Harrison Barnes and the Golden State Warriors parted ways when the defending Western Conference champions inked Kevin Durant to a two-year, $54.3 million deal on July 4, and the former Dubs swingman took time recently to reflect on his departure from the team that drafted him in 2012.
Speaking to The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears, Barnes broke down how his free agency played out and the factors that precipitated his move to the Dallas Mavericks.
"The decision was more so made for me," Barnes said. "I was not necessarily walking away from the situation. I wasn’t saying, 'I don’t want to be here. I want to go there.' But at the same time, I’m very excited about Dallas. It gives me an opportunity to grow."
Indeed, the decision was, for all intents and purposes, made for him.
Golden State had to renounce its rights to Barnes in order to clear space for Durant, and doing so made the 24-year-old an unrestricted free agent. The same held true for fellow restricted-turned-unrestricted free agent Festus Ezeli—whose qualifying offer was also pulled in order to carve out space to fit Durant onto the team's balance sheet.
"You started to kind of hear rumblings," Barnes said of Durant coming to Golden State, per Spears. "Guys were starting to feel like he was probably going to come that way. It wasn’t a surprise he was coming based on talking to the guys. It wasn’t like, 'Boom, boom' [after Durant’s decision]."
Barnes also discussed the Warriors' NBA Finals defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers. They assumed a commanding 3-1 series lead before LeBron James and Kyrie Irving took over in Games 5, 6 and 7.
“For a number of reasons, I will never forget losing that Finals," he said, per Spears. "Obviously, for a championship's sake. We won so many games, and we come up short. The fact that I didn’t hit shots. Even if I was playing well at that time, we lost. The Finals aren’t guaranteed every single year, and that’s what you have to look at."
Barnes averaged a career-high 11.7 points on 46.6 percent shooting from the field and 38.3 percent shooting from three during the regular season, but his effectiveness plummeted significantly with a second straight Larry O'Brien Trophy on the line.
Once the Finals heartbreak waned and the free-agency drama blew over, Barnes inked a monster four-year, $94 million deal with the Mavericks that justified his decision to turn down a four-year, $64 million extension offer from the Warriors last fall.
|Harrison Barnes in the 2016 NBA Finals|
All told, Barnes averaged 9.3 points on 35.2 percent shooting from the field and 31 percent shooting from three in the Finals. He also logged an offensive rating of 92—the lowest among any Warriors player who logged at least 100 minutes in the championship series.
Now tasked with shouldering a larger load for a Western Conference club that resides in the middle of the pack, Barnes will eventually be viewed as a franchise cornerstone and primary scoring option.
"You're going to see a lot more to his game than you've seen in the past," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said, per ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon. "I think he can do a lot more than he's been asked to do, and that's what we expect to see. ... Maybe not first year, but I think he's going to grow into [the role of go-to guy]."
Dallas may be stuck in neutral a bit from a personnel standpoint with loaded squads like the Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers residing in a more elite tier atop the Western Conference, but they can still experience plenty of success over the next few years by developing Barnes into a true superstar.
And if that happens, Barnes may one day have a chance to exact his revenge on the Warriors when the postseason rolls around.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.