mixed bag, as well. Though Barber averaged 4.7 assists per 40 minutes pace adjusted and looked good operating out of the pick-and-roll, he continued to look for his own offense first and foremost. Likewise, as he became increasingly more essential to North Carolina State's offense, he struggled to move between distributing and scoring roles. His overall decision-making ability appeared quite raw, as it often seemed as though he left his feet and dribble into traffic often without knowing his next move. Scouts will be watching to see if he can become more comfortable leading North Carolina State's offense during his junior season, as he looks far more effective as a scorer than he did as a distributor at this point in his career.
While North Carolina State ranked among the worst defensive teams in the NCAA Tournament
, Barber's individual defense also remains a work-in-progress. On the one hand, Barber's lateral quickness is top-notch and he can stay in front of collegiate guards when he is dialed-in. On the other, he still does not appear to be the most focused and aggressive defender. Furthermore, he still struggles in the pick-and-roll, as he lacks the strength to fight through screens and the length to contest shots. While he plays on a mediocre defensive team, he must prove to scouts that he can show the fundamentals and effort to excel at the next level despite his average length and lack of strength.
After dealing with some difficult circumstances off the floor, Cat Barber showed scouts what he was capable of at the collegiate level with a surge in his confidence and production late in the year. As a junior, he must do the same and more, continuing to display his versatile skill set while improving as a distributor. Barber's frame may limit his potential at the next level, but he shows elite quickness and his ability to operate out of the pick-and-roll should draw NBA interest if he can become more consistent. Regardless of his prospects at this stage, North Carolina State will need Cat Barber more than ever during his junior season and scouts will be watching to see if he can rise to the occasion.
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Top NBA Prospects in the ACC, Part 8: Prospects #12-16 October 23, 2014
A consensus Top-25 high school recruit, Cat Barber was the fourth McDonald's All-American to commit to N.C. State in the Mark Gottfried era, but is the only one remaining after Tyler Lewis and Rodney Purvis transferred and T.J. Warren left for the NBA.
Measured at 6-2 with a 6-4 wingspan and a 168 pound frame two summers ago at the Lebron James Skills Academy, Barber has good size, average length and a relatively skinny frame that N.C. State now lists at 180 pounds. He's a top-shelf athlete, though, showing one of the quickest first steps in all of college basketball and end to end speed that few can match.
Like his team as a whole, Barber's freshman campaign was somewhat up and down, as he began the season on the bench, then was inserted into the starting lineup after the Wolfpack dropped two of their first four games, only to be relegated back into a reserve role for the final 14 games of the season.
He played 24 minutes per game on average, a fairly significant role for a freshman, splitting ball-handling responsibilities with fellow McDonald's All-American point guard Tyler Lewis, who has since moved onto Butler. Barber was neither an incredibly prolific (14.2 points per-40 minutes) or efficient (48% TS%) scorer, even if he showed promise as a playmaker, dishing out 5.9 assists per-40 minutes with a solid 2/1 assist to turnover ratio and 2.6 pure point rating.
N.C. State played at a relatively slow-tempo last season, and typically resorted to one on one play or off the dribble jumpers when things bogged down, which meant the offense didn't always look like a thing of beauty. Despite the lack of rhythm and cohesiveness the team suffered at times on this end of the floor, Barber still did a solid job of getting his primary scorers T.J. Warren and Ralston Turner the ball in spots they liked to score. While not a brilliant game-manager at this stage, and certainly not immune to making careless mistakes, Barber did a solid job of getting others involved last season, particularly as the year moved on.
Exactly half of Barber's touches last season came either in pick and roll or isolation situations, and he's a terrific ball-handler who is extremely difficult to stay in front of thanks to how shifty and slithery he is creating offense. This comes in very handy in the open floor, where he sees a good amount of his offense as well, and is able to draw fouls on nearly a quarter of his transition opportunities according to Synergy Sports Technology.
While Barber sports a killer crossover and can blow by the opposition at will with his dynamite first step, he doesn't always know what to do once he's past his man. He's not a great finisher around the basket, converting just 46% of his shots inside the paint last season according to Synergy, as his frail frame makes it difficult to make plays in traffic and he does not possess great touch on his floaters or layups. He loves to drive left, but avoids finishing with his left hand like the plague, which makes for some very awkward finishes around the rim that opposing defenses quickly caught onto and looked to exploit regularly last year.
Barber also struggled badly with his jump-shot last season, making just 12 of his 46 (26%) 3-point attempts, causing defenses to go underneath the screen regularly any time he attempted to initiate a pick and roll. Barber tried to punish them by shoot a large volume of off the dribble jumpers, and found mixed results with that strategy, hitting 36% of his pull-ups. While that's a decent percentage for such a difficult shot, at .741 points per possession, it's something opposing defenses were happy to concede to him whenever he wanted.
Improving his outside shot should be a major priority for Barber considering the value NBA teams place on this facet of the game these days. He seemed to be making strides with shooting as his high school career progressed, as he hit 20 of his 47 3-point attempts (43%) in EYBL play the summer prior to his junior year, and then converted 37/88 (42%) prior to his senior year in the same competition. The additional foot of distance and stingier defenses didn't treat him well in moving to the college game, so it will be interesting to see if he can improve this aspect of his game as a sophomore.
Barber actually has decent mechanics on his jumper with time and space, but struggles badly with his accuracy and touch, coming up with some terrible misses last season where he shot the ball way left or right. This is somewhat of a concern, as it's difficult to make too many adjustments to correct this problem, but the small sample size of attempts does leave some room for optimism that he can figure things out eventually, which he'll certainly need to do.
Defensively, Barber has outstanding potential, as he has quick feet and tremendous lateral quickness, giving him the ability to put excellent pressure on the ball. He can hound his man as he brings the ball up the floor, or play excellent one on one defense in the half-court, even if his focus tends to waver somewhat from time to time.
N.C. State had a difficult time stopping their opponents last season, finishing twelfth in the ACC in defensive efficiency, and Barber's lapses here didn't help. Like many young players, he struggles to stay effective defending off the ball, as he loses his intensity as the possession moves on and tends to fall asleep in his stance. His lack of length makes him easy to shoot over and renders him mostly ineffective in closeout situations, and his frail frame makes it difficult for him to fight over screens. Barber has just average fundamentals on this end of the floor, and doesn't always display the type of hustle you'd like to see—something that is certainly improvable with maturity, good coaching and experience.
With ACC player of the year T.J. Warren off to the NBA, and Tyler Lewis out of the picture, Cat Barber has the reigns to the N.C. State offense all to himself this year, which should tell us quite a bit about what kind of prospect he is long term.
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