In order to sign Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors parted ways with two starters today. Harrison Barnes has reached a verbal agreement with the Dallas Mavericks on a four-year, $94 million contract (per ESPN), and the Mavericks did the Warriors a solid by trading for Barnes’ best friend on the Warriors, Andrew Bogut. The trade is a pure salary dump for the Warriors, as the Mavericks were under the cap and could absorb the $11 million that the Aussie will make in 2016-17.
Executives throughout the league are probably furious with Mark Cuban for paving the way for the Warriors’ new super-team, but that’s pretty silly. Someone would’ve traded for Bogut, and the Mavs aren’t beholden to some sort of leaguewide parity plan. Cuban knows that super teams have led to ever-increasing profits for the NBA anyway, and not trading for Bogut wouldn’t have helped him get back to the NBA Finals any faster. One could ask whether letting Dirk Nowitzki walk and tanking would get his team back to the promised land quicker, but it appears that Nowitzki will be back and Cuban doesn’t tank.
Two peas in a frustrating pod
Barnes was the nation’s top high school recruit, underperformed vs. expectations in North Carolina, and the Warriors couldn’t resist him anyway at No. 7 overall. From afar, Barnes looks like the total package. Big and quick enough to play the 3 or the 4, with hops and an airtight personality.
The problem was Barnes didn’t have one elite NBA skill.
- His handle was suspect, to the point where he rarely if ever brought the ball up the floor after grabbing a defensive rebound.
- His rebounding was a problem as well — he had a lower total rebounding percentage last season than Sasha Vujacic and Iman Shumpert.
- Barnes averaged fewer blocks per game last season than Brandon Rush, Shaun Livingston, Ish Smith, J.R. Smith and Paul Pierce.
- His trademark move was pump-faking, slowly driving to the elbow, and shooting a fadeaway midrange jumper.
- His passing was average at best, and he collected fewer dunks than he probably should have, considering his physical gifts.
- He’s a better-than-average 3-point shooter, especially from the corner, but no other forward in the league got more open looks than Barnes when he played with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
And in the Finals, when Draymond Green was suspended and every minute thereafter, Barnes crumbled.
Bogut was the controversial acquisition in the Monta Ellis trade, and that trade was beneficial in multiple ways. Steph Curry needed room to roam in the Warriors backcourt, and Bogut was a very effective defensive presence with above average passing ability. Bogut isn’t just a top-15 shot-blocker, he’s also an outstanding defensive communicator who was often seen orchestrating the Warriors’ starting unit.
Barnes’ biggest strength is probably durability. That is, beyond all doubt, Bogut’s greatest weakness. Bogut’s timing might have been even worse, however. He refused to play with fractured ribs before the Warriors’ first round series against the Clippers in 2014 and suffered a hyperextended knee in Game 5 against the Cavaliers — it’s not that Bogut wasn’t legitimately injured, but something always seemed to come up at the wrong time.
Bogut’s consistency was another major problem. In some games he looked like he was ready to block 15 shots per quarter, in others he looked either sore or tired. The Warriors couldn’t exactly plan accordingly, because this was a game-to-game kind of thing, so they were forced to navigate their rotations based on what they saw in the opening minutes. If the Warriors got “good Bogut” every time he played, he would’ve been one of the best centers in the league. Unfortunately, his body seemed to fail him a little too often, and that along with his offensive limitations (he’s been unwilling to shoot ever since he shattered his elbow with Milwaukee) made him expendable in the Warriors’ eyes.
Even though both players drove the Warriors and their fans a little batty from time to time, we should take a minute to remember that Barnes and Bogut DID contribute to a championship and the 73-win season. Both are very different personalities, but no one can deny their intelligence, and it’s kind of nice that they get to play on the same team together.
Bogut was one of Barnes’ staunchest supporters, as well (transcript via Tim Kawakami):
Everyone looks at it, oh, he only scored four points, he played bad. No, not necessarily. His defense has gotten a lot better; he’s starting to make the right play for us, with the hockey assist, which we haven’t seen early in his career.
So people that just look at stats and fantasy guys are idiots. I’ll take that with a grain of salt. There’s so many guys that do things without stats that affect teams, and we’ve got three or four of those guys on this team.
-Q: It takes something to not let that criticism affect you, I would think.
Look, if he’s on a bad team, he’s averaging 20 a game, you know? If he’s playing for a team that’s in the middle of the pack and it’s, hey, you’re our guy, you’re getting all the touches, he’s a 20-point scorer in the league.
People look at that and probably say, oh, Bogut’s crazy for saying that. But you put him on a fringe playoff team and he’s getting 20 shots a game, I have the utmost confidence in the world that he’ll get to the line six times, eight times, he’ll knock down six free throws and he’s only got to make six or seven field goals beyond that. And he’s very capable.
Barnes will get his chance to score 20 a game with Dallas, and Bogut will surely do all he can to get him the ball next season.
Oh, by the way …
When I listed some center possibilities for the Warriors in my Durant story, I didn’t mention Larry Sanders.
Ok….now this is getting interesting 😏
— L8 Show (@LarrySanders) July 4, 2016
Sanders, who’s gotten in trouble with failed drug tests and sat out last season, averages 3.3 blocks per 36 minutes in his career. If the Warriors can somehow get him to agree to a minimum salary, he’d be a tremendous, high-ceiling addition.