As a talent like Harrison Barnes approaches restricted free agency, we gauge his potential value on a few factors:
First, his value to the team. Second, his relative value around the league compared to similar players at similar ages. And third, the general market value as the salary cap starts to rise.
Barnes is currently making a paltry $3.8M while finishing up his rookie contract, and is set for a very large raise to come. His value to the team has been more prevalent by the year as his production goes up and his fit in the offense and defense evolves. There is no question Barnes is becoming one of the league's elite players on both ends, and the Warriors should look to grow with him as he continues to evolve while still wearing a Golden State jersey.
The question will be: can they afford to do that?
As pointed out, the league is about to travel into uncharted waters. With the salary cap rising and player values going up, Barnes is about to hit a free agency pool where players of his skill are commanding $15-$20M a year. With Draymond Green's large contract on the books for the new low price of $14M next season, this actually might be a discount as we start to see players of similar ages and similar skills predicting new contracts.
How can we start the comparison? Lets take a player that many regard to be a similar age, similar skill set and similar value in the NBA, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
The above is a small sample size of statistics, but plenty around the NBA view these two players as similar values to their team.
Both play elite defense, both provide specific value to their offense (Barnes shoots much better from beyond the arc, and MKG has had a serious refinement of his jump shot over time but it's starting to show much more value). But neither would be called their team's first offensive option. Both have been scrutinized for disappearing in games and neither could be called a piece that you build a franchise around.
The problem is in the new NBA, players like this are getting bigger contracts because the league has the money, and specific skills are worth more these days than before. This puts teams like the Warriors (and the Hornets for that matter) in the bad position of having to pay "market" value to keep their role players while also paying their stars record setting deals. Is it fair and justified? Probably not. But it's the reality.
Kidd-Gilchrist was nearing a four year $52M contract on Monday, and many think he is worth every penny. This begs the question as to where we see Barnes's potential salary developing into. Will he demand more than MKG on the open market? Are there other players that you see as a better comparison for a potential Barnes contract?
From around the League
Call me negative here, but I believe there is a reason Harrison Barnes has been shopped around multiple times over the last few years. I think if the Warriors found a star to pair up at the forward spot with the Splash Brothers, they would move Barnes for another talent. I believe Barnes is going to get paid $15M a year, but I'm not 100% sure it will be from the Warriors.