Monday, June 24, 2013

Harrison Barnes versus Klay Thompson: Winner gets traded

By Justin Taylor

Draft day and the all the potential player movement that comes with it is this Thursday. Don’t let the headline fool you, I wouldn’t trade either of the Warriors young wings for the number one pick in this draft. Discussing a trade involving Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes for anybody not named Lebron James or Kevin Durant is going to inspire a lot of negative reactions so it had better be for a a bonafide All Star. Bob Myers and Jerry West have already had this conversation so it’s time for us to play catch up.

You can’t be caught flat-footed when the phone rings and it’s a team trying to make a deal for a superstar. Determining who has the most potential, who has the most value to the Warriors and who is worth the most on the open market is a critical exercise for a GM, especially one with more assets than money or draft picks. No major deal is going down for the Warriors unless they’re willing to sacrifice something valuable and you know Steph Curry isn’t going anywhere. The obvious next step is to determine which of these two young, cheap, potential stars come in second on the trade value depth chart.

As a fan of both players I think I can speak to who is more valuable to the Warriors without my bias taking over. Everyone knows us Golden State fans love our homegrown guys to a fault so I’ll start with Bill Simmons’ Annual Trade Value column to get a prominent outsiders’ objective opinion for the league wide opinion. His process values things like age, money and potential over name value or past performance, which is exactly what I’m looking for.

On this years list Klay comes in at #47 and his explanation was more of an insult than anything else. Harrison Barnes doesn’t even crack the honorable mention that precedes the top 50. How can I take this shit seriously? I can’t do it. You know what? Fuck Bill Simmons and disregard that last paragraph!

Klay Thompson

Klaymetheus is a better nickname than the Black Falcon is that counts for anything 
(Credit: @Jesse_Garnier from for the design)

Halfway through the season I said Klay would have the better career of the two and damn near got laughed out of the room. This was right after he personally coughed up a couple of games in a row but my logic then is the same as it is now. His career arc is just easier to project. I’m not breaking any news here but Klay Thompson is 23 years old and has a top ten, if not a top five, shot in the league. That alone guarantees him a 12-14 year career barring injury.

Klay’s biggest deficiencies (other than his personality) are actually part of reason why he’s more likely to be the better pro. The aspects of his game that need to improve are things that come with experience. The game just needs to slow down for him. He made a ton of bonehead plays this season that mostly boiled down to him rushing everything from his shot, to his drives to his pouting. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where the light bulb doesn’t go on with him.

Reggie Miller comes to mind when thinking about what his ceiling as a player may be even if it doesn’t feel like a good match. He’s already a better defender and rebounder than Reggie so it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Finding his basement is an easy one though. The names Dale Ellis and Dell Curry come to mind immediately and both of those guys were effective role players until the day they retired. Worst case scenario, the Warriors will have two Currys if all he ever does is improve is shot selection. It may not be the highest reward but it’s definitely the lowest risk.

Harrison Barnes

This picture will never get old 

I may or may not have talked shit about Barnes before last year’s draft for underachieving in college. It was mostly because I wanted Damian Lillard to back up Steph Curry but the realization is that his problem at North Carolina wasn’t his poor play, it was unrealistic expectations. The kid was named a preseason All American as a freshman for god sake. By the time the playoffs arrived he was flying under the radar. When David Lee went down, he blew up and now he’s trying out for Team USA.

That’s quite a swing from overrated to underrated and possibly back to overrated. I say that because that the loss of our only All Star didn’t just free up more shots for Barnes, it gave him better matchups. It was no coincidence that his confidence skyrocketed against slower power forwards in Denver and smaller guards in San Antonio. His consistency issues, outside of being a rookie and the coach was yanking him all the time, for those other 82 games had to do with all of those athletic small forwards in the NBA.

Moments like that posterization of Anthony Randolph are either building blocks of a great legacy or reminders of how good things could have been. He’s not on that level but it can be similar the reason why people get so frustrated by Lebron. When you see the potential to be the greatest ever, just being top ten of all time becomes unacceptable somehow. Barnes has All Star potential and it’ll be a disappointment if he’s “just” a quality starter for the next ten years; even if I said I’d be happy with exactly that on draft day.

The Black Falcon could soar as high as James Worthy when it is all said and done but there is some serious downside potential to his game too. I'd say the safe middle ground might just be his current teammate and mentor Richard Jefferson.

The Verdict

If Klay just learns to be patient and then attacks when he gets overplayed 
he'll never lose his allowance again

When I said Klay Thompson would have a better career I wasn’t saying that he was more important to the Warriors future. That is exactly what I’m saying now. At this moment there are hardly any two guards in the league that can actually shoot and defend on Klay’s level. On the flip side, there are a number of guys who can give you what Harrison is only projected to do.

Where is there a bigger shortage? Klay Thompson’s charisma or NBA shooting guards? Actually, don’t answer that. The point is that even with the lack of twos in the league I think Harrison Barnes will get a bigger second contract due to his size, athleticism and marketability. The ability to pay Klay less actually makes him more valuable to the salary structure of the team.

Barnes big time performance against San Antonio means he may be the bigger trade chip as well. Considering that this conversation is only relevant if a major deal for a superstar is on the table that is important to know. It’s also important to keep in mind who the guy we’re trading for would rather play with. Klay is creating space for a big man or a slasher when he’s standing 30 feet from the basket and he doesn’t even need the ball to pull the defense away from the paint. He may be prickly at times and pouty at others but when it’s all said and done, he will be keeping defenses honest for a minimum of the next ten years.


  1. I enjoyed the article Justin, and ultimately I agree with you about keeping Klay over Barnes if you have to trade one. A couple things that I disagree with though: Your Lebron analogy - he is the best, not just top 10; I feel like people's frustration with Lebron at this point is mostly delusional.

    Also, why do you think Klay will get a smaller contract than Barnes? You said it yourself: there's a lack of dynamic 2 guards and players like Barnes are fairly common. The only way Barnes really becomes THAT marketable is if he becomes an all-star (in my opinion unlikely, but we can hope!)

    Anyway, thanks for the article!

    1. Thanks for weighing in Eli! I know it's a tough easy answers...

      Greatest of all time vs. Top 10 of all time was the Lebron analogy (clearing that up now)...As for the contract situation, I just feel like Barnes will command more...He'll do more to excite another teams fan base (and sell more jerseys)than Klay will and that would lead them to overpay...Just my own gut feeling more than anything else...