Matt Barnes has carved a niche for himself in the league as an aggressive agitator. He’s universally hated when he’s on the opposing team. When he’s on your team, though, he’s a fierce competitor and your favorite player.
With Tony Allen said to be questionable for game 1 of the Spurs vs. Grizzlies series, Barnes is likely to have more defensive responsibility.
He’ll probably be assigned to Kawhi Leonard, and while Allen would be a better matchup for the Grizzlies in this regard, Barnes’ pesky brand of defense can be a nuisance to the player he’s guarding.
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Where Barnes has severe shortcomings is on the offensive end. For a long-distance gunner, he’s really not a terrific shooter. In the past 3 seasons, he’s taken more than half of his shots from behind the 3 point line, and his percentage typically hovers in the low 30s.
Once known for sticking primarily to corner 3s, he’s expanded his range to mixed results. He’s shot 254 non-corner 3s and made just 82 of them for a percentage of about 32%. Surprisingly, that’s about his same percentage this season on corner 3s. He shoots the ball far too often from the perimeter for a guy who shoots it as poorly as he does.
He has no midrange game to speak of; 233 of his shots have come in the paint either on fast-breaks or driving to the hoop in a half-court offense. Combined with his eagerness to fire up 3s, the vast minority of his shots come from outside the paint but inside the 3 point line. He struggles to create his own shoot, often relying on ball movement from other players to get an open shot for himself.
When on the left side of the court facing the hoop, he’s more likely to settle for a perimeter jumper than drive to the basket. His tendencies are the opposite when he’s on the right side. He’s right handed, and likely feels more comfortable penetrating to this right, which is easier to do facing your defender diagonally from the basket to the right side. His shot chart describes him as essentially a catch-and-shoot wing who isn’t particularly good at shooting.
Barnes isn’t a well-rounded enough to ever be more than a role player on a contender. Preferably you’d like him coming off the bench because of the energy he can provide in spurts, but his offensive deficiencies can be masked if he isn’t asked to do too much.
His fervid passion on the court can either invigorate a team or cause them to self-destruct. He’s best complemented by a good blend of veteran leadership. Being on the same team as a guy like Lance Stephenson sounds fascinating, but it could also be a combustible combination. This series is high risk for some technical fouls.
Barnes is a free agent after this season, and he’s a talented player, but teams must do their homework before bringing him aboard. He can be an important contributor to a team if he understands his role and doesn’t get in his own way emotionally.