We’ve spent a lot of time this summer trying to figure out how, why, where, and when the plethora of new free agents and rookies the Sacramento Kings brought in this offseason will fit in the Kings’ regular season rotation. Matt Barnes’ versatility would theoretically allow you to pencil him in for a few minutes everywhere on a ‘need’ basis, but Matt Barnes isn’t a ‘few’ minutes guy.
Barnes has averaged 25.7 minutes per game over the last seven seasons, and I chose the last seven seasons as my sample size here because he also hasn’t missed the playoffs over that period of time. Barnes hasn’t been playing heavy minutes for bottom-of-the-barrel NBA teams, he’s been playing heavy minutes for the NBA’s best. If he’s good enough for the then-playoff-bound Magic, Lakers, Clippers, and Grizzlies, he’s probably good enough for the often-terrible Sacramento Kings.
I think Matt Barnes is going to play. I think he’s going to play a lot. I just don’t know where.
Between Rudy Gay and Omri Casspi, Matt Barnes shouldn’t play more than a couple of minutes per game at small forward. I can see Barnes subbing in at SF if there is foul trouble, obviously, or if they want to give an opposing teams’ scoring three a different, physical look defensively, but if neither Gay or Casspi fall into a significant slump, the bulk of his minutes shouldn’t come here.
We’ve already discussed the Kings’ frontcourt depth. Between DeMarcus Cousins, Willie Cauley-Stein, Kosta Koufos, Anthony Tolliver, and to a much-less-but-who-knows extent, Georgios Papagiannis and Skal Labissiere, the Kings probably have enough there to squeeze Barnes out of a huge frontcourt role.
What Barnes does provide the Kings with is an incredible amount of flexibility if that potential trade we’ve been looking for all offseason ever comes to fruition. If Kosta Koufos is shipped out, Barnes can help the bigs. If Rudy Gay is shipped out, Matt Barnes can help on the wing. He’s a solid veteran security blanket, but what if that trade never materializes? This is particularly interesting considering the fact that Dave Joerger is aiming for a tight rotation.
Joerger said Kings have versatility and their "heavy" at four and five, but the best 10 will play with 8 getting most of the minutes— Jason Jones (@mr_jasonjones) September 27, 2016
I loved seeing that comment from Joerger, because everyone can’t play, nor should they! The Kings have suffered from massive player role identity issues for a long time now, in part because Kings coaches of yesteryear couldn’t settle on a fixed rotation. We’ll see if Joerger can stick to his media day word. It’s easier said than done, coaches like to tinker, and when you lose as much as the Kings lose, the pull to tinker is even stronger.
I referenced Barnes’ history with heavy playing time earlier, and I think it’s worth noting here that his history of being a consistent rotation member is much richer than perceived rotation mainstays like Garrett Temple, Kosta Koufos, Anthony Tolliver, and Omri Casspi. I’ll leave the Kings’ younger players out of this comparison because they simply haven’t been in the NBA long enough to have a history like Barnes’, but you better believe he’ll be coming for their minutes, too.
On a somewhat side note, Matt Barnes was on J.J. Redick’s podcast last week, and Barnes sort of talked about what I’ve been getting at here. He’s always been underpaid because of his self-admitted off-court antics, and teams will frequently pencil in other players over him or just pass on signing him completely. He talked about how he almost signed with the Clippers this summer, but those conversations stopped when they signed Wesley Johnson instead. He’s salty about that one.
The point being, I wouldn’t count Matt Barnes out. He finds a way to make himself a nice big role everywhere he lands, and I think the only thing that will stop him from doing that in Sacramento this season is talent and athletic regression. It’s certainly possible, Barnes is closer to 37 than he is 36. Despite his apparent agelessness, he’s going to lose it eventually. As fellow SBNation blog GrizzlyBearBlues talked about in their review of Barnes’ 2015-16 season in Memphis, his per-game shooting stats dipped across the board, but his leadership and hustle made up for it. He finds a way to stick.
Whose minutes will Matt Barnes steal in Sacramento this season? I don’t know, but he’s going to play, one way or another.