Euphoria spreads throughout Dub Nation in all its record-setting splendor, while the enigma that is Harrison Barnes springs from the ashes of the phoenix and ignites a new vigor in the starting five.
Observers who have tracked the progression of the young Barnes since his tenure as a 20 year-old rookie would tell you that his late-season Robert Horry-ish emergence is no cause to stand in idle shock or doubt.
Harrison Barnes has put up a +9 average in 25 playoff wins for the Warriors. That's roughly Kevin Durant's +/- average during this year's regular season.
Oakland son Marcus Thompson wrote an extensive article on "Playoff Barnes," chronicling the peaks and valleys of Harrison's contract-year campaign. And undoubtedly HB has shown up for some big games this season:
Game 1: 36 mins, 8-14 FGs, 3-6 3pts, 2 ORB, 4 TRB, 19 points
Game 3: 31 mins, 6-11 FGs, 2-5 pts, 7 TRB, 5 Asts, 1 TO, 14 points
Game 1: 26 mins, 5-10 FGs, TRB 5, 12 points
Game 3: 32 mins, 8-12 FGs, 2-4 3pts, 3 ORB, 7 TRB, 19 points
Game 3: 33 mins, 8-13 FGs, 3-7 3pts, 8 TRB, 21 points
Game 4: 33 mins, 3-10 FGs, 3 TRB, 2 Ast, 9 points, +16
Game 1: 36 mins, 5-8 FGs, 2-3 3pts, 5-5 FTs, 9 TRB, 3 Ast, 17 points, +14
Game 2: 35 mins, 9-15 FGs, 3-5 3pts, 7 TRB, 21 points, +10
Game 3: 29 mins, 6-8 FGs, 3-4 3pts, 5 TRB, 18 points, +13
Game 4: 37 mins, 3-11 FG, 3-4 FT, 6 TRB, 11 points, +22
Yet the question remains: just how valuable is Harrison Barnes to this team on a regular basis?
In the aftermath of a championship season, and with the chance to compete in the finals sighted on the horizon, the philosophy of the Golden State Warriors has shifted from the perspective of playoff combatant to perennial finals contender.
With this understanding, it's easier to qualify Barnes' value as an inconsistent offensive player throughout a regular season. This roster has more than enough talent to earn favorable seeding every year without the scoring consistency of Barnes. What happens after 82 games is what matters the most. So far, Harrison has made it count.
Theoretically, let's say the Warriors go back-to-back and cap off a great season with another trip to the jeweler. Let's also say that Barnes plays huge in some of the most pivotal games on the road to glory. Compounded with a historic run of a season, the Warriors may find themselves in a bidding war if the aforementioned perception comes to fruition.
So what are their options?
Option #1 Lock him up
Harrison Barnes is a home-grown asset from the 2012 draft. The Warriors tanked the final fifth of the season that year to pry him from Utah's hands, as he was a conditional pick. Additionally, Joe Lacob is a man who takes enormous pride in his investments, and Barnes is just that. Yes, Harry turned down a 4-year deal worth $64 million.
With many teams in the running for the Durant sweepstakes, there will be attractive losers who will come clamoring for the Black Falcon's services. However, the question isn't whether or not someone will pay him, but who can offer him more?
Marcus Thompson II, dubbed Harrison "The Demoralizer." Meaning, once opponents think that they've figured the Warriors out, Harrison comes in and mixes it back up with a big game.
Team staff will go back and forth arguing the ceiling of HB's potential, but the fact is this: you could count on three, maybe four fingers, the number of players in the NBA with Harrison's combination of raw athleticism and power. Barnes is offensively unique in the sense that he can match any tempo with which the Warriors choose to play.
If the Dubs run, Harrison possibly has the fastest end-to-end speed on the team, and a 40+ inch leap. If the pace slows to a half-court contest, he can come off screens and flash his solid mid-range game. His jumper is often poorly contested due to the explosive lift under it's peak. When the team needs points at the line, Barnes can create contact at the rim or hold position in the post. If Golden State wants to fish on the perimeter with their passing, HB can capitalize on the deep ball, particularly from the corner — and Harrison can challenge any center when defenders run to close out on him.
