I thought Apricot did a great job summarizing the Golden State Warriors' negotiations with Harrison Barnes thus far in his Tuesday article, which was deservedly selected as Best of SB Nation-NBA this week— a lot happened in a short amount of time, at least in terms of how the negotiations became public, and that's about as clear a rundown as you'll find if you need to catch up a bit.
But of all the reactions to Barnes' signing that I read this week, the one nugget that really stood out was a quote that seemed to go overlooked by many folks from Ethan Sherwood Strauss' ESPN article about the four-year, $64 million contract that Barnes turned down:
Barnes, as Kerr says, is "deceptively strong." He has perhaps honed it over the course of many practice sessions defending assistant coach Luke Walton. Think back to the harrowing-till-it-wasn't series against the Memphis Grizzlies, when he was asked to guard the languid mountain that is Zach Randolph...This is why the Warriors feel they need a player who, at first glance, might seem redundant on this roster of rangy wing-sized guys. If they want to downsize for stretches with Draymond Green at center, they'll need a wing who can handle larger opponents. From Golden State's perspective, Barnes passed that test.
How much that's specifically worth to the Warriors remains to be seen.
That last little line in particular is what caught my eye: I sometimes think that people think of the NBA market as a "pure market" that neatly follows the laws of supply and demand. But the reality is that it isn't: it's a market in which the "demand" for a player's services can be artificially inflated (or depressed) for any number of reasons of which individual team "need" is one among others, including future return on investment, fit, proximity to a title, fear of injury, marketing opportunities, delusional scouting or, as Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News noted, asset protection. And then you have "artificial" controls on value such as a salary cap, max contracts, and the luxury tax (e.g. LeBron James will probably never be fully compensated for his worth by his NBA team under the current rules).
In Barnes' case, the question that I think has been overlooked (that is sort of underlying Strauss' point) is what the true cost of losing Barnes really is; as I asked in the comments of Apricot's article, are there other players out there who could conceivably develop into players as productive as Barnes was last season a) in Steve Kerr's system and b) playing with the Splash Brothers? And if he could be easily replaced, why in the name of Erick Dampier should you pay him all that money?
I don't think it's at all far-fetched to say that the Warriors' system and Stephen Curry's gravity had something to do with Barnes' performance this past season. And I personally believe that some perceptions of his potential have been wildly overblown since the day he was drafted, which is only relevant to the extent that people believe he'll be worth $16 million per year two or three years down the road.
So I did some digging: how unique is Harrison Barnes? As it turns out, he might be a more special 3-and-D guy than either the haters who think he's nothing more than Dorell Wright 2.0 or those who have believed he's the second coming of The Truth fully acknowledge.
I plugged his usage (14.9%), true shooting percentage (.573), 3-point attempts per game (2.3), 3-point percentage (40.5%) and height (as closest, though obviously imperfect, proxy for his length that allows him to defend) into Basketball-Reference's Player Season Finder to try to get a sense of just how difficult it would be to find a player of Barnes' caliber.
As it turns out, there have been just 26 players to have that combination of usage, efficiency and 3-point volume since the 3-point line was added to the NBA (accounting for duplicates). When you exclude the power forwards who have no hope of defending the wing as well as Barnes, that number shrinks to about 15 — that's 15 since the 3-point line has been added. When you throw in Strauss' point about his rare combination of age, athleticism, defensive versatility, work ethic, and strength, Barnes suddenly looks a lot more singular than many people are giving him credit for even if he never quite becomes as spectacular as his biggest fans are hoping.
How much does that make him worth? Hard to say — order that list by year and you'll see that 20 of those player seasons have occurred in the last decade, meaning one could argue that maybe this type of player is a growing trend around the league. If so, who's to say that the Warriors couldn't trade for an underutilized player, sign a free agent, or draft someone to develop into the same thing. But as hard as it might be to find a player like Barnes who fits the team's scheme so well and has room for growth, shelling out the big bucks to sign him might be worthwhile.
