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The Kings need more from Harrison Barnes

It's clear that the coaching staff wants more from Barnes, but he's been quiet as of late.
By | 42 Comments | Jan 12, 2022

Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Harrison Barnes was producing at an All-Star level at the beginning of the 2021-22 NBA season. Through the first 10 games, he averaged 22.2 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting an impressive 47.9 percent from the field and 43.3 percent from three. There was reason to believe the jump in production was sustainable, to an extent, due to an increase in attempts that was publicly encouraged by the coaching staff.

Head coach Luke Walton expressed his desire for Barnes to shoot at least six threes per game countless times before his eventual firing. Barnes succeeded in reaching that marker in eight of his initial ten games played. Sacramento went 5-5 during that oft-referenced stretch, with the success also partially due to minimal roster health complications.

Yet, opening night in Portland still stands as the most threes attempted by Barnes this year (11) and the second-most field goals he’s attempted (19). His season-high in field goal attempts (20) came in the second game of the season.

The reason for his regression since that point is unclear. You’d think that with notable absences from Richaun Holmes and De’Aaron Fox, who are both essential aspects to Sacramento’s offense, Barnes would recognize and embrace an increase in responsibility. While the most aggressive moments from Barnes took place prior to Walton’s firing, what we’ve heard makes that seem to be merely coincidental.

Interim head coach Alvin Gentry has made it clear that he shares Walton’s desires regarding Barnes’ aggressiveness on offense. Yet, for reasons unknown to Gentry, Barnes has reverted back to his more typical passive ways as the year has progressed. After the first ten games of the season, Barnes has recorded just four additional games with at least six attempts from three. I asked Alvin Gentry about the recent quiet play of Harrison Barnes before the Kings took the floor in Denver. 

“We don’t want him to be quiet,” Gentry said. “We’ve tried to do things to get him involved. And then, I think obviously, he’s got to get himself involved.”

The UNC product surpassed 20 points in nine of his first 13 games but has failed to do so since that 13th game took place on November 11th, 2021. In December, Harrison Barnes averaged 14.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.2 assists while shooting 39.4 percent from the field and 43.3 percent from three.

His percentage from distance remained undeniably phenomenal, but attempting 5.2 threes per game in that span was disappointing. In Cleveland, Barnes attempted only two three-pointers, with zero total makes. He then went one of five from distance the following night in Toronto en route to three points.

The Kings need significantly more production and consistency in their current state. Richaun Holmes, one of their most essential offensive players, has missed nearly 40 percent of the season. De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, and Harrison Barnes are the only three players averaging upwards of 30 minutes a night, and Barnes trails only Fox in points per game. 

Barnes needs to be a larger factor in Sacramento’s offense, and the coaching staff has made that clear.

“We’ve talked to him (Barnes) several times about when you shoot the percentage he shoots from three, I think you got to get up at least eight three-pointers,” Alvin Gentry said. “We try to put him in that situation and, in general, I think the team tries to create situations from him in those areas.”

When Barnes was hot to start the season, Fox was in a slump. As of late, those roles have reversed with Fox returning to form while Barnes lacks his previously highlighted aggression. There are only five games this season where Fox scored at least 20 points while Barnes added 15 or more of his own; Sacramento is 4-1 in those showings.

But these all too common games where Barnes is hardly felt on the offensive end have proven troubling for a team actively chasing a play-in spot. With the trade deadline approaching, a decision surrounding Harrison Barnes’ future in Sacramento will need to be made. 

Despite these inconsistencies, it’s easy to understand why Harrison Barnes’ name was often mentioned around the trade deadline last season. He’s proven to be a deadly three-point shooter while standing at 6’8” with no clear weaknesses in other aspects of his game. His defensive capabilities have slowly diminished, but he’s always been best functioning as a surrounding, complimentary piece on that end rather than someone who’s tasked with disrupting actions and making highlight plays himself.

The clock is ticking on his time with the Kings. After this season, Barnes has one remaining year on his deal when he will be making $18.3-million – which is an extremely reasonable price point for a starting-caliber wing. 

While he’s clearly important to the Kings’ current success, general manager Monte McNair will have some tough decisions to make as teams around the league will undoubtedly start calling about Barnes, if they haven’t already. 

There’s already an argument to be made that the peak time to trade Barnes has passed, but letting yet another year of that deal pass could shorten the potential return even further. The idea of potentially re-signing Barnes to a significant deal in the 2023 offseason, when he will be 31 years old, seems questionable for a Sacramento team whose primary centerpieces are at least five years younger.

