His face is smooth as a baby's bottom, almost as smooth as his jump shot.

He works a basketball court, as well as a room, with choreographed comfort, as if he has been rehearsing in front of a mirror six days a week since fourth grade.

Harrison Barnes is bright, polite and polished, almost processed.

There is a lot to like, even admire, about the latest answer to the Warriors' prayers.

But no matter how happy the Warriors are, and they're singing in the key of giddy, it's unfair to expect Barnes to reach the thin-air heights of the hype that preceded him.

More to the point, such expectations are unwarranted.

Barnes, 20, was identified as a basketball prodigy in middle school. He was signing autographs as a high school sophomore at Ames High (Iowa) and was rated by some services as the No. 1 national recruit when he Skyped -- yes, Skyped -- his commitment to coach Roy Williams at fabled North Carolina.

That's where the competition, far superior to anything Barnes had experienced in the heartland, narrowed the gap.

Barnes was good, occasionally superb, but rarely dominating and too often disappointing. His two-season legacy with the Tar Heels, which ended with a 20-for-61 shooting performance in the 2012 NCAA tournament, was unexceptional -- especially when compared to the brief collegiate exploits of those who entered with similar credentials. His impact was well short of, say, Carmelo Anthony at Syracuse, Kevin Love at UCLA or Derrick Rose at Memphis.

Warriors fans viewing Barnes through the prism of his high school accolades will be disappointed.

Those basing expectations on his college achievements -- and I'm in that group -- will need to lower the bar from the level typically reserved for the No. 7 pick in the NBA draft.

Barnes says he understands the skepticism but urges patience before issuing a label.

"A lot of people were upset about the way things ended, and rightfully so," Barnes says of his final college game, an 80-67 Elite Eight loss to Kansas during which he scored eight points in the final four minutes of the first half but only one basket the rest of the game. "We had a lot of talent, and I came up short in the tournament.

"But in terms of me being great or me being a bust or whatever, that is yet to be determined. I'm going to continue to come out and work as hard as I can. Whatever my ceiling is, I plan to reach it."

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the question. What, exactly, is his potential?

As a citizen, it's unlimited. Barnes was an honors student, has a mature sense of culture along with a discerning eye for finances. When he returned to Carolina for his sophomore season, he said in an interview with The Atlantic magazine -- The Atlantic -- that he wanted to better build his "brand."

It wouldn't surprise me if Barnes, who comports himself with the composed elegance of Shane Battier, someday becomes a Fortune 500 CEO.

But he's in Oakland to play basketball. The Warriors need him to be a star, or something close. That's going to be the hard part.

Barnes has a nice stroke but is streaky, like Jamal Crawford. He's silky and skilled but lacks the killer first step of the young Paul Pierce. He played a lot at guard in Ames but doesn't have a particularly good handle, like Jason Richardson. The Warriors still have no wing who can create off the dribble, because Barnes is not that guy.

Most troubling, though, is that Barnes' ruthlessness rarely surfaces. Skill without fierce determination is why Chase Budinger is not Andre Iguodala and why Kobe Bryant never had to worry about Vince Carter.

"A lot people have a lot of things to say not just about me but about this team ... that's just more motivation," Barnes says. "Seeing that we've only been to the playoffs once in the last 18 years and the last All-Star was Latrell Sprewell in 1997, that's just more motivation."

Barnes knows the history well enough to realize he's in position to make a difference here. But can he?

We've seen mellow, cerebral types (Joe Barry Carroll, Adonal Foyle, Mike Dunleavy) and been unimpressed. We've seen former high school superstars (Chris Washburn), the North Carolina lottery picks (Antawn Jamison, Brandan Wright) and even the French Michael Jordan (Mickael Pietrus).

What we haven't seen since Chris Webber in 1993 is a rookie with the potential to lift the Warriors. I doubt Barnes is that guy.

"I love that," he says, as if ready for the challenge. "We have that extra motivation of everyone saying this team is soft, that they drafted soft players. 'Barnes is from Carolina; he's soft. And now he's joining Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson), who are also soft.' That definitely fuels you. I can't wait to get to summer league."

Barnes says he wants to prove doubters like me are wrong, that he is a baller. For the sake of the Warriors, their long-suffering fans and local basketball, I hope he does.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/1montepoole.