David West knew to stay out of the way...
"I was about to...," Barnes said, his arm stretched in the air, his right hand cupping an invisible ball, his face scrunched into a scowl. "But he didn't rotate over, so I just did a basic little two-hander. Nothing big."
- Harrison Barnes on dunking on the Spurs, via Marcus Thompson II
Defensively, his power and lateral quickness afford him a similar versatility. But the best attribute in his arsenal is his availability. In four seasons Harrison has played in 81, 78, 82, and 66 games. Most players who base their game from their athleticism risk declining soon after 30, but Harrison takes very good care of his body, and it's evidenced in his outstanding durability.
"When Barnes bumps you, you feel it. That is one strong man."
- Curry's personal trainer, Brandon Payne
In preparation to man minutes at power forward, Barnes bulked up from 210 lbs to a lean 220 lbs, over the off-season. Brandon Payne plans to take the upcoming summer to improve Harrison's brute power and agility. Barnes won't turn 24 years old until May 30th. By the time he is 26, Harrison could make leaps and bounds, improving his consistency and ball skills, while retaining all of his physical ability. Before injuring his jumping foot, (left ankle) HB averaged close to 15 points per game, while sharing the same perimeter with two of the best scorers in the league.
The good news: Harrison does not go home to Iowa during the off-season. He stays in Oakland year-round. He likes it here. That might make a difference.
The bottom line: the versatility that Barnes affords on both ends is unique, potentially special.
Option #2 Trade him for a lottery draft pick
Who doesn't like rookie contracts? When the Warriors brought Jerry West on board, the culture of the organization ascended to a new standard. It's a move that mirrored the day when Golden State traded Speedy for Baron. "The logo" instantly makes a front office formidable. But Jerry is 77 years old. How much longer he'll stay with the team nobody knows. He'll likely stay until he isn't needed, but his clock may be accelerated as the Warriors crush colossal records.
In terms of adding first round picks, the organization should strike while the iron is hot. In other words: the more draft picks you feed to Jerry, the more Jerry will reward the consensus with sleepers, slippers, and the like. If Myers were to pull off a trade that poised the team to earn multiple draft choices, our current scouting group has the talent to set this franchise up for another decade.
The Denver Nuggets are a young warhorse of a team. They have up to four draft picks this year in the 1st round (#'s 7, 15, 17 and 18). The build of their roster yearns for a player like Harrison. Emmanuel Mudiay is a dynamic, physical piece at point guard. Faried is built like a linebacker. In their infancy, Jokic and Nurkic are a bruising tandem at center. Placing a V8 engine like Barnes in between these prospects at the 3, would fit their vision perfectly.
What they could offer: Danilo Gallinari had a career season this year. But fans in Denver suspect that he may be traded this summer. Swapping Gallo and a pick for Barnes would give the Warriors a skilled swingman in the middle of his prime (27 years old), while adding length to the starting lineup (6'-10"). That kind of size could help out Draymond in the post, while adding a pure shooter to join the Splash Brothers, thus completing the cycle.
To match the youth of HB, the already youthful Nuggets could also offer up one or two of their draft picks. They will have selections in the mid-teens, and Michigan State's Denzel Valentine would fit Kerr's program like a round peg. Valentine has a hybrid NBA game, and looks like a winner with championship DNA. He's a do-it-all kind of guy in the mold of Draymond Green — a winner, manifested in an oversized point guard's body at 6'-6" with a 6'-10" wingspan. He and Draymond would feed off each other, both being Michigan State alums, and would ensure a locker room filled with leadership and winning philosophy for years to come.
The Nuggets also have a top ten pick in this year's draft. Cal's Jaylen Brown could fall to Denver. He's a certified beast after Jason Richardson's own heart, and he'd boost any team's overall athleticism. He'd give Golden State what they don't have: a premier G/F who has elite potential, attacking the rim. The alley-oops from Curry/Green would keep the vicarious boobs living in the basement of ESPN's reel-room on the search for invented superlatives.
