Friday, January 28, 2011

J.J. the Savior

Every team has one: the scapegoat. The one guy that takes the rap for everything, regardless whether it's his fault or not. The Rangers have Michael Young. The Cowboys have Roy Williams. The Stars have...uh...someone. For the Mavericks, it is without question, J.J. Barea. The under six-foot-tall guard from Puerto Rico has permanently entrenched himself under the skin of the die-hard fanatics (and even the casual ones)

And yes, there is some good reason. He's never posted a PER at or above 15 (the league average). He's never shot 45 percent or better. His only way to contribute defensively is taking offensive fouls. When he's in the game, the Mavericks almost 100 percent of the time run a zone, which no matter how well you run it, is still an inefficient defense in the NBA. He's a post-up waiting to happen.

But regardless of all that, Barea is just a back-up point guard after all. He has his small role, and regardless of your opinion of it, he fills it well. Back-up point guard is one of the hardest positions in the NBA to fill -- ask the Lakers, Celtics or Knicks. Barea is also the only Maverick guard to average his most shots at the rim per game. You can't argue his fearlessness to get to the rim.

So what JJB has done for the Mavericks this week has been nothing short of spectacular and a pleasant surprise for Dallas fans. He's made 17 of his last 22 field goal attempts, which is a ridiculous number for himself. He's finally making threes, having the highest three point percentage since January. Against the Clippers on Tuesday, he single-handily kept the Mavericks from being run out of the gym by scoring 18 points in the first half, on his way to 25 total. Against the Rockets on Thursday, he provided offense when there wasn't any in the Maverick's abysmal second half. His late runner/jumper/gift from the basketball gods with 32.9 seconds to go gave the Mavericks a two possession lead as they closed the game out with free throws and gave him 19 points.

While this is all well and good, people need to temper expectations. Barea is the definition of a streaky scorer -- he scored a season-high 29 points against the Bucks on Jan. 1 only to follow that up with two made field goals in 19 minutes the following night in Cleveland. After scoring in double figures for three consecutive games from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, he went six consecuative games failing to get back to double figures in scoring. Let's not get carried away here: Barea's role on this team is to keep the offense afloat and score. He isn't a defensive stopper or anything else. He has to change the pace with his ability to get to the basket.

This is why I feel that the public thinks that when Roddy Beaubois returns, JJB's minutes should almost vanish. I don't completely agree with this. I do feel that Barea shouldn't be played instead of Beaubois but along side him. Beaubois hasn't proved himself capable of running the offensive sets and taking care of the ball when in charge of the offense. That job still belongs to Barea until Beaubois shows he can handle it. I feel that the two can co-exist (although, there are defensive limitations with that lineup)

In the end, these two games might not mean much in the next week. Barea will more than likely cool off, and the public's hatred will rise yet again. But with Dirk Nowitzki still not being Dirk Nowitzki, any offense from any source I will gladly take -- even if it is just for a couple of games.

(Advanced stats courtesy of Hoopdata)

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