Lost in all the shock about the Golden State Warriors being in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes this summer -- it shouldn't be because this wasn't a big secret they'd enter the chase -- is a key player who could have some value pending how you view Harrison Barnes.
How much value is in question. In this report from Monte Poole, Warriors Insider for CSNBayArea.com, the team has reservations about Barnes who was the seventh overall pick in 2012. Barnes is averaging a career-high 11.9 points on 46.5% shooting and 4.5 rebounds. He's also shooting 39.4% from three-point range.
What has made Barnes, who was a key component to their 2014-15 NBA championship team, potentially expendable?
Golden State drafted forward Kevin Looney in 2015 and, according to Poole, his "presence could affect how much the Warriors are willing to go to pay Harrison Barnes, who in July becomes a restricted free agent."
Barnes turned down a four-year, $64 million extension before the season and he will be looking to score a deal that pays him more than Draymond Green who is the more valuable of the two.
Everybody can't be given a max with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson ahead of Barnes on that priority list for Golden State, too.
Assume that the Wizards can't get Durant and Barnes is allowed to walk. How much would you pay for him considering you're betting on his ceiling rather than his individual accomplishment?
Poole, who is well-connected and well-respected in the Bay Area covering sports there for 30-plus years, broke down the view on Barnes from within and around the organization:
Barnes, however, remains an enigma. Chosen 28 picks ahead of Green in the 2012 draft, Barnes manages to be simultaneously the most athletic and least impactful member of the starting lineup. His game-winning jumper last Saturday in Philadelphia notwithstanding, Barnes frazzles at least as often as often as he dazzles.
A little more than halfway through this season, Barnes has not made a strong case to command a megadeal. When he missed 16 games with an ankle sprain, there formed a couple strikes against him. One was that the team did not stumble with his replacement, Brandon Rush, who was coming out of a three-year professional coma. The other was an undercurrent of disenchantment within the organization about Barnes’ slow recovery.
The bottom-line results have been inconclusive, but most assuredly not in Barnes’ favor. The Warriors are 14-1 when he starts at small forward alongside the four regular starters and 16-1 when Rush starts with the same foursome.
Is Barnes still worth the gamble? In the final year of a four-year rookie scale contract that paid him a total of $8.8 million, he has earned a raise.
If he commands a max, the assumption is that he will or something close to it in the inflated open market, who pulls the trigger? What it means to be a max player has become warped but that kind of money suggests a player should be at least the No. 2 option. With the Warriors, Barnes is No. 4 at best.
There's no deferring to the likes of Curry and Thompson when you're the No. 1 or 2 option and it's impossible to gauge who will rise or shrink from those expectations because human behavior is unpredictable. The Wizards have a similar decision to make with Bradley Beal who was taken four spots ahead of Barnes in the 2012 draft as he also will be a restricted free agent. Beal's only issue is health as he is battled-tested in ways that Barnes hasn't been.
The guess here is some team will take that risk as there will be lesser-talented players than Barnes who'll profit and justifiably so. No one is forcing any owner or GM to overbid for services just because of the salary cap explosion ahead.
But they all better be careful because what looks like a great free-agent signing in the summer of 2016 will turn into buyer's remorse by 2018.