The Celtics are sitting on a massive $28.5 million trade exception, and they’re planning on using it. Still, Boston president Danny Ainge has been deliberate as he explores his options, even as the Celtics struggle with injuries and scuffle their way through the Eastern Conference schedule.
There is one guy who continues to make the most sense for the team, though, and whose name has come up repeatedly as an option for the team—Harrison Barnes, veteran Kings forward. Barnes is a polished player with a raft of postseason experience, going back to his days with the Warriors, where he played in 64 postseason games and helped Golden State to the 2015 NBA championship.
Sam Amick, a veteran of the Kings beat now with The Athletic, had the Celtics firmly tied to Barnes this week.
“Harrison Barnes is playing some of the best basketball of his career and is known to be on Boston’s radar (and likely several others),” Amick wrote. “The Celtics, as has been widely reported, are on the lookout for ways to make good use of the $28.5 million trade exception they created in the Gordon Hayward sign-and-trade with Charlotte.”
Would the Kings Want to Trade Harrison Barnes?
But the kicker to the item on Barnes, one that is obviously a major obstacle to a deal, is that the Kings have not been especially eager to move Barnes this season. Though he is 28 and out of the age range of De’Aaron Fox (23), Tyrese Halliburton (20) and Marvin Bagley (21), the guys the Kings want to build around going forward, the Kings see Barnes as a valuable veteran presence to keep the younger guys in line and help them learn to be professionals.
That is, of course, one of the attractions the Celtics would have to Barnes—not only can he be a scorer and 3-point shooter at both forward spots, but he is a good locker-room presence who would not disrupt the Celtics’ chemistry.
Barnes has played well this season, averaging 16.7 points and 6.5 rebounds, shooting 49.1% from the field and 41.0% from the 3-point line. He struggled in his last two outings (12 total points, 4-for-16 shooting), but he has been a key part of a surprising Kings team that has gone 12-12 and is seeking to break the longest playoff drought in NBA history, 15 seasons.
Barnes is slated to earn $22 million this year. He is signed for two more seasons at reasonable numbers: $20 million next year and $18 million in 2022-23.
Danny Ainge: ‘We Need to Be Able to Spread the Floor More’
Ainge caught some attention last week when he told a local radio station that the Celtics would be looking to add “shooting with size” to the lineup. At 6-foot-8, with his reputation as a shooter, he would seem to fit that bill.
But this week, Ainge did note, “That’s just one thing we have our eye on. I think we need to be able to spread the floor more. Having those guys be able to do it definitely helps, but yeah, having guys with more size to be able to make shots, that’s huge.”
He also shrugged off a report, from The Ringer, that he had been up to something this weekend. He suggested he was being deliberate in the process of using the trade exception, as he always is.
“It is not any more than usual,” Ainge said of his trade-talk activity. “It is the same. That’s the hardest thing. Even my wife, I come home from the office and she goes, ‘Did you get anything done today?’ And I go, ‘Yeah, I got a lot done.’ She goes, ‘Well, what did you do,’ and I go, ‘Really nothing.’
“It’s hard to get a lot done, it’s hard. Listen, I feel like I would like to do some things to make our team better and we’re working at it. But no different than others, making deals is hard.”