As basketball Twitter continues its summer tour of hating Harrison Barnes, it wouldn't shock me if Barnes would actually be of help to a Team USA squad that has somehow engineered panic and outcry over a somewhat dominant 5-0 start in the Rio Olympics.
Specifically, I'm not sure why DeMar DeRozan is getting minutes while Barnes isn't. The international game is hyper-focused on threes and defense -- the shorter 3-point line in FIBA play is there to be taken advantage of, and the shorter court geometry because of that 3-point line means long-limbed wings who can shoot rule the roost.
DeRozan is neither a great shooter nor a great defender, yet he has played 58 minutes in the Olympics. Barnes is I think a pretty good shooter and a pretty good defender and he hasn't played the last three games.
This isn't a case of Barnes being a better player than DeRozan. The gap between DeRozan and Barnes talent level as singular NBA players is wider than the Grand Canyon. This is a case of Barnes filling a very specific, very small role better than DeRozan...in theory.
Because honestly, the last time Barnes played meaningful minutes in an important game that was close, he shrunk into rookie year Jae Crowder. So there's that worry.
But it's clear that DeRozan isn't working. He's not a good defender and USA is getting blasted more than the Sixers when he's on the floor. Over the last three games, USA has a net rating of -30 when DeRozan is on the court, with the team defending and scoring worse than any other player's impact on the roster.
Not only does DeRozan's lack of defensive chops hurt, his offense is a bad fit. DeRozan is a slasher, great with the ball in his hands and knifing into the defense. The problem with Team USA is they have enough scoring -- if someone is going to demand the ball, they need someone who can distribute and while DeRozan has made strides the last few years as a playmaker, he's not a floor general. Instead, DeRozan can be seen earning free throws or attacking close outs with mid-range jumpers.
On a team with Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Klay Thompson, Paul George and Kyrie Irving, are you more concerned with what they can do or a DeRozan pull-up 15-footer? DeRozan isn't shooting poorly, but he cramps USA's ball movement and spacing when he's on the floor, pounding the air out of the ball with dribble drives when the team desperately needs that release valve player to either move the ball or hit open threes -- DeRozan not only hasn't made a three pointer in the Olympics, he's only taken two. He's zero threat standing outside the line without the ball.
In theory, again, Barnes could be better. Before he came down with basketball malaria during the Finals, Barnes was perfectly fine as a role player who feasted upon the open looks better players got for him. He should be able to fill the same role with Team USA as he did with Golden State, where better players can create his open looks and his defensive versatility can be crucial.
Of course, after three DNP-CDs, I very much doubt Barnes is suddenly going to be thrust into meaningful minutes in the knockout round. The more likely scenario is what The Ringer's Jonathan Tjarks suggested -- shorten the minutes and instead of replacing DeRozan's minutes with another bench player, replace them with more minutes for your wing studs like Durant, Thompson and George.
If USA is determined to keep those minutes for the stars the same though, Barnes over DeRozan is definitely worth a look.