SleepersMarch 23, 2007

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Sleeper Watch

By Patrick Beall

Let’s talk about Matt Barnes and keep next season in mind. This year he seemingly showed up out of nowhere, causing many to give serious consideration to Barnes as the waiver wire gem of the year.

His successes were not limited to fantasy. The Warriors were 14-12 when he played more than 30 minutes, which extrapolates to 37-32 instead of 32-37, and would have them battling LAC and NOK for the final playoff spot. Victories included: Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Chicago, and the Clippers (twice). Take that for what it’s worth.

Something I’ve liked about Barnes this year is, generally speaking, the more he’s shot, the higher percentage he’s made. The question is, who is Matt Barnes? Is he the “November” Barnes, who shot 43.7 fg% and 42.5 3pt%, or is he “January” Barnes, who shot 39.5 fg% / 31.6 3pt% and did not follow this shot increase correlation with percent increase? As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between.

Barnes has apparently been through both cold and hot streaks this year, so his season stats should be pretty direct. Accordingly, this 27-year-old has shown substantial improvement since his last season. What has been critical to Barnes’ game is his turnover rate. Over the past few years he’s been one of the worst at his position. This year he showed drastic improvement, dropping his turnover rate from 13.7 to 11.5 after improving on his 2004 season of 16.2. This is where APBRmetrics can really help. If you calculate his turnovers per-40-minutes, you might think his turnover rate actually went up, but this is not the case because this season Barnes has proportionally done more positive things with the ball. So his increases in scoring, assisting, and getting to the free throw line have risen far more in proportion to his turnovers based on his past three seasons. From an APBRmetric perspective, the fact that Barnes’ usage (the percent of the time he shoots, gets to the line, assists, and turns it over) has stayed the same, while his TO rate has dropped and his PER (Player Efficiency Rating) has risen by 40%, is impressive.

Barnes has also been known as a good defender and hustle guy. To borrow from Alan Cai’s nice write up on the Warriors:

Barnes is also a very underrated defender. He has quick feet and great lateral movement. Although he may not be a lockdown type defender such as Bruce Bowen or Ron Artest, he can definitely hassle the opposition and rack up his share of steals. Moreover, his ability to push the ball after a rebound or forced turnover is invaluable to the up-tempo system the Warriors run, giving them an extra ball handler to dictate a quicker pace. His defense, hustle, and activity are more reasons why he should continue to see minutes under Nellie’s rotation.

If coaches can now trust Barnes to handle the ball and pass proficiently while playing his standard quality defense, he is more likely to play and therefore get shots, which will allow us to find out if Matt Barnes is really capable of putting up the second-round numbers he put up between November 24 and January 3. Normally I’d be paying more attention to what such a player is doing in the last two months of the season, but Barnes won’t be heard from often. Nellie has plenty of other guys to test out while Barnes’ middle finger and thumb of his shooting hand heal. Even so, based on his improvement so far and Nellie’s ability to identify and play productive cogs or move them, I feel Barnes will make an excellent late round pick next season. As of now I’ll be looking for him in the 11th-13th, as it’s too early to tell where the rest of the pieces may fall, with reward aspirations of fourth to fifth round value.

Patrick is a fervent fantasy basketball fan and proponent of APBRmetrics. He is working as a winemaker in Colorado and Oregon. You can find him posting in all three major sports forums of the Cafe under the name Chrisy Moltisanti.
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• Other articles by Patrick Beall
Matt Bonner by Adam Laforet (posted on 12/22/2008 in Sleepers)
Matt Harpring by Adam Rizzo (posted on 03/27/2005 in Sleepers)
Fantasy Contributions in the Golden State Part II by Alan Cai (posted on 01/03/2007 in Articles)