According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Matt Barnes will sign a one-year deal with the Lakers unless Cleveland raises its multi-year offer to Barnes, which starts at $3.5 million a year.
If Barnes does choose to take less money and sign with the Lakers, it would be a great discount pickup for the defending champions.
Barnes is known as a three-and-D guy, but reputation as a defensive stopper is a bit overstated; Barnes hustles on defense, and did manage to get under Kobe’s skin that one game, but he’s never really been an upper-echelon perimeter defender. Barnes also isn’t a lights-out three-point shooter; he only shot 32% from beyond the arc last season, and is a 33% three-point shooter for his career.
What Barnes does bring is versatility. He’s a solid defender who can defend multiple positions, he can shoot the three or put the ball on the floor, he’s a good rebounder for his frame, he knows his limitations as well as he knows his strengths, he’s comfortable in the full-court game, and he plays the game with savvy and toughness.
For the Lakers, Barnes’ versatility would make him a perfect fit. He wouldn’t take possessions away from the Lakers’ superstars, he could lighten the load on both Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant, he’d be a good fit in the triangle, and he would give the Lakers the freedom to let Shannon Brown leave in free agency.
For the Cavaliers, Barnes represents something different. Barnes fills two needs for the Cavaliers: he’s a small forward, and he has experience playing uptempo basketball. Byron Scott is trying to turn the Cavaliers into a running team, and Barnes’ versatility made him a valuable cog for both the Warriors and the Suns.
Signing Barnes for real money could also be Dan Gilbert’s way of telling the league that he plans on fielding competitive teams instead of going into full rebuilding mode and waiting to win the lottery again. If the Cavaliers get Barnes, add a quality playmaker, and everything goes right for them, they could sneak into the playoffs with 40-45 wins next season.
Barnes is what he is: a 30-year old role player who can play multiple positions and adapt his game to any system. The Lakers want to pay Barnes role player money and use him as a role player. If Barnes agrees, it will be another great signing for the defending champs.
On the Cleveland side of things, $3.5 million over multiple years is about the upper limit of what Barnes is worth, especially since Barnes won’t turn Cleveland into a contender. Cleveland wants to show everyone that they’re serious about competing next season, but overpaying Barnes won’t make him into a player he’s not.