The NBA Draft has come and gone, and folks are frustrated, flustered, passively accepting, and cautiously optimistic about the Memphis Grizzlies' selections of Jarell Martin and Andrew Harrison. These are guys who are flawed, raw, and almost certainly not going to play a lot in Memphis in the 2015-2016 season. In the case of Harrison, he may not make it past Training Camp in October. Passion is admirable, but this team wasn't going to get great immediate help unless they moved up. They reportedly tried to, and weren't able to, so they didn't and went with the guys "they" liked. Hard to fault that too much. Thankfully the Grizzlies aren't counting on them soon.
You know who they are counting on? The guy they acquired the morning before the draft.
Let's summarize the series of moves that led us to this point-
Take Janis Timma. Turn him in to a non-guaranteed contract. Turn him into a tough veteran shooting wing. (Standing ovation)— Joe Mullinax (@JoeMullinax) June 25, 2015
Janis Timma? A European 2nd round draft-and-stash player for the Grizzlies that several folks legitimately forgot existed. The non-guaranteed contract? Luke Ridnour, who after some brief speculation about what he may do on the roster/who may be on the way out, was clearly a part of another move on the horizon, as our own Kevin Yeung detailed well on this site.
The tough veteran wing who can shoot the basketball? Matt Barnes.
(Cue the boos and tomatoes.)
Yes, Matt Barnes, that dude who kicked over trash cans in the FedExForum that time, who shouts/tweets out expletives. That dude who was a staple on those Los Angeles Clippers teams Grizzlies fans held (and continue to hold) such disdain for. He is brash, he is indeed old, he is quite possibly one of the most anger-inducing players in Grizz Nation.
He is now "that dude" for those Grizzlies.
And considering what the Grizzlies gave up for his services, that is awesome.
He is "that dude" when it comes to shooting the basketball, a skill set that the Memphis Grizzlies clearly could use more of. In about 30 minutes played per game last season for the Clippers, Barnes shot 36.2% from beyond the arc and took almost five three pointers per game. His ability to score in a variety of ways shines in his shot chart from this past season-
Barnes attempted 376 threes last year, the most of his career. Converting on 36.2% of those shots, or 136 of them, is very good considering the shot volume. For comparison's sake, here are the leading three-point shooters for Memphis this past season in attempts alongside Barnes.
|Player||Three Point Attempts||Three Point Percentage|
|Jeff Green (MEM only)||138||36.20%|
Whether it be converting at a high rate but not being able to shoot them enough (Courtney Lee) or shooting plenty compared to timed played but not converting at nearly a high enough rate (Vince Carter), three point shooting was an inconsistent albatross for the Grizzlies in 2014-2015. Mike Conley was the best example of high attempts-high conversions, but Barnes shot almost 100 more threes than Conley. This of course makes sense; Conley's role is to drive to the rim in addition to score the ball from range. Barnes, while converting well at the rim himself, is expected to shoot the three ball. And he does.
Jeff Green isn't that dude who can stay making 36.2% of his shots from three over the span of 376 attempts. Matt Barnes is.
Matt Barnes is "that dude" when it comes to defending on the wing consistently. As he has aged, he has lost a bit of the pep in his step with regard to athleticism. As has been discussed before on this site, time comes for us all. However, his experience, length and understanding of the game offsets this to an extent. This past season Barnes showcased a 102.1 defensive rating, better than the team's 103 rating. Compare that with his rating the past 5 seasons-
|Season||Defensive Efficiency||Team Defensive Efficiency|
Barnes had the same defensive efficiency in 2014-2015 that he did four years before. He also in four of the past five seasons outperformed his team's defensive efficiency all while playing in 335 regular season games (and 54 postseason games not included in these numbers.) Barnes' 2014-2015 playoff defensive efficiency was 101.1 in 14 games played, even better than his regular season number, against higher levels of consistent competition. The Clippers' defensive efficiency in this past year's postseason? 105.3.
He often drew tough assignments on the wing since a majority of his minutes were played alongside historically lesser defenders such as JJ Redick (who had a 101.6 rating himself this season but was at 104.5 the year before) and Jamal Crawford (who scored a 105.6 defensive rating, much more consistent number for him.)
