I've been planning about writing about Harrison Barnes as a free-agent target for the Bulls for a while now, and the plan the entire time was basically to take a torch to that idea because the man not-so-lovingly-known as "Harry B" is a mediocre player who's probably about to make about twice more than his play on the court say he's worth.
Now, I still plan on talking about Barnes a bit, but I'm also going to use chasing him as an example of the general strategy the Bulls should not take this free agency. (What that strategy actually will be...they don't even know yet!)
The Bulls currently have a bit under $68 million guaranteed to 11 players next season (including Valentine), plus two non-guaranteed deals in Cristiano Felicio and Spencer Dinwiddie that add up to about $1.8 million. Felicio is certain to get that contract guaranteed, while Dinwiddie is still up in the air, as is second-round pick Paul Zipser (although there are signals he may come over?)
So, with the cap set to be around $94 million, the Bulls are looking at $24-ish million in cap space but not many roster spots left. Chicago can potentially open up more cap space and roster spots by jettisoning guys like Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy, Tony Snell and Jose Calderon, and they should look at doing exactly that. Gibson might be able to bring back something of value (young player? pick?), while Dunleavy, Snell and Calderon are all either old, bad or both.
There's also the E'Twaun Moore situation. The Bulls should try to re-sign him using Early Bird rights, but it wouldn't be a surprise if that kind of contract (roughly four years, $27 million) won't cut it with the cap explosion. If they have to use cap space to re-sign Moore instead, they should tread lightly.
With whatever cap space the Bulls do wind up having, they should make it a point to avoid overpaying players that aren't true difference-makers and look to hand out "value" contracts to younger players who may be a bit underappreciated a la Portland last season. That'll be a bit tougher with the cap explosion and so many teams tossing money around like drunks, but there should be SOME value found in free agency.
That value won't be found in Harry B, who's a restricted free agent.
Now, I will admit that the Harry B hate has gone a bit overboard on the interwebs (I'm as guilty as anybody, although some of it is joking). There ARE some things to like about him. He's young (24), relatively long and athletic, can play play up a position semi-reasonably, and has a nice looking jump shot that's resulted in a near-38 percent mark from three for his career. You look at the guy and there's an outline of a player who could potentially take the next step given more responsibility.
But I just don't see it happening. His NBA Finals meltdown in which the Cavaliers dared him to beat them time and time again and he failed time and time again was bad enough, but he was bad throughout the entire playoffs (39 percent overall and 34 percent from three in 24 games) and has basically been the same player he's been his entire career. It looked like he was starting to take that next step in 2014-15, but he took a step back this past year and the Warriors didn't miss him all that much when he missed over a month due to an ankle injury.
Barnes does have that aforementioned pretty stroke, but he's streaky and as evidenced by the Finals can really get in his own head when he's struggling. It was almost sad watching him brick wide-open trey after wide-open trey, and he wasn't even close on many of those shots.
Aside from that, Barnes' games is just a whole bunch of meh. His off-the-dribble game is nothing special, he doesn't get to the line much, and he's not much of a playmaker. Some argue that he'd look better if he was given a more featured role in an offense, but there's little evidence that his skill set will translate into being an effective second option (certainly not a first), and perhaps maybe not even a third. Barnes often played with the Warriors' second unit this season, and he still never consistently stood out among that group. Defensively he's okay but not great. He's the epitome of "fine" as a player.
The Bulls may be tempted by Barnes because he makes them "younger and more athletic," and there's still this notion of hidden potential that can be unlocked. Oh, yeah, Harry B is also a member of the #AmesMafia, as he went to high school with Doug McDermott and had a lot of success with him in Iowa. So that link is terrifyingly there.
But I say stay the hell away from Harrison Barnes (also: signing him to a huge offer sheet ties up cap space), and stay the hell away from overpaying any players who don't move the needle enough to matter not only now, but in the future. I'm at peace with the Bulls not being all that relevant this season (and I'm fine if they trade Jimmy Butler for the right value), so they should try to find a group of younger players that could be a part of something in the future, and then prepare for a potentially big 2017 offseason.