What to do with Harrison Barnes?

Jun 16, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Harrison Barnes (40) warms up before game six of the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 16, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Harrison Barnes (40) warms up before game six of the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /

Harrison Barnes has had two horrible games in a row in the NBA Finals. What do the Warriors do with him?

Harrison Barnes has been absolutely terrible in the last two games of the NBA Finals.

The Warriors have lost their last two games and it’s not fair to pin that all on Barnes. Most of the team has struggled, but it’s hard not to notice just how bad Barnes has been. The Warriors’ starting small forward is playing his worst basketball of the year at the worst time.

He’s not the focal point of this offense. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green are all higher up on the ladder. Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and Leandro Barbosa are also more involved when they check into the game. Barnes isn’t expected to make things happen for Golden State offensively. He needs to fill the lane properly on fast breaks and be ready to knock down open shots.

That’s it.

The Cavaliers have made a concerted effort to not allow Curry to get going and understandably so. He’s the most explosive offensive force in the league. They’ve been trapping him and double-teaming him as soon as he crosses half court. The Warriors have been moving the ball and getting open shots. Their offense isn’t ideal, but Cleveland has done a good job of having active hands and staying with Curry after he gets rid of the ball. Generally, he passes out of the trap and gets free. He hasn’t been able to do that.

Instead, the Cavs have left Barnes wide open. He’s gotten nearly every shot he wants. And he’s missing. He is 2 for his last 22 from the field, and 1-11 from three over the last two games. It hasn’t been pretty. Bad misses turn into Cleveland fast breaks where LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are nearly unguardable.

Barnes’ ability to stretch the floor makes him valuable in their Death Lineup. Despite not being their first or second option offensively, a lot of what Golden State tries to do falls apart if he isn’t knocking down shots. In Game 1, he was 6-10 with 13 points in a big Warrior win.

The Cavaliers are making wonderful adjustments and attacking mismatches. Cleveland is setting screens for James with either Irving or J.R. Smith in order to get a Curry-on-James matchup. While James isn’t necessarily scoring on the subsequent isolation plays, he is kicking it around and forcing Golden State to rotate once the help defense comes, hitting his shooters for wide open looks. Barnes needs to attack his mismatches. He has a speed advantage over guys like Tristan Thompson and Richard Jefferson and a size advantage over Irving. He needs to make them pay for exerting all their energy on stopping the Splash Bros.

Barnes isn’t just doing his normal disappearing act. In fact, that might even be better. He isn’t just disappearing, getting his cardio in running from corner to corner, he’s actively hurting the team. He’s missing easy looks. He looks lost with no idea what to do with the ball.

So what does Steve Kerr do with him?

Barnes should start. You have to trust the larger sample size and he’s supposed to hit (at least) 38 percent of his three-pointers. With the way he’s played over the last two games, the Warriors would take that in a heartbeat. Golden State should run with their Death Lineup to start the game. It’s what’s gotten them to this point and Barnes is a key cog in that five-man unit on both ends of the floor.

But if he looks like he’s in for another one of those horrible games, Kerr has to pull him fast. He could go small and keep the spacing with a Barbosa or go big and have Festus Ezeli check in for him. In Game 6, Barnes missed a few wide open shots and looked scared. It’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals and you don’t have time to let a player work through his nerves.

Barnes is hurting his stock and he knows it. With free agency right around the corner, his poor showing in the biggest moments has to be a deterrent for whatever team(s) had planned on throwing a lot of money at him. He can’t let his contract situation affect his game, which is a lot easier said than done. This is his future and his family’s future so, of course, he’s concerned. But he has to get out of his own head.

Harrison Barnes can be robotic at times. When he’s driving to the basket or cutting across the lane, he’s just not that smooth. But he, along with every other Golden State Warrior, plays his best when he’s loose and free. He can’t miss the shots before he even takes them. He should continue to shoot, but he needs to make them. And if he isn’t, he should consider taking a step in for a midrange or drive to the basket and get to the line.

The Warriors need Barnes to step up. It’s as simple as that. Though he’s not a star, he’s important to what they do and can’t secure a championship if he continues to hurt them.