Harrison Barnes is Frustrating

Mar 30, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Harrison Barnes (40) dribbles the ball during the first quarter against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 30, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Harrison Barnes (40) dribbles the ball during the first quarter against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports /

Harrison Barnes is up for free agency this summer. Despite being a starter on a historic team, he can be frustrating and disappointing.

Harrison Barnes 2016 campaign has been a flat out disappointment, despite many Warriors fans like myself having high hopes for Barnes coming into this season.

“Harry B” turned down a four year, $64 million extension this offseason that perplexed many who follow the Warriors, especially since Draymond Green signed an extension that saw him take slightly less money for the sake of the team. Look, I get it. Barnes won’t be playing basketball forever, and financial security should absolutely be on the mind of any professional athlete before he signs any contract.

But let’s put things into perspective here. The NBA’s salary cap is set to explode next year to somewhere around $90 million for the 2016-2017 season. Barnes knew what he was doing when he turned down the Warriors contract extension before the season. Barnes is going to get paid, no matter how his 2016 season ends.

Before I start, let me be clear. Barnes is very important to what the Warriors do. On defense, he can defend guards when he’s switched onto them, and he holds his ground when bigger forwards go to work on him in the post. On offense, he’s the “power forward” in the Warriors’ death lineup, and he has the ability to get clutch offensive rebounds and putback dunks. They say you can never have enough of a good thing, and having Barnes out there gives Golden State the luxury of excess spacing, despite Barnes shooting a career low 33% from the corner. Along with the season long brick house Barnes has been building, he seems to miss a couple bunny layups a game. I’m not going to go as far as calling Barnes soft,  but Barnes missing two weeks of games, including the primetime Christmas game, didn’t help his case.

Whether you like it or not, Harrison Barnes will get a max contract this summer. The reasons to retain Barnes at any cost are obvious. Along with the organization’s general affinity for Barnes, he has a track record of playing well in the playoffs and the chemistry the Warriors have developed the past few seasons may take a hit. But how would Warriors’ players react to Barnes being the highest paid player? He’s the team’s fourth scoring option and sixth-ish best player. If Barnes gets resigned to max money and has another season like this, the criticism will reach new heights.

Truth is, if Barnes doesn’t have a playoff run similar to the one he had as a rookie, he probably won’t be resigned. If he weren’t to be retained, who would take his place?

In house option Brandon Rush has to be a top choice. He’ll be cheaper than Barnes and he fits perfectly with the gang of long, rangy wings the Warriors already have. He’s recovered well from the knee injury he sustained a couple seasons ago, and played very well for Barnes when he missed games earlier in the season.

Nicolas Batum will also likely be at the top of the list. Batum’s excellent ballhandling at the  guard/forward position would fit very well next to Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, or Angre Iguodala in the backcourt. He can also play the 4, and his high IQ passing ability and overall versatility would be a perfect mix with the Warriors.

Chandler Parsons is also a name that has been thrown out there, but Parson’s knee issues and post defense would make him a less than ideal choice. The Warriors could also do something like move Iguodala back to the starting lineup and sign former Warrior Kent Bazemore, but that scenario is unlikely. And of course there’s Kevin Durant, but that case is a discussion for another day.

Fact of the matter is Barnes becomes more expendable with every clank off the rim. Barnes has had high expectations coming out of North Carolina in 2012, but has yet to cash in on the potential he flashes every so often. Despite Barnes’ down year, the Warriors are 68-8 and would probably be best off with Barnes resigning. However, due to teams around the league having an excess of cash flow, it’s unlikely Harrison Barnes will be playing for anything under the max next season.

The next couple months is likely to be Barnes’ last in the blue and gold unless he finishes strong.