Is Harrison Barnes just another Jeff Green?The 2016 Free Agent class has a couple franchise changing players: Kevin Durant and Lebron James. It also has fringe stars like Al Horford, Mike Conley, and Nic Batum. All of these players are getting maxed out. All will deserve it based on their performances, no question. There is another player that people speculate will get a max deal and that is Harrison Barnes. Does he deserve a max contract? That is debateable. Let’s compare him and another player that will definitely not get a max deal: Jeff Green. All stats provided by Vantage Sports.
Both are similar players in that they can both play the 3 and 4, and are complementary players. The age difference is big, Barnes 23 and Green 29, but at one point in his career Jeff Green was the 23 year old with potential and the ability to “do it all”. Barnes undoubtedly has the ability to get better, but that is not a guarantee in this league. Barnes also finds himself in a much different circumstance than Green ever has. He is on championship team and fits well. In fact he is part of one of the best lineups of all time. The question for me is, are these facts overrating Barnes? Let’s take a look at Barnes’ production this year vs. Green’s.
Barnes and Green had largely very similar production offensively this season. Both stand out in two areas. Green is a much better passer than Barnes. Green’s ability to find open shooters, True Faciliation, is nearly twice that of Barnes. Green isn’t an elite passer, but more of an average one. Barnes on the other hand is a bottom 10 passer for a small forward and a bottom 30 passer if you include power forwards.
Barnes is a much better screener than Green. This is one of the keys to the Golden State offense. The Warriors were second in Set Screen Points per Chance this season. They rely heavily on off ball screens to get Curry and Thompson open, and Barnes is a consistent contributor to that aspect of their offense. Barnes is 2nd in Solid Screen %, 6th in Set Screens per Chance, and 8th in Set Screen Outcome Efficiency for the Warriors.
Barnes value offensively is supposed to be his ability to stretch the floor and post up smaller players. Both have been ineffective in the playoffs, especially against the Cavs. Barnes ranks 29th of 42 Small Forwards in Points per Shot in the playoffs with 1.0 Points per Shot, that has even dropped to .95 during the Finals. Green was at 1.07 putting him at 23rd among Small Forwards in his short playoff stint.
This is where you’d expect Barnes to stick out more than Green, but he really doesn’t. Most that follow Barnes closely know he is not a shot blocker. He ranks as the 4th worst among all rotation forwards. Only Joe Ingles, Doug McDermott, and Bojan Bogdanovic have a worse Blocks per 100 Chances. That is strange company for the athletic Barnes to be in.
Green is better in Deflections per 100 chances, Turnovers Forced per Chance, and Contest+. Barnes is much better at closeouts and defending screens, which aren’t too surprising considering how the Warriors defend. Neither Green nor Barnes check out as elite defenders, but with Barnes length and athleticism you’d think he’d at least look more favorable by the numbers.
Could Barnes improve? Absolutely. Green isn’t the best comparison because of age and his typically undefined role. I use Green as a comparison almost as a cautionary tale. With the rising cap and the small number of quality free agents, a Barnes max offer sheet seems inevitable. Will the Warriors match? Should they match? If he continues to be the player he is today, which is basically Jeff Green, it is certainly not worth it. But as a member of the “Death Lineup” can they really afford to let him go?
Is Harrison Barnes better than Jeff Green? Maybe at some things, but not definitively. That is precisely why Barnes pending max deal is so difficult to stomach.