Trade Grades: Kings Splurge for High-Scoring Wing With Mavericks' Harrison Barnes
The Mavericks and Kings stayed busy on Wednesday night, engineering a swap that reportedly sends Harrison Barnes to Sacramento in exchange for Justin Jackson and Zach Randolph. As the Kings continue their surprising push toward the post-season and try to bolster their rotation, the Mavs are pivoting toward the long-term with Luka Doncic and the surprising addition of Kristaps Porzingis, and moving on from Barnes and his contract facilitates that. Let’s break it down.
After making their primary move last week with the acquisition of Kristaps Porzingis, the Mavericks follow it up with a financially conscious decision that makes sense on a few different levels. Most importantly, Dallas eliminates all likelihood of paying Barnes’ salary, and frees up money with Randolph’s expiring deal. The Mavs now have Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, and a direct pathway to creating maximum cap space this summer—with Porzingis’ bird rights in hand, they could get his extension done after doing their summer spending, and potentially try and become players for top free agents.
Noting that the Mavs are set to pay substantial money to newly acquired Tim Hardaway and Courtney Lee next season, moving Barnes also creates a more direct pathway to wing minutes for both players, who are capable shooters and should directly benefit from playing off of Doncic. Taking an inexpensive flier on Jackson is a nice bonus that comes with shedding Barnes’ money, and fits more with the average age and timeline of their younger group. After the Porzingis deal, it became clear that the Mavericks are playing for next season and beyond. Their decision to move on from Barnes, who they overpaid in the first place, comes in concert philosophically. Dallas may not have much in the way of future draft picks (although they’ll likely have a chance to keep this year’s top-five protected first away from Atlanta), but they do have two young stars, cap flexibility, and a fully revamped roster to play with going forward. They need to be smart from here, but losing Barnes should ultimately be a small price to pay.
While this falls well short of a home run that pushes the Kings into clear playoff mode, Barnes, 26, makes for a decent addition to Sacramento’s core. After acquiring Alec Burks earlier Wednesday in a three-team deal that sent out Iman Shumpert, the Kings continued to reshape their roster and add a starting-caliber forward for a reasonable price, although it will sting a bit financially. Barnes has been generally maligned since leaving Golden State three years ago, but is a solid player who spaces the floor and contributes on both ends. As the Kings attempt to get back to the playoffs, Barnes makes for a short-term upgrade on Jackson, whose contributions off the bench have been inconsistent and whose value is tied more to being a usable player on a rookie contract than it is to being a stellar long-term prospect. Factor in Randolph’s expiring contract, and Sacramento isn’t giving up a ton here. The issue is that they’re likely going to get more expensive at a time when they don’t necessarily need to.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Kings intend to try and keep Barnes, who can function at either forward spot, as a long-term complement to their promising trio of De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley and Buddy Hield. Barnes has a player option worth more than $25 million for next season, a high price that he’s almost certain to pick up. Ideally, a new contract for Barnes would be more team-friendly so as not to hamper Sacramento’s spending ability, but with their core guys all on rookie contracts, they do have some immediate money they can spend on players. The Kings are not exactly a free agent destination, however, and will almost surely have to overpay to keep Barnes around. If that’s the case, we may not look back at this favorably in three years, particularly if Fox and Bagley deliver on their promise and create a competitive window for Sacramento.
The Kings are more or less hoping they hit a double with this trade, and that Barnes helps facilitate and sustain their newfound success. Time will tell if this move actually ends up moving the needle, and whether they can keep Barnes (and at what cost) will end up determining the real value of the trade. The fear is that it will stand as more of a short-term fix to juice interest than a legitimate play to build the roster out. Sacramento has shown a good deal of promise this season, and they’ll have to hope any contractual commitment to Barnes doesn’t hamstring them in the end.