I'm writing this just after Game 5 of the NBA Finals. It's nearly 2 a.m. Lebron James and Kyrie Irving have each put on magnificent performances, scoring 41 each, the first time that's ever happened in a Finals game. The Warriors just lost a close out game at home, mainly due to the aforementioned Cavalier superstars, but also because their role players absolutely crapped the bed. The main culprit: Harrison Barnes.
The 24-year-old free-agent-to-be Harrison Barnes is one player I am absolutely petrified of the Dallas Mavericks pursuing in free agency. He should be seeking out a max deal. I've watched him the past two seasons, particularly this postseason. He's simply not worth it.
Barnes headlined his "effort" in Game 5 of the Finals shooting a godawful 2-of-14 from the field, while grabbing just five rebounds in 38 minutes of action. Half of his shots were wide open, per SportsVU tracking data, and in a game his team needed him, he came up short time and again in humiliating fashion. Harrison Barnes averaged 12 points and five rebounds in the regular season, and he's averaging 10 points and five rebounds in the postseason. To call his 2-of-14 performance an aberration wouldn't be fair, because he has been terrible this postseason.
Most people still believe there's a team out there that will pay him $20 million per year or more next season -- a max contract, just about. That is patently insane. I'm not going to be so obtuse as to say Harrison Barnes is not good at basketball. But is he THAT good at basketball? Have you WATCHED him? I see fan after fan on social media pining for a player who is, at best the FIFTH best guy on his team. Is that really what we want? What about his game would indicate that he's capable of becoming a superstar type player?
Fit with the Mavericks
Look, I get it, I really do. You look Harrison Barnes and see youth and potential and hope. You look at Chandler Parsons and see a 27-year-old with two knee surgeries and a short track record of success. You're investing yourself in the potential of Barnes, in the je ne sais quoi that comes with a player who gets minutes with a spectacular team. But I'm also willing to guess you haven't seen many of Barnes' games.
Barnes is an O.J. Mayo redux. You remember that situation, right? A former high school superstar in need of a second chance on a NBA team? Mayo got his minutes and rode a single hot month with the Mavericks to a three-year deal with the Bucks. While riding that hot month he performed like hot garbage time and again as Rick Carlisle broke his spirit as he attempted to get more from a talented player. That's the Harrison Barnes trajectory. That's the guy who has shot 42 percent from the field in the playoffs despite a ridiculous number of open looks.
In Dallas he'd be a combo small forward/power forward, which is often what he plays in Golden State. Unlike his role with the Warriors, he'd be expected to do a heck of a lot more than score the occasional bucket. The Mavericks would need Barnes to assume a primary or secondary scoring option on offense while possibly guarding the best opposing big man on defense. Barnes' role on the Warriors works now because he's a cog in the death machine that is Golden State. He'd need to grow by leaps and bounds to even begin to fulfill a massive contract in Dallas.
I'm sure there will be a lot of #WellActually comments. But I can tell you after having watched over 100 Warriors games in the last two seasons, this is a player the Mavericks need to run from, fast. The problem is his pedigree. Barnes LOOKS like a spectacular player. He's 6'8 and 215 pounds. He went to the University of North Carolina. He was drafted no. 7 overall. He's charming and smart and fits the kind of mold the NBA wants from it's most visible players.
But he is not good. Or at least, not good enough to justify a deal that might pay him more at it's apex than the Mavericks ever paid franchise deity Dirk Nowitzki. And that's what the market will dictate. There's that much free agency money on the market. If you don't believe me, well, hold onto your butts.
Let's revisit that 2-of-14 performance on Monday. I'd estimate at least seven of his attempts were wide open and he missed them badly. When given the chance to shine this postseason, Barnes has been boom or bust -- he's had good moments, but there's been just as many games were he missed 12 mostly open shots. I can understand fans talking themselves into potential at 24, but as Mavericks fans we've done that far too many times over the last decade with inferior talent. And while Barnes is not 'inferior', that's one heck of an investment to make.
Barnes has played 22 games in the 2016 playoffs. He's shot at or under 40 percent thirteen times. THIRTEEN TIMES. On a team with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston, Andre Igoudala and a host of other players who are all excellent at getting teammates open looks, either through passing or sheer gravity. He's not a strong dribbler. He's not a great shooter. He's tallish and can in theory defend well in a phenomenal team structure. Is that worth gambling a max on? The Mavericks already have one gamble like that in Wesley Matthews and he's a harder worker and gutsier player.
I don't know what else to say. He's not a fit. I'm tired of Dirk Nowitzki playing with players who don't come close to matching his effort or will. Harrison Barnes is not worth a max contract. Chandler Parsons is better and fits the system. I'd say unless something bizarre happens, the Mavericks won't do more than inquire as to Barnes' interest.
Despite my doom and gloom prognostications, Barnes as a Dallas Maverick is a non-starter.