It’s apparent that Harrison Barnes can’t help fix one of the worst defenses in the entire league. And, clearly, Barnes seems to struggle with consistently letting it fly from beyond the arc to the extent that’s being asked. He’s proven to be capable of more, but those moments are the outlier. 

So, while the Kings need more players like Barnes who consistently contribute well-rounded and intelligent basketball with minimal damaging mistakes, the clock is ticking for Harrison Barnes. 

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1951
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January 12, 2022 2:26 pm

The Kings need more from Harrison Barnes

Like a good return on a trade!

1951
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January 12, 2022 2:27 pm
Reply to  1951

But seriously. This is who Barnes is. His numbers this season are actually ABOVE his career averages.

Asking players to be more than they are is a Kangz errand!

AnybodyButBagley
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January 12, 2022 2:37 pm
Reply to  1951

He is a great role player. Kangz have expected him to carry this shit team.

Kingsguru21
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January 12, 2022 2:56 pm
Reply to  1951

The idea of Harrison Barnes is a good one, but the application of him on this roster in this team at this time is just pointless.

I really hope the Kings can put together a package that includes Barnes and Holmes and picks that can get Atlanta or Indianapolis’ attention for Collins or Sabonis. Otherwise, I don’t have much hope for what a trade will bring back.

Which sucks because I have no qualms whatsoever about Harrison Barnes and his time in Sacramento. Oh well, it is what it is I guess.

1951
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January 12, 2022 3:00 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

Yeah. He is Rudy Gay part II. I had no problem with Gay and I have no problem with Barnes.

I have a problem with fans and the org needing them to be more than they are in order to be successful. And then blaming them for not being something they aren’t!

AnybodyButBagley
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January 12, 2022 3:02 pm
Reply to  1951

Barnes has bad nights like any other player does. Barnes never quits like the rest of his team does.

Kingsguru21
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January 12, 2022 3:02 pm
Reply to  1951

I have a problem with fans and the org needing them to be more than they are in order to be successful.

Yep. Preaching to the choir on this one.

1951
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January 12, 2022 3:04 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

Do you sing in your choir as bad as you photograph food?

Kingsguru21
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January 12, 2022 3:07 pm
Reply to  1951

I don’t sing in a choir, so, no. And my photographs are fine, you just have stupid optical nerves.

AnybodyButBagley
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January 12, 2022 2:36 pm

Harrison Barnes has been carrying this shit show for three years.

Yeah he disappears sometimes. I get it. Who in their right mind would continue to carry the shit he has carried.

Hands down the smartest and most professional player on the team. Hands down deserves better than what he has had to deal with here.

Kings-Rebuild
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January 12, 2022 2:54 pm

Carrying us to what? When we acquired Barnes for practically nothing the Kings were playing 500 ball and poised to sneak into the playoff for the first time in over a decade. Since acquiring Barnes the Kings have not been any better. It’s time to move for whatever draft capital and/or cap space.

AnybodyButBagley
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January 12, 2022 2:57 pm
Reply to  Kings-Rebuild

Carried us to anything resembling decent basketball. This team sucks. Without Barnes highlights this team is a whole lot worse.

He has carried us to nothing because he is not a guy who can carry a team. He is simply the only smart basketball player on the team with any experience.

Kings-Rebuild
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January 13, 2022 7:21 am

Well the numbers clearly show that since Barnes joined the Kings, the win loss record has declined. Remember nothing was given up for Barnes he was basically added to a roster that was playing 500 basketball. I would take a draft pick and some cap space for the opportunity for Barnes to carry another team.

keith_kar
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January 12, 2022 3:25 pm
Reply to  Kings-Rebuild

The Barnes trade was a colossal mistake. I was so ticked off when the news when down on that day. We were right on the cusp of sneaking into the playoffs, and apparently Vlade thought picking up Barnes would put the Kings over the top.

I don’t care who was on the roster at the time, the team had chemistry, and it was the last time the Kings were fun to watch.

The Barnes trade set the Kings back an additional 3 years, in my opinion.

AnybodyButBagley
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January 12, 2022 3:29 pm
Reply to  keith_kar

Barnes has done nothing to deserve being traded here.

Gregoryl
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January 12, 2022 3:29 pm
Reply to  keith_kar

What??

AnybodyButBagley
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January 12, 2022 3:30 pm
Reply to  Gregoryl

Good question.

