Due to the the acquisitions of Vince Carter and Ryan Anderso..."/>

Due to the the acquisitions of Vince Carter and Ryan Anderso..."/>

Matt Barnes Is Just What The Magic Needed


Due to the the acquisitions of Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson and the signings of Brandon Bass and Jason Williams, Orlando’s move to get Matt Barnes was widely overlooked. Barnes signed a one-year deal with a player option for the 2010-2011 season worth $1.6 million each season but he has been worth so much more than that.

In fact, that’s chump change for a player like Barnes.

Barnes’ traditional numbers won’t blow you away – he’s averaging 8.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game – you have delve deeper into the numbers to see what Barnes really brings to the table.

You have to look at what Barnes brings to the table outside of the numbers as well. Barnes has always been known as a high effort, high energy player, and a great teammate, the kind of guy that will fight tooth and nail for you. In other words, the type of teammate that every player wishes they had.

Barnes’ reputation as this “tough guy” or “enforcer” is well deserved. And the Magic knew that when they signed him.

“It’s just the way I play and the way I’ve been brought up. I was always just real rough,” said Barnes. “That kind of just translated over with being an enforcer and an intimidator. That’s just who I am. It’s not like I’m going out and trying to pick fights or anything but I’m just a tough-minded, tough-nosed kind of guy and I’m not going to let anyone push me or push any of my teammates around.”

Barnes has shown this side of his game several times this season. During a game against the Detroit Pistons on February 17th, the Pistons were trying to get physical with the Magic (just like they have done so many times before), but this time, the Magic retaliated, sparked by Matt Barnes’ flagrant foul for running right through a screen and plowing over Pistons Forward Jonas Jerebko.

Earlier this season, Howard received a hard foul from Paul Pierce when Howard was going up for a dunk and Barnes got right in Pierce’s face, letting Pierce know that the Magic weren’t going to stand for plays like that anymore.

Barnes has even become vocal in team meetings, calling out his team after an embarrassing loss to the Brandon Roy-less Portland Trail Blazers in mid-January.

Since then, the Magic have been playing much better basketball. The Magic lost their next game, but played better, going toe-to-toe with the Lakers in Los Angeles. Since then, they have won 16 of their last 21 games.

Barnes has the fourth highest adjusted +/- on the team, trailing only Dwight Howard, Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson (who has a much smaller sample size).  Barnes has been part of Orlando’s starting lineup since late December. That lineup is the best lineup that the Magic have put on the floor this season – they are +110 in 472.4 minutes of play this season. His win percentage of 68.9% is the second best on the team (behind Howard).

Barnes is one of only four players (Howard, J.J. Redick and Jason Williams) that have not missed a game this season.

He is second on the team in rebounding, grabbing 5.6 rebounds per game and has a rebounding percentage of 12.6%, the highest of his career thus far.

Barnes has also done an excellent job on the defensive end this season. He is always matched up with the opposing team’s best offensive wing player. Barnes has had some success at defending elite players and even when he doesn’t, he still makes them work. Barnes, who has been called upon to defend players such as LeBron James says that sometimes making them work is the only thing you can do.

“Make him work. You got to make him work,” Barnes said. “He’s gonna score, he’s gonna make great plays, he’s gonna get calls. You just got to fight hard, stay in to him, stay physical and stay aggressive.”

It hasn’t been all great for Barnes. Earlier in the season, he admitted that he was going through the worst shooting slump of his life. Barnes made it his mission to get to the basket more and get easy buckets (now, only 55% of his shots are jumpers). That has opened up the outside game for him and he is now shooting 47.4% from the field. He’s shooting 52% from the field since moving into the starting lineup in December.

These stats don’t point out everything Barnes does because they don’t take into account hustle plays, like how well he runs the floor, how he always gets back on defense,  the way he dives for loose balls or the way he makes great cuts to the basket to get open looks.

Barnes may not have great numbers and may not be recognizable to the casual fan but he is exactly what the Magic need.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor at NFL Mocks Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Twitter to follow him daily and you can get the HTD app here).