Barnes’ Extension: A Big Move Wouldn’t Have Necessarily Equated to a Great Move

SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 30: Harrison Barnes #40 of the Sacramento Kings looks on during the game against the Utah Jazz on December 30, 2022 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

As everyone is aware, on Thursday evening, the Kings reached an agreement with Harrison Barnes on an extension valued at $54 million over the next three years.

Considering the big rumors floating around the last few weeks—namely concerning a pursuit of OG Anunoby on the trade market as well as an interest in free agent Kyle Kuzma—some might think of this decision as a letdown. But with all options in mind, it might have been the smartest thing.

In short, re-signing Barnes was good because it was a lateral move when the other option was a potential step back.

That concerns Kuzma more than anyone. Anunoby would undeniably fit perfectly with this Kings team, but the fact they don’t have the assets to offer to the high-asking price of Toronto, makes that trade impossible. (Of course, including Keegan Murray might get a deal done, but that’s something Sac is unwilling to do.)

Over the course of the last two days, signs were pointing towards a Kuzma signing, but then Barnes and the Kings resumed extension negotiations, setting up for a binary decision: make the lateral move or swing for the fences with eyes closed.

Not only is Kuzma seeking a deal around the range of $30 million per year—which, needless to say, is egregious—but he’s the type of player that succeeds with the ball in his hands. He’s a good finisher and rebounder, but in terms of fitting in as a connecting piece for a team led by All-NBA players in De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, doubt inevitably creeps in. 

Is it likely Kuzma would want to stand in a corner or have the ball taken out of his hands? Probably not. At $30 million a year—who knows?—he might, but then that raises another question: is that worth the price?


Barnes on the other hand is well-suited as a connecting piece. In fact, with Mike Brown explicitly assigning each player a role ahead of training camp, the shrewd veteran was told “just go out there and lead… in whatever form that kind of takes you,” as Barnes noted at the end of the season. And he did that. 

Yeah, you’re just carrying over the same starting five from one year to the next, and everyone knows that that starting five—with a struggling Barnes and Huerter—could not advance beyond the first round. It may not be compelling to bring back Barnes, but just because you have a hammer doesn’t mean everything has to be a nail.

Taking a big swing at bringing in Kuzma—or, say, giving P.J. Washington $20-plus million as a restricted free agent when he hasn’t proven he’s worth it—is a shot in the dark. It may pay off, it may blow up in your face.

Extending Barnes may be a lateral move, but it does not sacrifice future flexibility or the possibility of making a different improvement. Barnes at $54 million over three years is easier to move around than, say, a massive Kuzma contract.

It may not sound alluring, but extending Barnes, given the circumstances, appears to be the right move.

Again, it may not sound believable, but in the aftermath of the trade deadline this year, did it sound believable to hear that the Kings had a good deadline?

When the Kings acquired Kessler Edwards from the Nets as their only trade deadline move, some were disappointed. 

Others, however, figured it was a low-risk, high-reward move. In hindsight, it paid off because they essentially got Edwards for nothing—no disrespect to David Michineau, whose draft rights were sent Brooklyn’s way—and now the wing has shown he can be a massive boost to the perimeter defense of the team.

Thus it was no surprise to those who watched the Kings throughout the season when Sacramento decided to pick up the club option on Kessler Edwards.

Edwards performed well in his minutes, earning him more. He rose eyebrows in Phoenix just before the deadline, in early March he looked awesome when thrown out there to guard Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards, he helped lift the team to victory again in Phoenix, and he even got spot starts in place of Kevin Huerter when that was typically reserved for Terence Davis.

It was a no-brainer, and Edwards could see a juicy rotational role this season due to his excellent defense, versatility, and three-point shooting. But he was never considered a lucrative asset when acquired. 

It ultimately proved that a seemingly benign move can be more beneficial than a hasty swing for the fences. Of course, a big move can be good (see Sabonis), but the unsurprising news regarding Edwards harkens back to this important lesson, because it certainly pertains to the extension of Barnes.

In all, it seems GM Monte McNair again chose to prudently take a pitch rather than to take a reckless swing at it. 

Even so, this free agency period has been billed as a circus. So even if no big moves arise for the Kings, sit back and enjoy it—it could be good.

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Kings Talk – A Cap City Crown Podcast on the Sacramento Kings

Kings Talk: Episode 67

On this episode of Kings Talk presented by Cap City Crown, Tony and John discuss who has the best shot at winning the third backup center role, Mike Brown’s first real interview of the offseason, […]

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Dan Smith
2 months ago

Ugggh, feeling deflated…knowing we just run it back with HB when we could’ve went after Herb Jones feels like a punch in the gut…especially after the 1st round pick trade. Especially after Pels declined his option earlier in the day before the HB deal. Could’ve got him for 12-15m/yr likely, with CJ, Ingram, Zion & Jonas, Pels wouldn’t have the money to match a bigger contract offer.
I just don’t know how they’re planning to get outta the first round, with really bad defense still?