His defensive tracking stats from over at nba.com/stats show a player who is at worst a neutral defender who within the schemes of the Grizzlies can adapt and have success.
This dude will fit right in.
Barnes is "that dude" when it comes to being kind of a tool. He has done plenty of questionable things in this career on and off the court- arrests, allegations, trash can attacks and more. He is a hot head with a short temper who has develop a reputation for flagrant fouls, like these-
He has also become known for getting in to a fight or two, like this one-
He is most certainly not the nicest of guys on the court, and he may not be very nice off the court either. He is aggressive, he is passionate, he is everything fans hate...
Unless he is on your team.
Now that he is a Memphis Grizzly? Another chance at a redemption story. Zach Randolph has gone from a former "Jail Blazer" to a local icon for his community influence for the better. Why can't Matt Barnes do the same? He is entering a locker room that he undoubtedly knows and respects; he was at Tony Allen's wedding two years ago! How bad could the blood really be?
Now that he is a Memphis Grizzly? Who is going to foul Mike Conley hard without hearing about it? Yes, Barnes brings baggage, and yes he may well earn a fine/ejection or two. He will not, however, be passive. He will not allow for any shenanigans to occur against his team on his watch. He is an enforcer who will ensure that his Grizzlies teammates will be looked out for, that a team that already doesn't bluff will continue to sustain that rep and build on it.
A passionate player with a checkered past in Memphis? The Grizzlies already have a few of those dudes.
He is "that dude" who makes this Grizzlies roster a little more balanced. Assuming no other trades occur moving forward (a lofty assumption given the fact it is so early in the off-season), Nick Calathes departs and Memphis still needs to sign a back-up center, likely using the MLE, the roster looks like this heading in to training camp, with pure speculation on the starters-
|Point Guard||Mike Conley||Beno Udrih||Russ Smith||Andrew Harrison|
|Shooting Guard||Tony Allen||Courtney Lee||Jordan Adams||Vince Carter|
|Small Forward||Matt Barnes||Jeff Green||Vince Carter||Jarell Martin|
|Power Forward||Zach Randolph||JaMychal Green||Jarnell Stokes||Jarell Martin|
Fifteen with work still to be done. The Grizzlies have until the end of camp to get under 15 members on the roster, and there are still non-guaranteed contracts on the team (Beno Udrih, Andrew Harrison and JaMychal Green, for example) that can make this happen more easily.
Where we should look, with regard to Matt Barnes, is his ability to even out the wing rotation. There will be an odd man out somewhere if no other moves occur (Vince Carter or Jordan Adams seem to be the likeliest candidates) but regardless of who starts, there will be two players coming off the bench who have started meaningful games in the NBA. The "who will start" question that was so difficult between Tony Allen, Courtney Lee and Jeff Green is now less of an issue. Now there are two guys who can roll together, regardless of who it is.
You can partner Allen with Barnes or Lee, Green with Barnes or Lee, Lee and Barnes together for offensive purposes, Jeff Green can be the "small ball" power forward more often and allow for three of them to play together at a time. Mike Conley/Courtney Lee/Matt Barnes also gives the Grizzlies that desired "three shooters" look that so often is asked for, and if Jordan Adams rises to opportunity or Vince Carter steps up and plays better than he did in 2014-2015?
Balance. Spacing. Athleticism. All more possible now than it was a few days ago. Thank to that dude Barnes.
Another unique individual is now a member of the Memphis Grizzlies. He is old...but so is the roster at large. He is flawed...but aren't we all? He is a three point shooter who can help make the Grizzlies more well-rounded, a defender of not just opposing wings but his own teammates. Matt Barnes is not the perfect answer to the question "what will get the Grizzlies to the NBA Finals?" but he is a fringe improvement that was had for essentially nothing. Memphis' NBA basketball team is better today than it was two days ago, and it wasn't because of an NBA Draft that has frustrated so many.
It was because of that dude Matt Barnes...and while it may take some time, fans of the Grizzlies will eventually be glad he is now on Memphis' side.