The Los Angeles Lakers are expected to pursue Harrison Barnes in free agency, according to Sean Deveney of Sporting News. Deveney reports that the Lakers are among a few teams who "have the intention of pursuing Barnes, especially as a fallback option for Durant," a list that also includes the Celtics, Suns, and Mavericks.
Barnes has his warts, but he has been solid for Golden State during the postseason, averaging 9.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game while shooting 37.7 percent from behind the arc and showing off his defensive versatility by guarding both wings and big men.
However, the Warriors have actually been better (at least by Net Rating) with Barnes off the court than on during the playoffs. The team has outscored their opponents by 8.6 points per 100 possessions with Barnes on the floor, but that number bumps up to 9.4 with Barnes on the bench, per NBA.com.
That number has to be taken with a grain of salt, mainly because Barnes is often playing against the other team's starters while Golden State's talented bench units feast on other team's own overmatched backups. The playoffs are also an incredibly small sample size, as evidenced by those same metrics painting Golden State as better with Stephen Curry off the floor (7.4 NetRtg on, 10.3 NetRtg off) this postseason, so they aren't by any means definitive.
Barnes would fill a need for the Lakers on the wing and with his ability to play the four in small lineups, and boasts the added benefit of being familiar with the offense new head coach Luke Walton wants to use. There are concerns over whether or not he warrants the max contract he'll almost assuredly receive under the rising cap, but they may not matter because according to Deveney, the Warriors will likely match any offer anyway:
The Warriors have the right to match any offer, though, because Barnes is a restricted free agent. One source within the organization pointed out that Lacob and the Warriors owners have, indeed, said all along that he will pay to keep a winning team together, and that has not changed.
It appears the only way the Warriors might let Barnes go is if he tells them he wants to leave:
The one possible scenario in which Barnes leaves, the source said, would be if he approached the Warriors front office with a request to be elsewhere. If Barnes determines he would like to have a chance to be a more featured part of an offense, the Warriors would likely honor that â especially if a sign-and-trade deal could be worked out.
Barnes' value as a free agent, especially in the context of the Lakers, has been a hot topic as the NBA Finals head towards their end and free agency approaches, but whether or not he's a worthy signing for the Lakers may not matter if the Warriors are unwilling to let him go. Barnes seems unlikely to ask for an out to pursue individual achievement if he's going to be making the same amount of money with the Warriors anyway, because as he told Deveney, "When you peel away the individual stats and the money that could be made... all that kind of pales in comparison to championships. That's what it's all about."
The Lakers aren't anywhere close to competing for titles right now, and with the team all but assured to draft Brandon Ingram second overall in a few weeks, they may be better off devoting their cap space to their hole at center anyway.
All stats per NBA.com. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.