NBA: The Harrison Barnes Debate

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By: Rossy Pasternak

The NBA Rookie Contract Extension Deadline has passed, and Harrison Barnes is without a contract. That means that Barnes will be a Restricted Free Agent (RFA), after this season. A RFA can negotiate with other teams during the free-agency period, but the incumbent team will have the chance to match any offer sheet (contract from another team) that the player signs.

Barnes is one of the most interesting cases of a rookie going without a deal in recent history. A highly-recruited player out of high school, Barnes went to UNC, and did not live up to the hype, although he did play well. His potential, and obviously his great skill set, kept him as a lottery pick despite his struggles. Barnes was drafted by the Golden State Warriors 7th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, one pick before the Toronto Raptors picked Terrance Ross. Barnes broke out in his rookie season during the playoffs, where he played power forward in the Warriors’ upset of the Denver Nuggets, and during their series against the Spurs. Since then, Barnes has established himself as the 4th wheel in the Warriors’ starting lineup, the catch-and-shoot and rebounding threat that fills exactly the role the Warriors need him to.

The problem with Barnes’ contract situation is how do you place a value on someone who plays the role his team wants him to perfectly? Barnes is most likely capable of being the 2nd or 3rd best player on a playoff team, is probably capable of scoring around 17 PPG, and could be a star in this league if he wasn’t playing behind Curry, Thomson, Green, and Iguadala. Barnes obviously is worth more than Terrance Ross, who got $33 Million over 3 years, but is he worth more than someone like DeMarre Carroll, who got $16 Mil per year? Is he worth more?

The reason Barnes is so confident and comfortable not signing an extension now, and waiting to the offseason, is because he knows the cap will only continue to rise, and his value will continue to go up once players like Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, DeMar DeRozan, and Chandler Parsons, and are no longer available in free agency.

The Case to Pay the Man

Barnes will get paid, that is for certain. Just how big his payday will be is up for debate. My closest comparison in recent NBA free agency is Chandler Parsons a couple of years ago. Parsons got a three year deal worth $15 Million a year, and arguably. With the cap increase, Barnes should be at least worth that much, and probably more. Personally, I would rather pay Harrison Barnes for the next four years to play the role he is in now, than pay for a replacement who would cost just as much, and doesn’t possess the same chemistry with the Warriors’ core players. Andre Iguadala is a soon-to-be free agent as well, which means the depth at Barnes’ position is not great.

If I was the Warriors front office, I would have loved to lock up Barnes long-term before this season began. However, that did not happen, and the Warriors will have to live with the way Barnes plays this year, and with the market Barnes creates with his play, and in restricted free agency. Barnes, if he doesn’t get paid by the Warriors, will get paid by someone, else, and Golden State will be stuck with the difficult decision to match a bigger contract, or let Barnes walk.

My prediction is that Barnes signs an offer sheet with a team like the 76ers or Trail Blazers who have a lot of cap space, and are in need of players at his position. I think he will get something along the lines of 4 years, $72 Million, and the Warriors will match the contract. This is a big year for Barnes, and a big year for the Warriors as well. Look for both he and the team to take their play to another level; a scary thought for the rest of the NBA.

What do you think? Comment below!

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