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Shortly thereafter, Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Marc J. Spears reported that Barnes and the Los Angeles Clippers had agreed to terms on a three-year deal worth between $11 million and $12 million. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles reported that the third year of the deal is unguaranteed. The contract can't be finalized until July 10, when the league's annual moratorium on trades and free-agent signing ends.
The 6-foot-7 Barnes was a key contributor to the best team in Clipper history, a 56-win group that won the Pacific Division for the first time and won 17 straight games in December 2012 before suffering a disappointing six-game defeat at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the 2013 playoffs. He's a versatile defender who uses his length, quickness, toughness and smarts to guard multiple positions, and he'll provide a sound perimeter-stopping option alongside recently imported Clipper wings J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley and first-round draft pick Reggie Bullock.
Offensively, Barnes averaged a career-high 10.3 points per game last season largely by taking advantage of transition and offensive rebounding opportunities, finishing broken plays and taking advantage of the open looks created by the attention that Paul and Blake Griffin draw. He's not a devastating cutter, but he's smart about timing his movements off the ball; he's not a knockdown shooter (34.2 percent from deep last season, 33.1 percent for his career), but he can make you pay for sagging too far or missing a rotation. He's a hard-nosed, physical player who sometimes loses his mind a little bit, but he's the kind of tough guy other tough guys respect, which makes him an essential element of grit alongside all Lob City's flash.
Despite only reportedly averaging about $3.5 million per season, this deal figures to stand as the most lucrative of Barnes' eight-team, 10-year NBA career, which is kind of nuts considering the sort of value he continually provides teams. Unfortunately for Clippers fans, L.A. had to dip into the midlevel exception to pay Barnes something closer to commensurate with his on-court contributions.
The Clips now have something like $1.7 million of the MLE left to play with, a $1.62 million traded player exception (which expires July 11) left over from their sign-and-trade of Reggie Evans to the Brooklyn Nets last summer and veteran's minimum contracts available to round out their bench. (They could also do some maneuvering with the unguaranteed contracts of DaJuan Summers and Maalik Wayns, if they need to get creative.)
Given the lack of front-court depth behind Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan, nailing down another big would seem to be of paramount importance; while both Redick and Jamal Crawford can act as secondary ball-handlers, securing a backup point guard to spell Paul seems critical, too, for a team that figures to head into next season in the upper echelon of Western Conference favorites. Having Barnes along for the ride ought to help on the hard road ahead.
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