Welcome to Kings In Review, where we’ll be recapping the season for every play that ended the season in Sacramento.
Harrison Barnes has been Mr. Consistent during his three-plus seasons with the Sacramento Kings, and the 2021-22 season was more of the same.
With three-point shooting and iso-scoring in the half-court, Barnes has been someone the Kings can count on, despite the continuous losing.
Barnes started the 2021-22 season with a bang, scoring 36 points in Sacramento’s season-opening win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Oct. 20. With De’Aaron Fox slumping in a significant way to begin the season, Barnes was Sacramento’s most effective player through the first 12 games.
Then, Barnes had a lackluster stretch in the middle of the season, where he struggled to find any offensive footing for a bit heading into the new year.
Eventually, Barnes regained his form, especially once the Kings acquired Domantas Sabonis, he fit decently as the third guy instead of that top two guy the Kings were asking him to be earlier in the season.
Defensively, Barnes took a step back in 2021-22. While he’s no sieve on that end, he has definitely gotten to the point where he is getting beat off the dribble a lot more by some quicker wing players.
Among qualified players, Barnes had the fifth-worst defensive rating in the NBA this past season. While individual defensive metrics remain imperfect, the eye test with Barnes checks out this drop in defense.
Unfortunately, due to the composition of Sacramento’s roster, Barnes has often been tasked with guarding the best wings in the league.
Going into his age-30 season, Barnes is looking like more of a power forward than a small forward these days. For the Kings and Barnes, that’s a fine development, considering they are short on talent for both forward positions.
This offseason, Sacramento would benefit from finding a wing player that can credibly guard the best wings that the NBA offers, so Barnes doesn’t have to. All of the teams thriving in the playoffs have three or four credible wings, whereas the Kings are constantly giving significant minutes to replacement-level guys.
As good as Barnes has been for Sacramento, he probably should be a perfect fifth starter on a good team rather than the second or third guy on a bad team. If you are relying on him to be the best wing player on your team, you probably won’t be very good, as the Kings have learned.
The last two trade deadlines would have been prime times to trade Barnes for a combination of young players and picks. Now, though, Sacramento has decided to build their team around Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox, and the optimal guys to surround them with are guys that can shoot and have length, both of which Barnes offers.
Barnes is entering the final year of his contract in 2022-23, making $18.4 Mill, and for the Kings, it doesn’t make sense to let him reach free agency. After they have declining to trade him at the peak of his value, it might make sense to start thinking extension for the Black Falcon.