The news that Kevin Durant is leaving Oklahoma City Thunder after 9 seasons and joining powerhouse Golden State Warriors hit the basketball world like an earthquake. The record-setting team which had won 73 games last year is now strengthened with league’s most polished and prolific offensive weapon and Top 3 player.
That’s not fair for the rest of the NBA franchises. Of course, to sign Durant the Dubs had to give something back. They had to separate ways with a couple of their players, with Harrison Barnes being the most important one. As a longtime starter and a guy heralded for his defense and athletic ability, there’s an opinion around the league that he has much more to show and prove as the former 7th overall pick.
The Mavericks and Mark Cuban were the most persistent in their intent to attract Barnes and make him the fulcrum of their rebuilding. By adding Black Falcon to their roster, the Mavs might have made one of the most impactful moves in the NBA. Sure, Barnes got $94 million over 4 years and there is no doubt that it is perhaps more than he deserved, considering poor performance in the NBA Finals. But Dallas’ had to take the risk after several disappointments in the past. Harrison is a second tier player at the moment, but he has a potential to be perennial All-Star in the future. That’s the reason why are the Mavs ready to gamble.
I’m pretty sure that the Mavs are stronger with Barnes and without Parsons. The latter missed 16 and 21 games respectively over the 2 seasons and didn’t make a difference the Mavs were hoping and expecting. Parsons is a better scorer (for now) and surely better shooter than Barnes, but he can’t nearly defend on the level like Barnes does. Both, Mark Jackson and Steve Kerr, regularly employed Barnes as mirror-defender for three positions (SG, SF, PF). And despite not being capable of creating his own shot against the stingiest defenses, Barnes is career 37,6% three-point shooter. He’s solid rebounder and he’s not afraid of the contact with bulky wings and forwards. Playing alongside Curry, Thompson and Green certainly taught Barnes to put aside his ego and be a team-oriented player. That’s always laudable.
With resurgent Deron, healthy Matthews, consistent Nowitzki and defensive stalwart Bogut the Mavericks have enough depth to compete for the playoff spot. Rick Carlisle is probably the best NBA coach over the last few years, with all due respect to Gregg Popovich. He is an alchemist who made Barea, Mejri, Pachulia, Villanueva, rookie Powell and walking McDonald's advertisement Felton useful and productive. His system prolonged Dirk’s career. In terms of creating mismatches, Carlisle is second to none. Under his guidance, Harrison Barnes could flourish and emerge as a star player which Dallas desperately needs.
Their defense is going to improve and with Barnes’ physical gifts Carlisle would finally be able to run a sophisticated offense like he used to when the Mavs won the championship back in 2011.
Once upon a time, Barnes was compared with Tracy McGrady, and not only because their similar playing position and athleticism. He brings championship experience, youth, unselfishness, desire to learn and immense physical tools. His salary is that of a franchise cornerstone. The eyes of Dallas’ fans are fixed on him. Flashes of brilliance in the Warriors jersey are a blueprint he must follow to meet the expectations. After Mark Aguirre, Rolando Blackman, Derek Harper, Jason Kidd, Michael Finley, Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki, is Harrison Barnes the next gunslinger to keep the torch burning and Mavericks glory shining?
I think so.
At 24 years age, the Black Falcon starts his true flight. Who’s gonna be his prey?