After underachieving in the first half of the 2020-21 season, must the Boston Celtics make a splash before the March 25 trade deadline to boost their NBA Finals prospects?
Rumors have linked a number of players in potential trades to Boston. We’ll examine a few possible Celtics trade targets and offer a verdict on whether the team should make the move. Next up: Harrison Barnes.
How far would Harrison Barnes take the Boston Celtics?
That’s a key question ahead of the NBA trade deadline, with rumors claiming Boston has targeted the Sacramento Kings forward as a potential reinforcement.
Barnes’ combination of talent, championship pedigree and reasonable contract make him an attractive target for potential suitors. Although the 16-24 Kings insist they intend to remain competitive, chatter around the NBA suggests they might be willing to start tanking in order to position themselves for a winning future. Perhaps they’d be willing to trade Barnes in exchange for a young player or two and a first-round pick in the NBA Draft?
Let’s examine the pros and cons of the Celtics trading for Barnes.
Weight: 225 pounds
2020 Stats: 16.6 PPG, 6.2 REB, 3.5 AST, .8 BLK, .2 STL, 49.4 FG%, 36.7 3FG%
Contract Status: Barnes is in the second year of a four-year, $85 million contract he signed in 2019. He earns $22.2 million this season, but his salary will reduce to $20.2 million in 2021-22 and $18.3 million in 2022-23, after which he can become a free agent.
Like other targets, Barnes has the “size with shooting” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge claims is Boston’s biggest need. Barnes has proven himself to be a dependable and efficient scorer, with career averages of a 45 percent on field-goals, 37 percent from 3-point range and just under 80 percent from the free-throw line. He’d lighten the scoring burden Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker currently shoulder in addition to providing some defensive prowess.
The Celtics would be able to absorb his salary due to their $28.5 million traded-player exception, so they wouldn’t have to include any of their leading players in a deal.
Finally, Barnes helped the Golden State Warriors win the NBA Finals in 2015. He hasn’t appeared in the NBA playoffs since 2016, but his consistency and production for bad teams over the past five-plus years suggests he has plenty of mental toughness and motivation, from which the Celtics could benefit.
The Celtics once had a boat-load of NBA Draft assets, but they now are down to their own natural picks in the first rounds of coming drafts. Parting ways with one could hamstring them in the future, particularly if a potential star falls into the 20s range, where we expect Boston to be picking in the coming years. If the Celtics trade Romeo Langford or another young player, and he goes on to develop into a star, that also might sting.
Barnes is affordable in terms of the Kings’ asking price and his contract, and he’s young and focused enough to maintain his current level through the length of his deal. He also might continue to improve.
If the Celtics can acquire Barnes without giving up, Marcus Smart, Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum or Brown … why not go for it? The verdict is a resounding yes.