The Liberty Ballers staff was pretty split in our initial reaction to the Sixers reported interest in Harrison Barnes. We decided to talk it out a bit. A slightly-edited version of that conversation is available below.
Kyle Neubeck: Everyone seems pretty upset about this, so let's talk it out. Of the options that are probably available, this is one I feel will negatively impact the team the least in both the short and long term. TELL ME WHY YOU'RE MAD
Michael Levin: I'm not mad. Harrison Barnes is good, young, and fits well on both ends of the court with Embiid and Simmons. I'm of the opinion he has more upside, having been relegated to a role player on the best team of all time. We saw similar things of Devin Booker at UK. Obviously there's more tape on Barnes not being that guy yet, and if he never gets better, this would be an overpay. But I think he will. And even if he doesn't improve, I think putting more legitimate NBA players around JoJo and Ben means less load for them to carry immediately. At worst, this signing is four years of fine. At best, it could mean another foundational piece to a young, versatile core.
And the alternatives to using cap space on Harrison Barnes are far, far more terrifying than "fine" would be.
BONUS POINT FOR LONGTIME LB PEOPLE: in the leadup to the 2011 Draft, #MissionBJ came to be, indicating our collective desire for the Sixers to tank for Harrison Barnes and Perry Jones. It is time to bring both of them home where they belong.
Jake Fischer: If Barnes plays fine in the Finals, averages 13.5 ppg, 6 rebounds and 2 assists on 38% three-point shooting as the Warriors win back-to-back titles, I think the reaction would be tilted more towards a "why would Harrison Barnes come to Philly?" conversation than "OH NO, HARRISON BARNES!?" Those numbers are roughly his career averages per 36 minutes as the 4th option on a ridiculous team.
If you're going to max anyone out at this stage of the rebuild, he's the perfect guy to bet on. He fills needs (wing defense and shooting) and will certainly help foster a winning culture, which we all know is widely considered so vitally important. Worst-case scenario, he kinda plateaus like Rashard Lewis in Orlando. The Magic bet big, Lewis never really flourished alongside Howard and co. But he put together an All-Star season and was an integral part of an Eastern Conference champion. I'm in.
Wesley Share: Lukewarm take incoming -- Agree with you, Kyle. I dislike the idea from a philosophical standpoint the most. It's putting the cart before the horse, and Harrison Barnes shouldn't be paid 2nd or 3rd-best player on a championship team type money, especially not on a team that just won 10 freaking games.
That being said, tons of players are going to get that type of money on the market this summer who don't deserve it. And I'd much rather give it to a 24 year-old who won't deteriorate and go stale on the back end of the deal. The Sixers won't be competing with the best of the conference over the course of the four-year max they'd give Barnes, and while that's an argument both for and against signing him to that (I lean more towards the latter), I don't think it's particularly high-risk. Basically, any of the arguments for the deal are also arguments against it, but I don't know what else we were to expect.
Neubeck: Where are all the mad bloggers at? I was promised angst.
Sean O'Connor:I'm going to start the hater's ball.
"It could be worse" is the best argument I can find to sign Barnes to a max contract, which is theoretically what it would take to bring him in, along with some poison pills, just to make it hurt a *little* bit more when Barnes is again the fifth guy in a four-man lineup.
"It could be worse" is not a real argument.
It's a way to trigger hope when there is little in a given situation. Barnes played alongside one of the best four-man combinations of all time and got played off the court by like Richard Jefferson in the NBA Finals. His shooting percentage is bolstered by being the beneficiary of the 4-on-3 situations Golden State generated by putting Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in pick-and-roll situations with great passers in Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut, and Andre Iguodala. Barnes was never trusted in those positions that Green, Bogut, and Iguodala were; the fan of Barnes would note his high three point percentage the past two seasons, the cynic would note that Golden State never trusted him to make decisions when he outnumbered the defense. He never took a more significant role when the Warriors played him with bench lineups, because he couldn't fill it.
Calling Barnes a good player because of his numbers or his teams' winning is reductive; it's the same stuff we rail against when people undervalue Nerlens Noel or Robert Covington because they played on historically bad teams here.
Barnes is a solid defender, and a solid shooter, but he doesn't have anything resembling an all-around game and hasn't for four seasons. He looks robotic when trying to initiate anything on his own - his moves with the ball in-hand are predictable because his arsenal consists solely of pull-up jumpers and lost post-ups. His best role is as a small-ball four, which would be kind of hard to fill on a team with nine bigs. It's spending a quarter of your cap on a winner's premium.
Jake Hyman: I'm mad. Barnes was able to get off quality looks from deep thanks to elite teammates, and even with Simmons' vision and instincts he will struggle to find those looks at a consistent rate. He's poor defensively (107 DRtg), doesn't do much other than score (4.9 RPG, 1.8 APG last season) and imploded in the Finals. This is settling. Going with the narrative of "there are worse plays than maxing Barnes" doesn't justify giving him want he wants to be paid.
Share: I'm mad again. Thanks Sean and Jake.
Jake Pavorsky:I'm definitely the pessimist in this situation, thinking Barnes was the product of a really good Golden State system and wouldn't play all that well in an expanded role in Philadelphia. He's spent the last four seasons having just about all of his offense created for him, and while Simmons and Embiid do have superstar potential, neither of these guys are going to attract attention like Curry, Thompson or Green did in Golden State.
The Sixers are going to ask Barnes, who had the second lowest usage of his career this season, to be their primary wing scorer and floor stretcher, and I just don't think he can step up and command that job on a younger team. Not to mention, this team really has not established any real system. There's going to be more semblance of a motion offense this year, but good luck having Harrison Barnes (who can't really handle the ball) figuring out how to improv with the ball in his hands.
