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2014-2015 Exit Interviews: Matt Barnes

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The often underrated 5th member of the excellent Clipper starting five, but how much longer can we leave the bandaid on?

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Key Stats
AGE YEARS IN NBA YEARS WITH CLIPPERS 2014-2015 SALARY CONTRACT STATUS
35
12 3 $3,542,500 Barnes's contract for next year of $3,542,500 is non-guaranteed, with only $1 million guaranteed

PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT% WS/48 PER TS% eFG%
2014-2015 10.1 4.0 1.5 .444 .362 .779 .091 11.3 .574 .553
2014-2015 Playoffs 7.6 5.1 1.6 .380 .267 .750 .056 9.6 .492 .460
CAREER 8.1 4.5 1.7 .448 .338 .735 .102 13.1 .550

.522


In a Nutshell
Matt Barnes looked absolutely dreadful in the preseason. The kind of dreadful we had all been dreading all offseason. But, after early injury problems and some personal issues, Barnes turned it around. After a brief flirtation that featured Jamal Crawford in the starting lineup early in the season instead of Barnes, Barnes reclaimed his starting spot and played well all year, with a banner year from the field that featured shooting 44%, including a quality 36% from three. Barnes continued to be the Clippers go-to wing defender and actually played the most minutes of his career this year, playing just about 30mpg. Barnes did a quality job filling in at the Clippers weakest spot on the floor, but truth is, it's always been out of necessity.

The next best natural small forward the Clippers had on the team was, hilariously, journeyman Jordan Hamilton. (I guess Hedo Turkoglu is still a small forward, but more of a power forward with how the game has progressed along with how he has slowed down.) The Clippers seemed content to wait for the same bargain bin dumpster diving that netted them the disappointing Danny Granger last year, except this year, it never happened. Tayshaun Prince seemed an inevitability, but he wouldn't be waived, and Doc Rivers was left with nothing backing up Barnes. Incredibly, the Clippers played stretches of the San Antonio series by putting Crawford on Kawhi Leonard, and luckily it distracted enough from San Antonio's team mentality that it didn't completely bury the team. With a more seasoned small forward stud facing the Clips, however, that kind of mentality will not fly. As great as Barnes has been, the idea of increasing his minutes again seems unreasonable and unwise.


Strengths
Matt does all the little things that no one else really does with consistency, outside of DeAndre Jordan. While we all know about his defense, it's not all he contributes to this team. He's fantastic at cutting to the rim, his 3 point shot was on point most of the season, he throws quality length-of-the-court passes when it's occasionally needed, he runs like a tight end and finishes well at the rim with either hand, and he seems to be the consensus "tough guy" on the Clippers. Barnes brought a ton of that toughness to close the San Antonio series, and was pivotal as virtually any other player on the court not named Paul or Griffin in that immense Game 7.

He's a resilient player that plays with a chip on his shoulder, and he's coming off a really great year with across the board fantastic numbers. He's often seen as the weak link in the starting lineup, but truthfully, he did a lot of the things the Clippers need from the small forward position without necessarily being another mouth to feed. While many people feel like the Clippers need to upgrade on Matt Barnes, it might be enough or maybe even fitting to just find another Matt-Barnes-like player to play when Barnes is tired.


Weaknesses
While Barnes had a near career year from distance, he's not going to drag the defense like J.J. Redick does. In fact, most defenses will be content with Barnes shooting the three from anywhere, if it prevents a Redick shot, Paul & Griffin/DJ pick and roll, or Paul/Griffin isolation. Barnes is definitely the poison teams tend to choose, and it turned to be such an elixir for the Houston Rockets that Barnes couldn't even get off the bench most of Game 7 in Houston. The Barnes bandaid looked more like stitches to end the Spur series and start the Rockets series, as between Game 7 in LA and Game 1 in Houston, Barnes shot an incredible 15/24 from the field with 6 triples. If it seemed too good to be true, well, it was. The stitches came undone and Barnes ended up finishing the Houston series shooting 35% from the field, and couldn't even crack 20% from downtown. Matt played no small role in his contribution to the Rivers/Crawford/Redick 4 headed monster that shot the Clippers out of the series. Indeed, when Barnes is shooting well, the Clippers are very difficult to beat. Problem is, teams will let him shoot open threes, and dare him to keep taking them.

Aside from the shooting, Barnes can't really create, and the athleticism he uses to make his living doing the little things is bound to run dry as the miles continue to add up. In fact, Barnes seemed more dinged up than any Clipper down the stretch, highlighted by a bum shoulder that probably contributed to his declining play. Barnes does a great job doing what he can, but depending on him to do those things for much longer is unrealistic, and he's best off doing those things off the bench when he can be fresher.. And if not off the bench, then at least at less minutes per game as a starter. While Barnes's confrontational tone makes him a Clipper "tough guy," refs tend to have quicker reflexes to whistle him for things like technicals and flagrants. Barnes has voiced his displeasure about the fines he's racked up a handful of times on twitter. Life is hard.



Future with the Clippers
We've all grown to love Matt Barnes. We've seen the behind the scenes footage where he seems like the nicest dude with a couple of cute kids that run around the Clipper play pen with everybody else's kids. His DNA is stitched into this current crop of guys as much as anyone else, and most of us probably can't even remember that Barnes use to be a Laker. His contract is fine considering how much he contributes, and it's about to run out by next year's end. Best idea would probably just be to ride it out with him, right?

For the most part, that's right. The Clippers could possibly trade Barnes before July 1st to a team that wants to only pay him his 1 million guaranteed and save some money. The Clippers could possibly also just waive him, but that seems very silly considering their cap situation once they bring Jordan back. The Clippers could use him as a trade piece along with Crawford in case someone wanted the expiring Clipper tandem to unload what they perceive to be a bad contract.. There are some possibilities as far as Barnes goes, but most likely, he just stays. Ideally the Clippers find someone to lighten the load or even start ahead of him, and Barnes can save his energy to do all those little things we love watching him do.


Favorite Moment
This came after an earlier massive 3 pointer that tied the game at 105, which followed a Tony Parker missed floater that would've really made Game 7 difficult. But Barnes blocked the Spurs last gasp here, and was fantastic this entire game. Arguably outplayed Kawhi Leonard this game. Hard to remember this moment after what followed it, but enjoy it.