Barnes will be 22 years old by the time next season starts, and he already has the physique of a stud player. In addition, he has some of the tools one would expect a good if not great perimeter player to possess.
Barnes has a solid first step, decent jump shot and a post-up game he can break out in case of emergency. Barnes is not yet a great ball-handler, but that is something he can work on and improve with time.
Given that Barnes is so young and talented, one might wonder what could possibly prompt the Warriors to consider trading him.
Taking a Step Back
Barnes has regressed as a player when compared to his first season with the Warriors.
The second-year forward is averaging more points (10), made field goals (3.6) and assists per game (1.4). However, this is not the product of his game reaching new heights.
Rather, Barnes is playing more minutes in comparison to last season, which explains the increase in some of his production. When we look at his statistics per 36 minutes, the numbers indicate he has taken a step back in the previously mentioned categories.
Barnes marginally improved in other areas (blocks, steals and turnovers), but his overall shooting has plummeted. That can be attributed to his role change.
As a rookie, Barnes started 81 games for Golden State, and he was good enough to warrant an All-Rookie first-team selection. Barnes really took off during the 2013 playoffs after David Lee was injured in the first round against the Denver Nuggets.
Barnes became Golden State’s stretch power forward and flourished in the role. He pulled away bigger defenders and beat them off the dribble for scores.
Also, the Dubs used him in the pick-and-roll, where smaller defenders switched onto him. Barnes took them down into the low block, where he seemingly scored on every occasion. He averaged 16.1 points per game during the playoffs, which prompted many to believe Barnes was a star in the making.
Fast-forward to 2013-14, Barnes is the Warriors’ sixth man (because of the addition of Andre Iguodala), and he seems to understand its requirements in theory. Barnes shared his thoughts with Marcus Thompson II of the Bay Area News Group:
When you’re coming off the bench, you’re expected to come in and produce. No matter the situation or what the defense is doing, you’ve got to bring something. Obviously, people will load up on our starters, so I’m needed to come in and score as well as defend and rebound.
Although Barnes appears to be familiar with his tasks, he has struggled coming off the bench. Barnes is only hitting 40.6 percent of his shots, mostly because he has been unable to convert around the basket.
Have a look at the breakdown of his shooting numbers from last season and this one, based on the location of his attempts courtesy of NBA.com:
|Shot Location||2012-13 FG%||2013-14 FG%|
|In the Paint (Non-Restricted Area)||32.5||34.6|
The majority of his field-goal attempts in both years have come directly at the rim. However, Barnes has had trouble finishing these shots this season because he’s been a little out of control in the half court. Head coach Mark Jackson has made him the hub of the bench’s offense, but he is ill-equipped to handle the added responsibilities.
Barnes is not a great ball-hander, nor does he fully grasp the nuances involved with attacking set defenses.
Watch him try to take on the Indiana Pacers defense below:
Barnes is usually terrific in transition, provided he is not the one leading the break. When he does it himself, at times, things like this happen:
Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes offered this observation on Barnes: “It’s unclear where the notion of Barnes-as-creator originated, but we’ve got more than enough evidence to know now that the small forward should only score when set up by others.”
Barnes has been pressing throughout the season, and this seems like it has happened because of his demotion. It’s an interesting ongoing development given that he is actually getting more minutes than last year.
Nonetheless, his regression could be reason enough to trade him away to ensure Golden State gets great value for him before everyone realizes he might not be as good as advertised.
Harrison Barnes: A Great Asset
Barnes’ young age, coupled with his cheap contract, makes him a fairly big trade chip.
He is scheduled to be eligible for a qualifying offer in 2016-17, per Sham Sports, which means Barnes is essentially signed until the end of that season. What’s more, he will earn a total of about $9.5 million between this season and the conclusion of 2016-17.
For the sake of context, teammate Stephen Curry will earn more than that by the end of 2013-14 ($9.9 million). Barnes’ deal makes him an attractive commodity that teams will likely covet.
General managers have gotten smarter as a whole, and they understand that short and low-dollar deals are the best way to build teams. Zach Lowe echoed that sentiment over at Grantland:
“Teams are becoming very risk-averse about taking on anything above $5 million or so, even if the player in question has real value. The CBA plays a role in that, since the tax penalties are so onerous now.”
Because Barnes will make on average just about $3 million over the life of his deal, teams will naturally have an interest in securing his services.
