Sacramento Kings: Harrison Barnes is finding his rhythm

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 01: Harrison Barnes #40 of the Sacramento Kings looks on in a game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Golden 1 Center on March 01, 2019 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 01: Harrison Barnes #40 of the Sacramento Kings looks on in a game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Golden 1 Center on March 01, 2019 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images) /

After a tumultuous start to his Sacramento Kings tenure offensively, Harrison Barnes is finally hitting his stride at the perfect time for the team.

It’s no secret that Harrison Barnes struggled mightily on offense after coming to the Sacramento Kings from the Dallas Mavericks via trade on Feb. 6. Fortunately for Sacramento, Barnes seems to be hitting his stride as the team prepares for their stretch run in hopes of making the playoffs. And while it may be too late to overcome their toughest stretch of games that saw them go 1-4 against opponents with a combined winning percentage of .659, it’s also good news and a beacon of hope for next season — a year where the Sacramento Kings will surely be a favorite to make the postseason.

In his first six games for the Sacramento Kings, Barnes’ impact on defense and on the glass was readily apparent. The simple act of having a small forward play small forward was enough to boost the Kings defensively (106.4 defensive rating since deadline, 4th in NBA), something that validated the trade itself. Barnes’ rebounding (7.1 per game with Sacramento) has also been a huge boon to a team whose two primary small forward options, Iman Shumpert (3.1 rebounds per game) and Justin Jackson (2.8), combined for just 5.9 rebounds per game.

Still, his offensive contributions left something to be desired. Certainly it was going to take time for him to adjust to a new team and a new city, and it’s hard to under-estimate just how much of an impact a trade can have on a player mentally, but Barnes’ shooting was something he needed to return to form on — and quickly.

More from A Royal Pain

Over his first six games in California’s capital, Barnes shot just 31.8 percent (21-66), culminating in an 0-4 showing against the Minnesota Timberwolves, a game the Kings lost by 7 and a game that put a serious dent in their playoff hopes. After the Timberwolves game though, things started to click for Harrison.

Over his last three games, Harrison Barnes has shot over 20 percent better than in his first six — 52.9 percent (18-34 FGs). If you’re wondering whether that’s do to him taking different shots, there’s really been no change. In fact, the only big change for Barnes has been his usage percentage over the last three games. Over the first six games, Barnes’ usage rate sat around 14 percent, but over the last three that number has jumped to 22 percent.

While his usage should return to that near that 14 percent number before too long, it’s possible the extra usage has allowed him to get more comfortable within the Kings’ offense, as well as the comfort level a player will start to feel after being with the team for nearly a month now.

"“I feel great,” Barnes told ABC 10’s Sean Cunningham after Monday’s win, “it’s a good locker room, I feel like we get along off the court well so it allows us to have chemistry on the court and as were in the stretch run here, things should only improve from a chemistry standpoint.”"

That added chemistry with his teammates and confidence in the team’s ability to improve will go a long way for the Sacramento Kings’ rapidly fading playoff hopes.

It’s also worth noting Barnes’ impact in the stat sheet has vastly improved over the last three games in addition to his shooting. Over that time frame, Barnes is nearly averaging a double-double, with 17.3 points per game and 8.6 rebounds. Over his first six games, Barnes averaged just 10.3 points and 6.3 rebounds.

Of course that could also be due to his increased usage rate as well, but this Kings team doesn’t need him to average 20/10. What they need him to do, he’s done and aside from a terrible sequence at the end of a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, there’s been little hiccups along the way.

There is reason to be concerned long-term, however, as Harrison Barnes has posted a -4.1 net rating (-5.2 over last three) with the Kings. Barnes has also, for the most part, has struggled since leaving the Golden State Warriors. His shooting percentages, points per game, player efficiency rating, box plus/minus and value over replacement player has declined in the last three seasons.

One reason for hope? Pace. Barnes’ pace has increased each of the last three seasons and he’s now on one of the fastest teams in the league. The Mavericks, meanwhile, sit at just 21st in the NBA in pace this season with a pace of 102.9 and the Kings sit 3rd in the league with a pace of 107.3.

Next. Breaking down the Kings’ playoff fight. dark

It certainly appears as though Barnes’ role within the Sacramento Kings offense as a tertiary or even quaternary option better suits him and his skill set than operating as a primary or secondary option as he did in Dallas. Still, with 19 games left in the season there’s plenty of time for Barnes to get better within the Sacramento Kings offense. It’s also important to note that while this move was made in part to help with the team’s playoff push this season, next season is truly where this move will pay dividends.