The Sixers intend to be “serious suitors” for Harrison Barnes when free agency opens later this week, reports ESPN’s Marc Stein (via Twitter). While Barnes has yet to formally receive a qualifying offer from the Warriors, that QO is likely imminent, and will make him a restricted free agent.
Barnes, 24, has been a solid rotational piece for the Warriors since being selected seventh overall in the 2012 draft, shooting 37.6% on three-pointers and averaging double-digits in points over the course of his four-year career. However, he was inconsistent in the playoffs, no-showing in some key games down the stretch for Golden State. In the NBA Finals, Barnes shot just 35.2% from the floor, including 31.0% from three-point range, and many of those attempts were uncontested.
There has been speculation that Barnes will receive a maximum-salary offer sheet, or something very close to it, in free agency, which would be an awfully steep price to pay for a player who has never averaged more than 11.7 points per game in a season and has struggled in critical postseason moments.
Still, a rival suitor could make the case that Barnes’ evolution as a scorer has been limited in Golden State by the presence of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, arguing that a change of scenery could boost his offensive numbers. The Sixers also have no shortage of cap room. Before taking into account cap holds for first-round picks, Philadelphia has less than $25MM in guaranteed salary on its books for 2016/17. Most of the Sixers’ core pieces won’t get expensive for a few more years, so it may not hurt them to overpay Barnes — the team needs to reach the salary floor somehow.
As for the Warriors, they’ll have the opportunity to match any offer sheet for Barnes, but the club has been vocal about aggressively pursuing upgrades to its roster this offseason. The UNC product will be expendable if the Dubs can land Kevin Durant in free agency, and even if that doesn’t happen, Golden State may choose to go in a different direction rather than matching a huge rival offer for Barnes.