Other Warriors news & notes from the week beginning 9/21
Competition for the last spot on the Warriors' roster increases: As reported by ESPN's Marc Stein, the Warriors are close to signing Ben Gordon to a training camp contract. And as reported by Yahoo's Shams Charania, they signed 2013 NBA Draft Pick Tony Mitchell to a training camp deal as well on Monday. That leaves a mix of about seven vets and fringe NBA players competing for one roster spot on the reigning NBA champion's roster. But I think GSoM community member Missing Barry made the strongest point I've seen in favor of Gordon over some of those other guys (and probably Brandon Rush too): the Warriors' second unit could use another shot creator and Ben Gordon has a long history of demonstrating that he's not bashful about shooting.
Jason Richardson retires: Jason Richardson announced his retirement this week after being hampered by injuries for years. There's nothing more that I can say about J-Rich's retirement that Bram Kincheloe and Andrew Flohr haven't already said, so if you haven't read their articles here at GSoM check 'em out here and here. Also, this:
Continued opposition to the Warriors' SF arena: While supporters of the Warriors' San Francisco arena plan gathered at the Ramp, a waterfront bar, opponents released a letter in opposition to the project, as reported by Michael Cabanatuan of the SF Chronicle.
In a letter to Mayor Ed Lee, a group of 20 scientists, all UCSF faculty members and self-described leaders at the university, voiced familiar concerns that the arena will make Mission Bay less alluring to biotech researchers and that it will create a traffic mess that endangers people needing to get to the three UCSF hospitals nearby...A public opinion poll released in July shows the arena enjoys healthy support with 61 percent of the 600 San Francisco voters surveyed backing the plan.
Jay Barmann of SFist published the full letter yesterday if you want to read more about how the arena would "...severely degrade the environment for the many thousands of researchers and private sector biomedical scientists who come to work at Mission Bay each day" but I'm not sure you'll find specifics — short of being able to point to specific opportunities lost or polling the scientific community, it seems difficult to substantiate that claim.
Warriors atop ESPN's Future Power Rankings: ESPN's future power rankings have been released and the Warriors are number one. Remember that these are power rankings based on the direction of the franchise ver the next three seasons. Chad Ford explained why the Warriors have the most potential.
The Warriors are No. 1, and it's not even close.
Of course, that Larry O'Brien trophy reflects a certain glow on everything that's happened in the Bay Area, and on our expectations for Golden State's future.
The youthful roster is stellar: Stephen Curry is an MVP, Klay Thompson is an All-Star and Draymond Green is one of the best two-way players in the game. Steve Kerr showed coaching chops in his first season on the sideline. And management's moves and non-moves have turned up aces.
Winning also puts the market in a new light, giving the Warriors a way to recruit role players. On the other hand, the team ranks just 27th in available money the next few years.
But all told, the Warriors appear to have the best shot at multiple NBA titles.
Steph Curry's week in the spotlight: Reigning MVP Stephen Curry's week began with an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and progressed to an appearance doing the Nae Nae with daughter Riley in Jeremy Lin's pretty damn funny video about how to make friends in the NBA. But nothing was better than his video calling out the haters who doubted him when he was drafted. Although DraftExpress' response was also pretty awesome in that they're not afraid to acknowledge their mistake.
Steph Curry is right. We did a poor job evaluating him in the draft. Not an excuse, but things were different in '09. He also improved a ton— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) September 23, 2015
To Steph's credit, he's helped us (and many others) rethink what it takes to be a great NBA player. We weren't the only ones who had doubts.— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) September 23, 2015
Let's not forget that Johnny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet, Ricky Rubio and Tyreke Evans were all drafted ahead of Curry.NBA folks got it wrong too— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) September 23, 2015
Thank you, David Kahn, he who gives gifts that keep giving.
Obviously there were other links from this week that I didn't add here. Please feel free to drop them in the comments below, post em as a FanShot, or write up a FanPost if you have a whole lot to say about the week (as I apparently did). And consider this your TGIF open thread.