Justin Jackson and Zach Randolph were killing it here….

Last edited 2 years ago by AnybodyButBagley
Kings-Rebuild
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January 13, 2022 7:29 am
Reply to  keith_kar

I think saying Barnes set us back an additional 3 years is a bit harsh but there’s no data showing he’s been a net plus for the organization. At the time it was believed the Kings needed a so called 3 whatever that is in the current game. What the Kings really needed at the time was some improved post play and interior defense not some so called 3. At the time they were just fine playing Fox, Buddy and Bogi together but the simple minded Vlade was locked into traditional positioning. That was the same reason he drafted Justin Jackson the false belief we needed a traditional 3. Even though we gave up nothing for Barnes, I guess you can say there was an opportunity cost regarding the salary cap.

andy_sims
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January 12, 2022 3:55 pm

Anyone who shoots threes that well definitely needs to be taking any good look that he can get.

Also looking at you, Tyrese.

I think that Barnes will unslump himself, and my guess is that his trade value hasn’t taken much of a hit. There are more than a few teams where plugging HB in for 25-30 minutes would make them considerably better. Barnes is a known commodity, and at this point, the league understands that even good players get beaten down hard in Sacramento.

If Philly is trying to package Harris with Simmons, do you send out Barnes, Hield and Fox to get it done? I’d want a first-rounder back for eating that much salary, though.

Carl
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January 12, 2022 5:45 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

If Philly is trying to package Harris with Simmons, do you send out Barnes, Hield and Fox to get it done? I’d want a first-rounder back for eating that much salary, though.

I don’t think you’re going to pierce Morey’s bubble of insanity with that set of players. You’d have to bring in a third team, and I just don’t see anyone offering Morey the superstar he thinks he’s going to get.

andy_sims
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January 13, 2022 12:29 pm
Reply to  Carl

It’s getting to the point where he’s pretty much left with Sacramento as a trade partner if he wants both out. I’d guess he’d rather have Barnes, Hield, and Halliburton, but I don’t think losing your three best shooters is going to make the team better, regardless of the fact that Harris & Simmons are both very good players.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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January 12, 2022 4:13 pm

I could be mistaken, but if I recall correctly, the Kings were running Barnes almost exclusively at the PF spot to begin the season when he was cooking. He was starting alongside Harkless and at time Terrance Davis during the first few weeks. IIRC, there might have even been some 3 guard sets to start games.

I think there was a noticeable shift of moving him back to the SF spot when Walton/Gentry began to start Metu at the 4 then eventually shifted to Bagley. The Kings haven’t gone “small” with Harkless starting at the 3 and Barnes at the 4 for some time.

Could it be something as simple as that? His regression has coincided and is directly a result of the Kings going with two traditional bigs in recent months?

Carl
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January 12, 2022 5:45 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

I think it’s in part due to inferior players collectively and individually hogging all the shots. And having unreasonable expectations, as the other folks have said.

Last edited 2 years ago by Carl
ichinisang
January 17, 2022 9:20 am
Reply to  Carl

So true, the g-leaguers in the Kings shouldn’t be taking so many shots. Moving Harkless back to the 3 spot would be the best move to stop the bleeding. Bagley and Metu should go back to the g-league.

Corneroffense
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January 12, 2022 4:16 pm

Alvin Gentry is a moron. There are only 12 players in the league shooting 8 threes. Barnes shoots 5 (OK 4.9) and makes 42%. For comparison, Buddy shoots 9.4 and makes 38%, good but 2% below his career average. Haliburton shoots 4.7 and makes 43.8%. Why don’t they ‘need more’ from him? On the other hand, Fox shoots 3.7 and makes… 24.7%! Public comments like that from Gentry are pathetic ass covering. I agree that Vlade’s trade for Barnes was a dud, but only by the standard of his own hype. Barnes is a great role player on a team with no stars and no defined roles. Whose fault is that? Not his.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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January 12, 2022 4:36 pm
Reply to  Corneroffense

How is Vlade’s trade for Barnes a dud? He gave up Z-Bo and Justin Jackson for Barnes. Hell, it might even be the best move Vlade did other than drafting Fox.

andy_sims
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January 12, 2022 4:50 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

Agreed, VD was generally a total failure as GM, but this deal was a good one for Sacramento.

