Matt Barnes key stats:
Last year, picking up Matt Barnes seemed redundant and maybe even unnecessary. The team had made a minor coup snatching Grant Hill from a handful of other suitors with substantial pedigree and between him and Caron Butler, the team seemed as set at the small forward position as they had been in quite some time. Barnes was working out at the Clippers practice facility, and with some nudges from notable Clippers, Chris Paul being a major one, the team grabbed him like he was at the end of a lineup for a pickup game. But boy, what a pickup.
Even the most faithful citizens at Clips Nation could be skeptical of the addition, and the reaction was a bit polarizing. While many found Barnes to be a prototypical "hate him as an opponent love him as a teammate" sort of guy, many found that his rough demeanor on the court could add potential friction to a team that had already been close the season before. (This even though someone like Kenyon Martin just had plenty of this vibe while adding mightily to the team.) At the end of the season, the results played out beautifully, and Barnes was an incredible addition. He put up career numbers all year, was the team's best wing defender, and seemingly did every little thing you could imagine on the floor.. Whether it was hustling for loose balls, making hard cuts he always seems to be underrated for, playing rugged defense, or hitting timely threes (particularly during the Clips' perfect December).. Barnes was often in the middle of valuable play. He got along swimmingly with his teammates as well.. So much so that the most ardent opponents of Barnes were reading articles about his family life and gushing about what a good guy he really was by midseason. Barnes's last line of the postseason was 30 points and 10 rebounds, on 11/14 from the field and 6/7 from three point land.
He seemed to be a tough get over the offseason, but he took a little less to stay with the team. So, what does his role look like now?
Barnes will continue to come off the bench, but with the Clippers bringing in a couple of natural, clear cut starters in the Eric Bledsoe trade, his minutes might not be as easy to come by. Jared Dudley and Butler played comparable minutes last year as starters (Dudley had some stints off the bench but played most games as a starter) but J.J. Redick will clearly demand more minutes than Willie Green, and many of those minutes may come at the expense of Barnes while some may come at the expense of Jamal Crawford. The Dudley/Barnes comparison is an interesting one and both players have their strengths, but both are very good, seamless glue guys that can add to a team a lot when they aren't the focus of the lineup. Seeing who closes games will be anyone's guess at the beginning of the season. Add in Redick and Crawford and the swing positions are crowded with talent, but Barnes's tough nosed defense will continue to carve out a 20+ minute role for him even while the Clippers are at full strength. There had been some talk about Barnes brushing up on his post game to play some small ball four, but he will still likely get most of his minutes at the swing spots, especially with Doc Rivers's attempt to give DeAndre Jordan legitimate starter's minutes as the third in a Clipper big three.
Of all the players that might benefit from Rivers and his semblance of an offensive system, Barnes might actually miss Vinny Del Negro (who?) the most.. VDN's free-wheeling offense was a godsend for Barnes, who had particularly felt shackled with Mike Brown's Lakers the year before. Barnes thrived, and I wonder how the structure of the Rivers system will affect him. But Barnes is a gamer and has a team-first mentality, so I'm guessing it won't be as big of an issue as I felt it could be.
So after wondering last year if there was any need for him, it's likely most Clipper faithful will be trying to find as many ways as possible to get Barnes his minutes to start this year. It's nice to be appreciated, finally. Welcome back, Matt Barnes.