At this time last year, the Golden State Warriors were so pleased with Harrison Barnes' progress he was nearly untouchable in trade discussions. Barnes' season-long sophomore slump has apparently softened the organizational stance.
“I believe there’s a possibility that the Golden State Warriors would trade those two guys for Tyson Chandler,” Smith said, via ESPN's Ian Begley. “I’m not saying it’s definite but I really believe in my heart they would do it. And if there’s a possibility that they would do it, the New York Knicks have got to investigate it.”
We covered the myriad reasons why that deal, as constituted, would make little sense for Golden State. Long story short: It's a poor basketball fit, the Warriors aren't interested in contract dumps and selling Barnes at that price is akin to peddling Enron stock in 2004. As Marcus Thompson of the Mercury News put it: "Outside of helping [general manager Bob] Myers buddy up to Phil Jackson, this deal does nothing for the Warriors."
More interesting is the concept of Barnes as a trade commodity. Last summer, Barnes was the ever-expanding bubble whose stock around the league kept getting bigger and bigger. He parlayed a fine rookie season into an excellent postseason as a small-ball 4, leaving many around the league to speculate he was finally scratching the potential that made him one of the highest-touted prep prospects of the last decade. The Warriors saw him as a star in the making and treated him as such.
In 2013-14, that bubble burst.
Barnes, playing mostly as a reserve for the first time in ages, stagnated or regressed in nearly every important category. He shot a hair under 40 percent from the field and was less productive from a scoring and rebounding perspective on a per-minutes basis. The Warriors were 14.1 points per 100 possessions worse with him on the floor this past season. While there is some noise in that number—Golden State's bench as a whole was dreadful—Barnes' inability to lead the second unit raised some eyebrows.
“Last year was definitely a step back from what I was trying to build on my rookie year, so now the biggest thing is when the expectations are on the ground, you’ve got to be motivated and disciplined,” Barnes told reporters this month.
The 22-year-old forward attributed some of his struggles to a lack of solid night-to-night role. On some nights, particularly when Andre Iguodala was injured, Barnes started. In others, he came off the bench. Barnes said he feels he'll improve next season simply by proxy of a more defined role.
Whether that happens in Golden State is another question entirely.
Barnes, Lee and Klay Thompson were mentioned by ESPN's Marc Stein as the pieces who would likely go to Minnesota as part of a deal for Kevin Love. The disgruntled All-Star is said to have told Timberwolves management he will opt out of his contract next summer, leaving them little choice other than to shop him on the open market. A deal with Golden State is not imminent—nor is it even likely—but Barnes would probably need to be involved for the Wolves to pull the trigger.
In some ways, a change of scenery might do Barnes well. He was often used strangely last season by former head coach Mark Jackson, and Iguodala's presence means Barnes probably won't be a regular starter for at least another season or two. Given the Warriors' desire to cobble assets designed to win now, a still-developing Barnes may no longer be in their plans, either.
The door is definitely open for a Barnes-centric deal. Just don't go running amok with wild speculation amid the NBA's pillowy cloud of smokescreens being thrown around.
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