Kings-Rebuild
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January 13, 2022 7:37 am
Reply to  andy_sims

And what data do you have to conclude getting Barnes was a good move for the Kings.

andy_sims
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January 13, 2022 12:31 pm
Reply to  Kings-Rebuild

Gee, I guess when you consider the amazing seasons that Z-Bo and Jackson have had since the trade, the quality, and largely consistent play by Barnes just doesn’t stack up.

Honestly, it’s not even close.

Kings-Rebuild
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January 13, 2022 7:36 am
Reply to  Corneroffense

We all need to realize that no coach would win with this roster. Phil Jackson, Pop or Red Auerbach wouldn’t win with this roster. I wouldn’t refer to Alvin Gentry as a moron. This roster doesn’t do justice to any coach. Getting rid of Walton was way down on the list of priorities for this franchise.

SPTSJUNKIE
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January 12, 2022 4:50 pm

Harrison Barnes was producing at an All-Star level at the beginning of the 2021-22 NBA season. Through the first 10 games, he averaged 22.2 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting an impressive 47.9 percent from the field and 43.3 percent from three.

I feel like we go through this every season. I like Harrison Barnes. He’s a solid player, good locker room presence who never seems to complain about his role, and a great member of the community. Unimpeachable character and very easy to root for.

That said, I feel like he is consistently one of the most overrated players. He’s a good shooter, who can put together a great looking 10 game stretch when he gets hot, but is a borderline starter getting paid semi-star money.

The premise of the article is true, that for us to be a better team, we need more out of Harrison Barnes, but I am not sure what we are expecting. We can go skill by skill and just see that there isn’t a lot:

Shooting: This is his clear spike. Barnes has a TS% north of 60% this season, which is heavily impacted by his 42% shooting on threes. Even if he regresses a bit towards the 38-40% mark he hit the last few years, he’ll still be a hyper-efficient shooter. That said, it’s hard to imagine his shooting getting any better than it is now. Feels like he has maxed this out.

Shot creation: Barnes can create some, though is lack of creation for others limits this. But he’s had 54% of his twos and 94% of this threes assisted. These numbers have been higher for him the last two years than the end of his time in Dallas, but it also why his TS percentage has spiked here. Back in his Dallas days, his usage was 4-6% higher, but his TS% was also 54-55% pretty consistently. We could probably increase his usage a tick to take some pressure off of Fox and Hali, but I’m not sure there’s a ton to gain here.

Passing: Credit to Barnes, he has improved his passing while in Sacramento. He used to have extreme tunnel vision, but has increased his Assist % to 10-13% the last two years after never touching double digits before (which is crazy considering his usage in Dallas). However, he’s still not a great passer and only has a 1.4 A/T on a low 19% usage (basically he’s turning the ball over at too great of a rate, despite not having to force offense). And this isn’t an outlier, his career A/T is 1.5. He kind of is who he is at this point.

Defense: For some reason, Barnes has always had a reputation as a good defender (probably from his Warriors days). But I’m not really sure why. He’s a decently aware team defender, who gives effort and who still has enough size / speed to not be a complete mismatch against a lot of players. But he’s also not a lock down defender against any position. He doesn’t force turnover or protect the paint. Statistically his steal rate is 1.1% and block rate is 0.5%, which is right on his career averages. And while defensive impact stats are messy, he’s been a pretty solid net negative on defense for while, posting a DBPM of -1.0 to -1.3 for the last 7 seasons across two franchises. No, that’s not a train wreck. In terms of league rank, that puts him as the 143rd best defender. But there’s a reason the teams he is on have ranked: 26th, 30th, 20th, 17th, 15th the last 5 years. He may not be the reason for the poor performance, but he isn’t really doing anything to elevate the defense either.

Overall Impact: BPM, RPM, Win Shares, Raptor, etc. Doesn’t matter. Other than about one season on the Warriors, Barnes has been a low level starter at best by any impact ranking. Now again, these are flawed and will give a positive halo impact to role players on good teams and a bit of a drag to role players on bad teams. But this season is his absolute peak with a 0.9 BPM. This is much better than his previous (recent) high of 0.2. Prior to that the last few years were -1.3, -1.4, -0.5, -0.8, -1.3, 0.1, -1.6, -1.7.

Overall, Harrison Barnes is giving us his absolute peak performance right this minute. This is who he is. I am not as big on timeline as some people, so I don’t mind keeping a 29 year old. But Barnes is not moving the needle for us, just as he did not in Dallas. If we can convince some other team he’s a top 100 player, then it’s time to get some assets back for him and thank him for his service.