Bottom line: whether it's acquiring Denzel Valentine and Danilo Gallinari, or simply packaging a deal involving Barnes for the Nuggets' top 7 pick and X player(s), the Warriors would have a chance to retain their perimeter talent while acquiring young, valuable depth.
Option 3: Trade Barnes for another young, up-and-coming player
The Boston Celtics' Avery Bradley would be an amazing addition — Steph Curry might tell you, "If you can't beat him, join him."
Bradley should be on the All-Defensive first team throughout his prime, and he is only 25 years old. Nobody slips the screen like him. With Marcus Smart emerging as a legitimate defensive combo guard off the bench, the Celtics could afford to part ways with Bradley if the right deal came along.
Boston has Jae Crowder manning the starting small forward spot. While Jae is good, he's not in the same league as Barnes. Harrison and Crowder complement each other well, and could be interesting in a tandem as one slides to the 4 spot. The Cs are looking to reclaim their place in the east, and a positive locker room guy like Harrison would help realize that mission.
The Warriors, on the other hand, have two big, aging pieces in Andre Iguodala and Leandro Barbosa. When replacing players in a winning formula, you have to match their greatest assets with the replacing entity. Avery Bradley offers that. AB could claim much of Andre Iguodala's ability as a perimeter ballhawk and intermittent ball-handler. There are few in the league who can lock a guy down like Avery can. At barely 6'-3", Bradley could easily man the off-guard position, slotted next to the 6'-7" Shaun Livingston. His athleticism, finishing, and full-court speed replaces a lot of what Barbosa gives the Ws.
Bottom Line: The Warriors would simply have a defensive nightmare of a team. Getting up to face Bogut, Green, Iguodala, Thompson, and Bradley sounds like a sleepwalk down Elm Street at 3 AM.
The Warriors would be without a starting small forward, but that in and of itself would leave two options:
1) Start Andre Iguodala at small forward again. Avery Bradley and Shaun Livingston are more than enough to bolster the bench depth. Andre joins Klay, Draymond, and Andrew for a super-charged defensive first string. Klay could also play some minutes at forward as his body matures.
2) Start Draymond at small forward and exploit his skills as a point forward. Kevon Looney is a prospect with elite offensive rebounding potential. If you develop Looney as an offensive rebounder next to Bogut, the shooting of the Warriors becomes deadlier with the extra possessions. Looney, on the offensive glass, means 3-5 second chance shots for Curry or Thompson per game. That's a kind of devastation the Warriors are not familiar with yet, and those opportunities would take opponents right out of the game, early. Looney also shot over 40% from deep at UCLA as an 18 year-old, so the Warriors would retain their stretch 4 angle. Also, Kevon is a good distributor with a high IQ; he retains Draymond's passing from the position.
You can count on Draymond shooting 500+ threes every day this summer. Starting Green on the perimeter will preserve his body a bit more going against smaller opponents, and it further allows him to exploit his amazing, improved ball skills. It would also mean that Green would get a running start on the glass help, and a wider lens on seeing the game from the outside-in, rather than the inside-out. His help defense is incredible, and putting him on the perimeter would stretch it to greater realms.
On a personal note, I hope the Warriors do everything they can to retain Barnes. It's unlikely that they won't, because you don't rearrange your center core once you've found a way to win 70+ games. You just don't. It's hard to imagine HB as the highest paid Warrior next season, but the fact that Barnes has been model enough of a citizen to earn a name like "The Senator" speaks volumes.
He loves Oakland, and the Warriors have done nothing but win with him. Yes, his inconsistency can be maddening, but again, has it really mattered? Besides, he's only 23, and has shown improvement every year. His availability and versatility is an immensely valuable combo. He shows up for the big show. That's good enough, if not ideal, for a player of his youth.
Even still, it's hard to not be seduced by the thought of landing some high quality draft picks for West and Myers to spin into gold if they're not willing to break the bank. It's hard to not think about the chance of adding someone like Avery Bradley to our defensive buzzsaw of a squad.
Riddle me this: would you pay Harrison Barnes 20 million dollars over the course of 5 years?