The Los Angeles Clippers needed depth behind new wing acquisitions Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick, and they quickly moved to find it by bringing back Matt Barnes on a three-year deal worth about $11 million. The final year is unguaranteed.
It's about time Barnes was paid appropriately for his services. Despite being a useful player on five different teams since 2006-07, Barnes had never received more than a one-year contract. After possibly the best season of his career, Barnes finally has his long-coveted long-term deal.
Truth is, Barnes may still be underpaid. He's an excellent defender, a great runner in transition, cuts well off the ball and is capable of hitting a three-pointer from time to time. He's not great from outside, but with his feet set, he can be a threat. Several other wing players who are better shooters, but worse otherwise got bigger deals in free agency. Shooting is important, sure, but the many other qualities Barnes brings are useful too.
The Clippers also badly needed Barnes because neither Redick nor Dudley is known as a great defensive player. Depending on the matchup, the Clippers can now mix and match between the three late in games, using Barnes in matchups against elite wing players or keeping the shooting of Redick and Dudley in the game when needing to make up a deficit. The Clippers needed that flexibility if they want to compete with the top teams in the Western Conference.
It's worth wondering if L.A. had prioritized signing a third big man with the mid-level exception instead of keeping Barnes. The team was in talks with Carl Landry before he agreed to a four-year, $27 million deal with the Sacramento Kings. If the Clippers could have gotten Landry to agree to the full mid-level exception, should they have pulled the trigger and tried to replace Barnes' contributions with a cheaper alternative? It's a fair question, but Barnes did leave L.A. room to also sign Darren Collison to back up Paul, which wouldn't have been possible if Landry was signed instead. The Clippers still need more help up front, but by splitting up the mid-level exception, they filled two holes rather than one.
It's also possible that Barnes' game suffers without Eric Bledsoe there to quarterback the team's speedy second unit, but Collison can replace some of that dynamic. Collison isn't as athletic as Bledsoe, but he's still a point guard who prefers to run and struggles in half-court settings. The Clippers would be smart to play him and Barnes together to get the most out of each.
All in all, keeping Barnes was a great decision, especially because he left enough on the table for L.A. to also sign Collison. The Clippers' depth behind their elite starting lineup is rounding out nicely.