- Rick Scuteri/AP
Golden State Warriors forward Harrison Barnes chose the worst time to slump.
Barnes, the Warriors’ starting small forward, whose versatility as a defender and shooter helps unlock the Warriors’ “Death Lineup,” fell apart in the last three games of the NBA Finals when the spotlight was brightest.
After a solid beginning to the series, through Games 5, 6, and 7 Barnes shot just 15% from the field and 20% from three while averaging five points and three rebounds per game. The Warriors were outscored by 32 with Barnes on the court over the final three games.
The timing couldn’t be worse for Barnes, as he heads into the offseason and restricted free agency. His future is unknown, partially because he made it so. Before the season, Barnes turned down a four-year $64 million extension from the Warriors so he could test the free-agent market this July.
That move wasn’t as foolish as it seems now. With the salary cap exploding and a weak free-agent class, teams across the league will have money to spend. It’s possible that Barnes could get a giant contract from a team that struck out on bigger free agents or from a team looking to add a young, talented player with championship experience.
Barnes took a gamble, and now, after a disastrous finish to the Finals, it doesn’t appear to have paid off.
The lasting image of Barnes for NBA teams may be the Cleveland Cavaliers daring him to beat them from the perimeter. He was unsuccessful.
Barnes’ shot completely abandoned him from all ranges. Even when he moved closer, Barnes shot just 44% from within 8 feet and was brutal in mid-range, shooting just 33%, according to NBA.com/Stats.
It’s generally a blip in the radar for Barnes, who shot 38% from three-point range this season and 37.6% for his career. As a competent defender and rebounder, Barnes certainly has value as a “three and D” player for other teams, and he’s only 24.
But timing is everything in the NBA, and Barnes melted on the its biggest stage two weeks before becoming a free agent. As a restricted free agent, the Warriors have the option to match any offer Barnes receives, and they’re now in a position of power. Teams may be hesitant to throw big money at Barnes. He generally saw a decline in his numbers this season, and after a mediocre postseason, did he do much to prove that he’s worth more than $16 million per year?
If teams don’t come calling with higher prices, then the Warriors could re-sign Barnes at, perhaps, an even lower price. If a team does throw a giant offer his way – say, for $18 million per year – then the Warriors could pass on matching the contract. Barnes’ production could likely be replaced at a lower price.
Teams may be willing to ignore Barnes’ struggles in the postseason, but there’s no doubt that his stock took a hit after a brutal collapse in the Finals.