Opinion: Is Matt Barnes Worth the Dollars?

Apr 22, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies forward Matt Barnes (22) drives against San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green (14) in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 22, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies forward Matt Barnes (22) drives against San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green (14) in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports /

The Sacramento Kings recently signed Matt Barnes to a 2-year contract worth $12 million.  This article examines Barnes’ on-court game to see if the Kings spent wisely.

On July 3rd, 2016, Matt Barnes inked a contract for 2 years and $12 million with the Sacramento Kings.  Barnes is a 6’7 combo forward who brings a wealth of experience to his second stint with the Kings.  He played for the Kings in the 2004-2005 season, in case you were wondering.  The 36-year-old Barnes has suited up for nine teams in his NBA career.  Below is a highlight video of Mister Barnes from the 2014-2015 NBA season.

Let us examine his on-court game below to decide if the Kings made a wise decision in signing Mister Barnes this offseason.

Offensive Skills and Production

Matt Barnes always brings hustle and energy to the court.  For his career, he averages 23.6 minutes per game while sinking 1.0 3 pointer, grabbing 1.2 offensive rebounds, dishing out 1.7 assists, and scoring 8.3 points per game on 44.0% from the field and 74.2% from the free throw line.

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Last season, Mister Barnes suited up for the Memphis Grizzlies and he was forced into a 28.8 minute per game role.  He managed to shoot only 38.1% from the field and 32.2% from beyond the arch (down from 33.5% for his career), but 80.4% from the free-throw line.  Barnes managed 1.1 offensive rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 10.0 points per game.  He did commit 1.6 turnovers per game, the 2nd highest mark of his career.  This could be signs of regression for Barnes at age 35 or caused by the fact that late in the season the Grizzlies were decimated by injuries.  The injuries forced Barnes into a larger offensive role than he is accustomed to.  Let us look at his shot chart below courtesy of NBASavant.com from last season to further examine his offensive game.

As you can see, Barnes only managed to shoot above league average from one area on the floor.   He was a bad shooter last season, but the role change played a factor in that.  For his career, Matt Barnes has been an adequate 3 point shooter who can come off the bench and supply you with 25 minutes of offensive production that is not going to hurt the team.  He is also willing to do the little things like setting screens and moving without the ball to set-up the offense.

Defensive Skills and Production

Barnes brings it on the defensive end of the floor every single night.  His hustle and energy lead to him producing 4.4 defensive rebounds, 1.0 steal, and 0.8 blocks last season.  Those numbers outshine his career numbers of 3.4 defensive rebounds, 0.8 steals, and 0.5 blocks in 5.2 fewer minutes than he played last season.  Let us now take a look at his defensive shot chart from NBAsavant.com  to see how he fared as an on-ball defender.

As you can see, many of the numbers are eye-popping.  Focus your attention on the number of shots and you will see that nobody shot against Mister Barnes.  They were successful when they did, but for a player who played 28.8 minutes, a night nobody wanted to shot with Barnes guarding them.

Barnes brings his lunch pail to every game and that really shines through on the defensive end.  He earns traditional stats and keeps the opposition from attempting shots on him.  He also provides position-less defense on his team.  Barnes is not afraid to guard any player 1 through 5 on the floor, which makes switching and defending easier on his teammates.

Advanced Metrics

Now let us examine Matt Barnes’ advanced metrics to see how he rates in those categories.  For his career, Barnes has produced an average of a positive 0.4 offensive box score plus/minus and a positive 0.8 defensive box score plus/minus.  His career value-over-replacement player (VORP) is 16.1.  Last season, he produced a negative 0.4 on offense, 0.8 on defense, and VORP of 1.3.

If you prefer to look at win shares, Barnes has created 19.1 offensive win shares and 21.7 defensive win shares in his career.  That lead to win shares per 48 minutes of 0.097 (.100 is league average).  Looking just at last season, Barnes earned 0.4 on offense, 2.2 on defense, and win shares per 48 of 0.056.  His win shares per 48 rated as the worst in the past decade.  That lead some analysts to believe more in the theory that father time is catching up to him at age 35.  All advanced metrics and stats are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.


Another key factor in determining any player’s value is examining injuries because you cannot produce if you are not out on the court.  Barnes has been relatively healthy playing 76 games in each of the last two seasons.  Let us look closer at his injury history

According to Fox Sports, Barnes has been hit with six injuries since 2013.  The only repeat injury on the list is a hamstring injury in March 2015 and March 2016.   Hamstring and other soft tissue injuries are not uncommon for players as they get older, so it will be something worth monitoring for the Kings.  As of now, Barnes has a clean bill of health and should be ready to suit up on opening night.


Let us review what Matt Barnes brings to the court.  On offense, Barnes is a serviceable 3 point shooter who is going to do the dirty work.  He will not produce many traditional stats or highlight plays on offense.  Barnes earns his paycheck on defense bringing both traditional stats and the ability to guard on the ball.  The advanced metrics rate Barnes as both an above replacement level player, but below league average.  As far as injuries go his hamstrings are a slight worry, but nothing that should hold him back heading into this season.

So is Barnes worth 2 years and $12 million to the Sacramento Kings?

The answer is without a doubt, yes, in my opinion.

Barnes brings a lot to the table defensively and is not going to hurt the team on the offensive end of the floor.  His energy and versatility can also help a team.  Sure, the Kings signed him for his age 36 and 37 seasons, so he could hit the wall in a hurry.  At $6 million a season in the current NBA cap climate that is a bargain for a solid rotation player.  Kings made a very wise move in signing Matt Barnes at that price by analysis.