Again, this isn’t meant to hate on Barnes. He’s a solid player and put him on a contending team who needs another high character role player who can spread the floor and be passable defensively and he’ll thrive. If we trade Barnes to a team like Philly and he wins a ring serving as a perfect complement to Embiid, I’ll cheer for him and be extremely happy for him. Honestly, I would love that for him at this stage of his career.

But I just don’t see how he can really be much better for us. And I don’t see how he can give us more. He’s like the Little Engine Who Could, giving us everything he has. But we have enough issues that it’s not enough and it’s time to move on. Get assets. Find a better fit – a long, switchable defender who is credible offensively (even if not as good as Barnes). That’s more important to our improvement at this stage in my opinion.

SPTSJUNKIE
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January 13, 2022 9:16 am
Reply to  Brenden

That’s completely fair and while I still want most of the offense flowing through Fox and Haliburton, we do need Barnes in attack mode.

I do wonder though if part of that decrease is due to how teams are defending him. He is shooting the ball very efficiently, which means defender will watch him more closely. That opens up the floor for the rest of our players and creates space, but could make it hard for him to shoot too many more threes, unless he really increases his unassisted three percentage.

I just think Barnes is giving us close to his ceiling. I realize some of the other parts of my post on trading him or his value weren’t directly addressing anything in your great article. This was partly something on my mind watching our games / looking at stats – as some comments on these types of forums tend to be 🙂

Adamsite
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January 12, 2022 5:05 pm
Reply to  SPTSJUNKIE

Good stuff and you are right. He’s a lunch box kind of guy and this is who he is. I’ve always thought he’s best suited a 4th option on a good team, maybe even a 3rd option on a team with a pair of superstars. Right now he’s on a team with players are are marginally better than him on most nights.

He’s is kind of just today’s version of Rudy Gay. That means if you are counting on him to lead your team in scoring every 3-4 games, you aren’t going to compile too many wins. He’d be great on today’s contending teams like the Warriors or Bulls. I still think Chicago is the best landing sport for him and they have the assets to make it work

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January 13, 2022 9:21 am
Reply to  Adamsite

Really well said and I agree.

I do think the other nuance though is you are spot on offensively. Put Barnes on a team like the Bucks or Suns and he’d thrive in his role.

I do think defensively he is fine and isn’t any worse defensively than some other wings on contenders. If he was playing next to 1-2 better defensive wings or had a player like Embiid / Gobert behind him, he’d probably be a great team defender. Sadly, we don’t have either and at least getting a long, switchable wing who isn’t virtually unplayable on offense (cough Harkless cough, -3.6 OBPM) should be a priority. But replacing Barnes with one of those wings who can also hit 37% of their threes would probably help our team more right now, even if they aren’t as talented offensively as he is.

You’ve also been here long enough to know I have long struggled with Barnes. He’s clearly a starting caliber wing. But a great shooter who can create his own shot, but can’t really create for others and who is a meh defender is a bit of a tough fit or at least not an ideal wing to me (especially at his price tag).

Marty
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January 12, 2022 5:37 pm

You could switch this headline to “Harrison Barnes needs more from the Kings” and it would be accurate.

AnybodyButBagley
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January 12, 2022 6:13 pm
Reply to  Marty

Fact.

Bagley and Hield starting with him don’t exactly create a situation where the opponent has to slack off of Barnes and free him to shoot more.

BigDrewbot
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January 12, 2022 6:30 pm

current roster plays against a roster of 12 Harrison Barnes….who wins?

andy_sims
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January 13, 2022 12:32 pm
Reply to  BigDrewbot

Depends on how Barnes plays for the Kings.

AnybodyButBagley
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January 12, 2022 10:14 pm
Reply to  Brenden

Bagley put his big boy shorts on too.

Last edited 2 years ago by AnybodyButBagley
Murf
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January 14, 2022 11:32 am

I get that Barnes is a solid player that almost every team would like

I get all the good stuff he does off the court, and is by all accounts a pros pro

He is also not the personality to be a teams best player, that’s why the Warriors let him go t to the Mavs, and why the Mavs traded him here

But I think he has quit on this team and is trying to sulk his way out of town. His coaches want him to shoot more, and he doesn’t. He lets the lesser lights like Metu shoot. Buddy all he does is shoot. As the so called best player Fox gets his share of blame.

The fanbase has been calling for consistent effort and from a player who is regarded as a pros pro, he hasn’t given the team much. More so he has gotten a pass where I’m not so sure that’s deserved

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