Examining Orlando’s Free Agents: Matt Barnes


Matt Barnes joined the Magic last off-season with hopes of being Orlando’s tough guy or their “enforcer” – a guy that could help change Orlando’s label as a soft team and put the Magic over the top.

Although the Magic ultimately fell short of their goal of an NBA championship, Barnes had a good season. He was a good defender who broke out of his shooting slump to become a decent option on offense.

It didn’t take long for the Magic to figure this out – Barnes replaced Mickael Pietrus as the team’s starting Small Forward early in the season. It’s a move that looked a little iffy statistically-speaking at first but it eventually paid off for the team and for both players (Pietrus has said that he enjoys being a sixth man). Orlando’s starting five of Barnes, Rashard Lewis, Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter easily became Orlando’s best five  man unit while Pietrus, playing with a mix of starters and reserves, was part of Orlando’ s next three best lineups.

Below, we’ll take a look at Barnes’ numbers and discuss his potential free agency.



When you look at Barnes’ numbers, you also have to remember that he went through a shooting slump that he called the worst of his life, yet still managed to post career highs in both effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage. In fact, his numbers are pretty good all around. His rebounding rate was the second highest of his career. Ditto for his PER and offensive rating.  In addition to the above numbers, the Magic were a net +454 with Barnes on the court this season.

Barnes also became one of the emotional and vocal leaders of the team. On January 15th, the Magic lost to the depleted Portland Trail Blazers, who were playing without Brandon Roy, among others, giving Orlando their sixth loss in eight games. After the game, Barnes was very vocal in the locker room and tried to set his teammates straight. The Magic lost a close game to the Lakers a few days later then reeled off wins in 10 of their next 12 games. The Magic went 33-8 after that loss to the Lakers.

Barnes endeared himself to Magic fans with his hustle plays on both ends of the floor, which includes his excellent ability to cut to the basket. How often did you hear Magic play-by-play man David Steele and his partner, Matt Guokas use the phrase “A cutting Matt Barnes” this season?

He also has a place in Magic fan’s hearts for his back-and-forth with Kobe Bryant during a home victory over the Lakers and his back-and-forth with Lamar Odom afterwards.

Despite some public complaints about playing time, Barnes has expressed his desire to stay in Orlando. Plus, his fiancé, Gloria Govan, is said to enjoy Orlando and the couple would supposedly like to raise their twin boys in Orlando.

Barnes made just $1.6 million this season and has a player option worth the same amount of money for next season.  A year like this could make the 30-year old Barnes look around for a chance at a higher pay-day and security for his future.

Barnes is certainly not an irreplaceable player but he had a good season for the Magic and his performance exceeded his contract. With all of the talk about overpaid players in the NBA, Barnes is one player who’s worth more than his contract.

How much more will be the question.

For a veteran journeyman like Barnes, it will be more about the length of the deal. Barnes has played for seven different teams in his seven seasons, only remaining with the same team for more than one season once (Golden State in 2006-07 and in 2007-08). Stability is now the key for Barnes so it seems unlikely that Barnes would decide  not to opt out of his contract and remain with the Magic for another year at $1.6 million.

Should Barnes indeed opt out, this appears to be a deal that can get done if some other moves are made first. The Magic will likely attempt to trade Marcin Gortat and Brandon Bass in order to clear some cap space. Point Guards Anthony Johnson and Jason Williams are free agents as well, making finding a backup Point Guard a priority. It’s assumed that re-signing J.J. Redick is Orlando’s top priority. Redick is a restricted Free Agent and is just 25 years to Barnes’ 30. With Vince Carter only getting older, keeping a Shooting Guard like Redick on the roster is very important.

In the end, this is a deal both parties wants to get done and I think they can come to an agreement that’s beneficial for both.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, a contributor on the Fansided Front Page and on Sir Charles In Charge. Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here).