It’s Golden State’s call.
With Barnes set to become a restricted free agent, the Warriors can match any offer sheet he signs. If they want to keep him, they will.
Barnes is expected to receive and offer of at least $20 million per year
One source within the organization pointed out that Lacob and the Warriors owners have, indeed, said all along that he will pay to keep a winning team together, and that has not changed.
The one possible scenario in which Barnes leaves, the source said, would be if he approached the Warriors front office with a request to be elsewhere.
Barnes will command a max salary – projected to be about $23 million – in next summer’s cap environment. It shouldn’t have taken the Warriors’ front office long to figure that out.
The bigger question is how long it takes their players.
I’m not sure how well it goes over in the locker room if Barnes is the highest-paid player. Yes, it’s purely contextual. Yes, the union could’ve avoided the issue by accepting cap smoothing. But you tell that to Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry.
This is one of the reasons signing Kevin Durant is so appealing (besides the fact that he’s Kevin freaking Durant). Golden State would likely let Barnes walk to clear enough cap space and therefore avoid a potentially tense situation.
If the Warriors strike out on Durant and want Barnes back, Barnes has the leverage to get a max salary. He could take a discount, but it’s unlikely he’d accept less than the team-high $16,663,575 Thompson is due to make next season.
Again, paying Barnes more than $20 million is perfectly reasonable next summer from a roster-building approach. But for team chemistry, I’m less convinced it flies.
Then again, re-signing Barnes and dealing with a few bruised egos might trump letting a key contributor walk without having the cap flexibility to replace him.