This team needs some more NBA talent, that doesn't mean locking yourself into big money, long-term deals just to do it. I'm much more willing to throw money at guys like Courtney Lee and Luol Deng, as they can still benefit the young guys and add some shooting while not eating at your cap for as long as Barnes would. I get that giving out max contracts to guys who don't really deserve it is going to be part of the free agent scene, but you still have to be selective about it.
Fischer: Guys, it's also important to keep in mind the Sixers are trying to lure him. They tried to get Kris Dunn, too. This is not a done deal by any stretch...
Neubeck: Sean raises a good point regarding "It could be worse" not being a real argument, but I will make the case anyway. It could be a lot worse!
The type of players you're going to get to commit to Philly fall into a couple groups: A) Overpaid role players and B) Miscast stars. Group B is infinitely more dangerous for the future of this team; somebody like DeMar DeRozan coming here and hijacking the offense, clogging up floor spacing and actively impeding development of the core guys is my nightmare scenario.
Where you guys see Barnes as "ill-equipped" for a starring role, I see him as perfectly equipped to be a (heinously overpaid) role player that blends into a variety of different lineups the Sixers will roll out. Dating back to his days at UNC, he has faced more criticism for being passive than he has for selfishness, a trait I think is an asset for any big money guy heading to this team situation.
A lot of us have been stressing short-term overpays for potential free agents, but the guys *we* would overpay are unlikely to be on the radar of a front office stressing *veteran presence* and other buzzword-y terms. I can live with Barnes, which is much more than I can say about a lot of other dudes on the market.
Levin: We can't judge every move in a perfect world vacuum. Signing the just-turned-24-year-old starter of a championship team until he's 27 is not bad. He has the ability to be a net positive on both ends of the court. That's not bad. And if it all flames out, his contract goes away when it's time to max out Simmons. Judging him too harshly based on a horrible series is ignoring four years of pretty efficient basketball.
Even if it is an overpay, I do not think it will get better than this. We live in a world where the Colangelos want to spend money to show how it's a new day in Philadelphia. I don't know that Barnes signs here, but if you're saying no to him, prepare to say yes to maxing out a 30-year-old Rondo.
Marc Whittington: The problem with signing Harry Barnes to a max is that it's pointless. There is no explicit purpose in terms of actually building towards a championship team. He's a really nice 4th piece, and a below average 3rd piece. How does maxing out a 4th piece now, two years before the team is likely to be in the running for a competitive seed, move the needle towards a championship? It doesn't. It's a move for the sake of moving.
If the argument is that the Sixers "need to signal they're willing to sign free agents" or some BS like that, there are other ways to do that besides maxing out a slightly above average player. Simply sign real NBA players for short term contracts slightly above their value. Trade one of your redundant players for an age appropriate veteran or two. But going from zero to 60 just because you feel like it is dumb.
Max Rappaport:I think the worst-case scenario is that Barnes is what he is, which is still a plus player on both ends of the floor. Best-case, his game grows in an expanded role, and we have an Iggy-like glue starter who maybe makes an All-Star appearance or two before his contract is up.
The cap next year is expected to jump another $15 million, and the new max at that point will be even higher. I'm pretty confident that at that point, if we wanted to get out of Barnes' deal we could find a Charlotte or a Utah or a Milwaukee to take him on for plain old cap space. The Grizzlies did exactly that with Rudy Gay during the second year of his second contract, and they even got Ed Davis and a future 2nd in the trade. Rudy Gay.
The best-case scenario is that we've found a perennially All-Star caliber, two-way wing player. Medium-case is that he's close to what Iguodala was for us on his second contract, but hopefully with someone else (Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, another FA, etc.) serving as the team's best player. And worst-case, barring absolute disaster, you can get out of the deal in a year or two and sign or acquire somebody else with that money.
Neubeck: I mean, I'd pay *at least* a few million extra dollars if he does this from time to time:
Matt Carey:I'm OK with it because even though he'll be tremendously overpaid, he does fill a role, which pretty much describes the entirety of the free agent class this year. My main concern with the Jeff Teague rumors was the fact that he would be out of his prime by the time the Sixers should be good again. Barnes can grow with this team. "It could be worse" to me means that you could have a signing that will totally bust, and I don't think Barnes will bust. He has his limitations as a primary creator, but as a wing playing with Simmons, I need somebody who can hit an open three, play in transition offensively, and switch off defensively. Barnes checks all three boxes. His turnover rate has decreased all four years of his career.
I think it depends entirely on the role he's asked to play. If you're bringing him in and expecting him to be your superstar, you're setting him up to fail. If you're asking him to be a comically overpaid super role player, I don't see how that hurts your team.
Sohil Doshi: A lot of discussion has been about putting together a better product for the sake of showing that the team is about winning now. I understand that for business and for some fans, this is important. However, this feels a lot like name chasing because of an illusion of certainty or spending money for the sake of spending money (in an attempt to show legitimacy or something). Furthermore, the most important players for this team to have any success in the future are the ones already on this team.
None of this matters if Simmons, Embiid, Okafor, or whoever the Sixers have spent draft picks don't become the potential stars of this team. There is a view point out there that the overpay for FAs this year will help sign potential FAs in the future, which makes no sense to me. Agree to disagree if someone feels otherwise but if we're shooting for a top tier FA in the future it's because of Simmons et al., not a super role player (who I think Barnes is).