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Trade Candidate Series: Clippers up for paying Kings’ ransom?

Harrison Barnes could be a nice fit for the Clippers alongside Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

If you’ve been following the recent series about some of the extension-eligible players that the LA Clippers could potentially make a run at via trade, you’ve already seen two star-level players mentioned:

  1. Golden State Warriors future Hall-of-Famer Draymond Green
  2. Toronto Raptors star forward Pascal Siakam

But those two players do have something in common other than just being stars: they primarily slot in at power forward. And that’s what brings us to our third player in this series.

Harrison Barnes logged only 31% of his minutes last season at power forward, according to Cleaning The Glass. But the previous seasons are better indicators. In 2020-21, 59% of Barnes’ minutes came at power forward. It was 54% in 2019-20. His 205-game stint with the Dallas Mavericks from 2016-17 through 2018-19 saw Barnes have 91%, 60% and 79% of his minutes, respectively, come at the four-spot.

Barnes, 30, averaged 16.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists on 46.9% shooting last season. He also shot 39.4% on 3s.

Over the last four seasons, Barnes shot 41% on catch-and-shoot 3s and 63% in the restricted area. He’s the type of player, due to his hybrid wing ability, that would be especially helpful for the Clippers as they pursue the franchise’s first-ever championship.

Barnes has been in trade discussions and rumors over the last several years, and the thing that separates Barnes from the aforementioned stars such as Siakam and Green is that he’s probably more gettable for a team like the Clippers than the other two are.

Because Barnes is entering the final year of his current contract with the Sacramento Kings, he’s eligible for an extension that could max out at four-years, $99 million according to HoopsHype’s Yossi Gozlan.

As Leo Tochterman of Sactown Royalty points out, the Kings potentially could still be looking at moving Barnes if they get adequate compensation back:

The point is that the team doesn’t have many moves left on the chess board that they could make before the season. Barnes represents one of the few they still have.

Do the Kings want to be the team paying Barnes into his 30s? Also, would Barnes really want to spend the last few seasons of his prime toiling away in Sacramento?

If the Kings truly don’t want to be the team that pays Barnes into his 30s, perhaps the Clippers would be interested in doing so. He’d represent a (slightly) younger option than current starting power forward, Marcus Morris Sr.

The Kings sent a 2024 first-round pick to the Atlanta Hawks in a deal for Kevin Huerter, but it’s tied up in protections through potentially 2026. Would recouping a first be of interest to them?

Barnes is slated to make $18.4 million in 2022-23, but he’ll be a free agent in the offseason. If the Kings are looking to have someone onboard that has more guaranteed salary than Barnes’ expiring deal, the Clippers could facilitate a workable deal.

After all, the only player who isn’t under contract beyond next season for the Clippers is guard Reggie Jackson. As things stand, 13 of the Clippers’ 14 guaranteed contracts for this upcoming season are slated to go into the 2023-24 season.

One of those players locked up through 2023-24 is Morris. He’s at salaries of $16.4 million and $17.1 million over the next two seasons. A straight-up swap between Morris and Barnes would work, but it’s possible due to Barnes’ edge in age and impact that Sacramento would like a tad more added to any potential deal.

Would the Clippers have to include a first-round pick? If they do, it’d be their 2028 first. Potential protections on the proposed draft pick compensation could always be sorted out when discussing a trade such as this, as well.

Sacramento might also not be interested in Morris and thus cast their eyes elsewhere, whether that be on Luke Kennard or Robert Covington, though it’s hard to imagine the Clippers opting to toss the newly re-signed Covington into a deal anytime soon.

Barnes was seen playing alongside Paul George, as well as a few other notable NBA players, during an open gym session in recent days. While it likely doesn’t mean much, obviously it hints that the two players have seen each other recently and are at least amicable with one another.

The Clippers, assuming a deal would eventually get worked out for Barnes, would have to ink the veteran to a contract extension in order to keep the band together. It stands to reason that Steve Ballmer would be comfortable doing so considering the vast money he’s spent on the team’s roster for this upcoming season already.

While Barnes isn’t a sexy name by any stretch of the imagination, he is a sturdy player that understands his role and has been remarkably durable for the vast portion of his career. In fact, Barnes has played in 440 out of a possible 471 regular season games since 2016-17. Anytime you’re playing in roughly 93% of your team’s games over a six-year stretch, that’s pretty good.

Out of the three players that have been profiled so far, Barnes seems like the one that’s the most obtainable. We’ll see if the Clippers, as well as the Kings, can agree on that.

You can find Justin Russo’s daily content on the LA Clippers by subscribing to his Patreon feed, and you can also follow him on Twitter at @FlyByKnite.