And yet, here we are.
Grantland's Zach Lowe took a thorough look at the Dubs' championship chops in his weekly column, and in his examination touched on the team's glaring need for a backup point guard. That's a dead-on assessment, and it's not news to anyone who's watched the Warriors' second unit struggle to do anything on offense.
But to make such an addition, especially one impactful enough to move the proverbial needle, Golden State might have to give up something of value.
They can get a scrap heap guy for basically nothing, but if they want a game-changer, they’ll have to think hard about including their 2019 first-round pick or one of Barnes and Thompson.
The Barnes/Thompson discussion is fascinating, but the Warriors don’t appear ready to have it just yet. Golden State has three major rotation wings in Iguodala, Thompson, and Barnes, and a roster that might one day be in need of an upgrade somewhere else. Barnes and Thompson draw interest as trade chips all over the league, and Barnes hasn’t met the organization’s high expectations for him this season.
This is about as entry-level as trade discussions get. There are no indications that the Warriors are actually looking to make a move involving Barnes, and Lowe doesn't foster hope of anything different. In fact, Lowe included a quote from Warriors general manager Bob Myers that made it pretty clear no major shakeups were imminent:
"We like our core,” Myers says. “We believe in our core, and we believe they will get better.”
That's completely reasonable, even if Barnes hasn't been what the Dubs hoped he'd be in his second season.
Statistically, Barnes is largely the same player he was as a rookie, notable increase in three-point accuracy notwithstanding. From a style perspective, the rangy forward has actually regressed.
Barnes is thinking too much, tossing fakes and hesitations galore into every move and making things much harder than they have to be.
Part of the problem is the way he's used. Head coach Mark Jackson is in love with giving Barnes the ball in isolation sets and on the block, asking him to create shots in a way he simply can't at this stage of his development. If all Barnes did was shoot spot-up threes and cut away from the ball, he'd be a beast.
But the Warriors aren't unleashing him in that way for some reason.
That gets to the bigger question of whether or not the Warriors will ever maximize Barnes' considerable raw talent. With the handsomely paid Andre Iguodala entrenched at small forward and Klay Thompson a substantially better player than Barnes on both ends, it's hard to see a major role ever developing or becoming a reality.
Golden State needs help elsewhere, and Barnes could be the guy to help it get it. It's just extremely difficult to formulate a potential return that would make a deal worthwhile.
Options, Palatable and Otherwise
Comparables for Barnes' market value are hard to come by. Thomas Robinson, selected ahead of Barnes in the 2012 draft, fell out of favor quickly and brought back minimal returns in two separate trades last year. It's safe to say the Warriors would have no interest in a similar collection of second-round picks and middling talent if they were to swap Barnes.
If Golden State is serious about upgrading its point guard situation, it may have missed a chance to snatch up Kyle Lowry. The Toronto Raptors have been surging lately, decreasing their desire to dump Lowry's expiring deal for assets. If Toronto changed its tune, the Warriors could send Barnes and salary filler north of the border to get a deal done.
But even if the Warriors were interested, the Raptors already have DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross playing well since Rudy Gay left town.
It'd be similarly hard to see the Dubs parting with Barnes for Andre Miller, who has been on the block since an in-game tirade earned him a brief suspension. The same goes for Ramon Sessions' expiring contract and Jameer Nelson, whose deal is only guaranteed for $2 million beyond this season.
All of those players would help Golden State in the short term. But moving a 21-year-old with loads of potential for a veteran rental who'd only provide a bench boost would be a difficult step to take for Myers and the front office.
Atlanta Hawks scoring guard Louis Williams is an intriguing option. He could fill the shoot-first point guard role Jarrett Jack held down last year, while the Hawks would get a piece around which they could build for the future. Williams' numbers are down this year, and he'll be owed $5 million next season, putting the Dubs in a tough financial spot.
At any rate, he seems like a better trade target than any of the aforementioned vets.
My personal favorite made-up deal doesn't involve a point guard at all. Instead, it's a swap that would send Barnes to the Milwaukee Bucks for former UNC teammate John Henson. The salaries match up nicely, and the Bucks have more than their share of lanky frontcourt players.
Plus, Milwaukee has already committed big money to Larry Sanders, who does many of the same things Henson does. Perhaps the Bucks would have interest in the sturdier Barnes as a change of pace from their uniformly skeletal forward corps.
Playing It Smart
The Warriors are depending on Jermaine O'Neal and Festus Ezeli to bolster the frontcourt when they return from injury. That's a dubious proposition, especially considering O'Neal's age and the severity of Ezeli's knee surgery. In the meantime, Marreese Speights and David Lee playing backup center to Andrew Bogut creates a defensive catastrophe on a nightly basis.
Perhaps Golden State would be better served by addressing its second unit's defense instead of its point guard issues.
Someday, the Warriors will probably have to choose between Thompson and Barnes. But the logistics of extending one or the other's rookie deals won't force Golden State's hand for another couple of years.
Plus, we still haven't seen the Dubs utilize Barnes in the stretch 4 role much at all this year. Maybe that's a trick Jackson is saving up, which would mean we have yet to see the best of Barnes.
Golden State needs a point guard, and Barnes could pretty easily secure it one as a trade piece. But it's probably not wise to cut bait on a player with such a bright future in exchange for modest improvement in the near term.
There are some options out there, but the Warriors' best move might be making no move at all.