Barnes has some serious potential and could one day morph into an All-Star. The comparison that comes to mind is Luol Deng. Obviously, Deng is more advanced in his development considering the fact he is in the midst of his ninth season, but there are similarities between the players.
Both are decent shot creators who thrive when their teammates set them up for scores. Because of their respective heights (both are listed at 6’8”), they can play power forward in some small-ball lineups and help run the opposition off the floor.
Deng is unquestionably the better defender at this point. He competes on every possession and uses his physical tools to bother opponents. Deng contests shots with great discipline because he crowds shooters with his length without necessarily jumping.
Also, Deng is quick enough to contain most perimeter players. Barnes possesses these physical attributes, but he has not yet figured out how to put it all together on the defensive end.
Still, the fact that Barnes is in the same conversation as Deng says a lot about how talented he is. Consider this nugget: Deng will have pocketed $14.3 million for his 2013-14 campaign once the season ends.
Needless to say, getting a younger version of him at roughly a fifth of the cost is enough to make a few front-office executives drool.
Thus, the Warriors should be able to present a few prospective moves to other franchises. For instance, Golden State could complete a three-team trade involving the Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Despite signing Smith to a four-year, $54 million contract last offseason, Detroit now wants him gone, per ESPN.com’s (Insider subscription required) Chad Ford: “They made a serious push to find a new home for Josh Smith, but given his sizable contract, the Pistons couldn’t get any buyers.”
The trade allows Detroit to get out from Smith’s contract, and also, the Pistons get an actual small forward to put alongside their interior duo of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.
The Cavs get Lee in a move that gives Cleveland some offense. The Cavaliers have had a bottom-third offense for the past three seasons and can definitely use some scoring.
Lee is a good post-up player and a terrific finisher at the basket. He would be a great pick-and-roll partner to Kyrie Irving.
For the Warriors, the trade gives them bench help (Jack averaged 12.9 points and 5.6 assists as a reserve in his lone season with Golden State) and an athletic frontcourt player in Smith.
Smith is a good defensive player who guards interior and perimeter players. Also, he is a good passer (averages 3.2 assists per game for his career whereas Lee produces 2.4) as well as a great finisher at the rim. Smith would be a terror out on the break, and his ball-handling makes him a big threat in the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop.
Smith is currently a pariah in Detroit because of his contract and awful shot selection, but it’s worth noting he is playing out of position. During his time with the Atlanta Hawks, Smith played closer to the basket and often looked exceptional.
In Golden State, Smith would play at his natural position of power forward and possibly give the Warriors the best defensive frontcourt in basketball with Iguodala and Andrew Bogut alongside him. The Dubs probably lose a little on the rebounding front in trading Lee for Smith, but they acquire a player who brings in effort plays in the form of steals and blocks, something Lee does not provide.
This is but one of the potential deals out there involving Barnes.
The Warriors should trade Barnes in the offseason, provided they find a deal that makes the team better.
The forward’s game has slipped a little, and that should certainly give the front office a reason to pause. Barnes simply might not be cut out for a second-unit role with Golden State, which means he might not produce in the fashion the franchise hopes going forward.
Still, his potential, in conjunction with his low salary, makes him an attractive bargaining chip. Barnes could very well become an All-Star one day, but the future for the Warriors is now.
The Dubs have a cast of talented players as well as a few young athletes (Draymond Green and Klay Thompson) who should be on the team for the long haul. Make no mistake, though, the Warriors should not be waiting for their guys to develop before going all in on a title chase.
Indeed, if the organization is serious about raising the Larry O’Brien Trophy, management has to upgrade the roster.
In an interview with Sporting News’ Sean Deveney, Warriors owner Joe Lacob clearly stated his intentions: “We have made it clear we want a championship. We will spend the money. I said I would be willing to go into the luxury tax for that, and we would have.”
Trading away Barnes for All-Star talent or a player close to that will probably result in an increase in payroll since Barnes is still playing under his rookie contract (quite cheap).
Should general manager Bob Myers sign off on a swap that brings in Josh Smith and Jarrett Jack for Barnes and David Lee, Golden State’s player salaries would increase by roughly $2 million.
Lacob has made it clear that the financial component would not be an obstacle to building a championship team. Barnes is young and incredibly affordable. Therefore, there will most certainly be a market for him this offseason.
Statistics accurate as of March 6, 2014.