Watch how I attempt to justify the JJ Barea signing

Zach Harper —  December 12, 2011 — 15 Comments

According to reports (who have sources on sources on sources), the Wolves have signed Jose Juan Barea, formerly of the Dallas Mavericks, to a four-year, $19 million contract.

Not exactly going after DeAndre Jordan, right?

In fact, it’s the exact opposite of what I was hoping for the other day. The Wolves need a defensive, athletic big man in the worst way, and JJ Barea doesn’t bring any of that to the team. But they also need a perimeter player who can create quality shots for not only his teammates but also himself. Barea definitely brings that to this team.

Am I talking myself into JJ Barea even though I worried some team out there would overpay him to be their starting point guard? Absolutely, I am. However, I do think there is a lot of good that comes out of this signing. Let’s discuss a few points.

The money. Four years and $19 million seems like a lot for a backup guard, right? Maybe it does. But it’s also a pretty manageable contract over the length of the deal. As of right now, the Wolves have roughly $58 million committed to the roster for 16 slots (once Malcolm Lee signs). That means they’ll have to amnesty (most likely) Martell Webster to get to the allowable 15 players under contract.

After this season, let’s assume Webster is gone with the amnesty and Brad Miller is waived because his $5.1 million deal is only guaranteed for $848,000. With Beasley’s free agency, Randolph’s restricted free agency, and Anthony Tolliver’s contract being up, that puts the Wolves around $31 million in committed salary. Factor in the cap holds for Anthony Randolph and the extension to Kevin Love (even if it’s – gulp! – max) and you’re still looking at around $10 million in cap space for the summer of 2012.

The only current deals that run past 2013 are Luke Ridnour, rookie deals, and this Barea contract. Throw in Kevin Love’s extension (please, Kevin) and there is still plenty of flexibility for a team that just gave $5 million per season to the third point guard on the roster.

The fit. This is the biggest question for the Wolves. How does Barea fit into the plan moving forward if the keys are supposed to be in Rubio’s hands? Let me off this analogy for you.

Some football teams have grind it out, power running backs that are there to bully you for four yards every rushing play and try to beat down the opposing team’s defensive front. They’re big, burly and just powerful enough to feel like you’re tackling a train. It’s a pretty good strategy in this situation to have a speedy, small-statured running back as the backup to this locomotive of yards per carry. It’s a change of pace that can be difficult for the defense to adjust to on random downs, even if they know the bruiser is out of the game at the moment and they get to see the quick running back.

I know that you’re probably thinking that Rubio isn’t a bruiser. They want to push the pace with him and Barea won’t push the pace anywhere beyond that speed. But here’s where the change up is. Adelman’s system doesn’t involve a ton of pick-and-rolls. It’s a lot of movement, backdoor cutting, and high post-centered sets. Teams will be prepared for that and try to be cognizant of all set-ups to fake out the defense. However, when you bring Barea off the bench, you can automatically throw in a few wrinkles of pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pop action to catch the defense on their heels.

Barea is one of the best pick-and-roll ball handlers in the NBA. He was 14th in points per possession scored last season while running the pick-and-roll. He’s not the ideal passer in that situation. In fact, he often takes the shot. But efficient points are something this offense didn’t easily come by last season. He’s also a very good scorer in isolation sets. He ranked 14th there too in PPP, shooting exactly 50% from the field in those situations.

The question becomes, well don’t the Wolves already have a player in Luke Ridnour who is also very good in those situations? Yes, they do. Ridnour ranked 42nd and 41st in pick-and-roll ball handling and isolation situations, respectively. He’s also a much better spot-up shooter, making 49.3% of his spot-up 3-pointers compared to Barea’s 30.3%. Defensively, they were the exact same player, tying 188th in points per possession given up overall.

So is Barea’s moderate increase in efficiency when isolated and in pick-and-rolls that important to justify the signing? I would argue that it is. Barea is an annoying mosquito to the defense when he’s on fire. And while he can be frustrating on nights his effect on the game is minimal, his offensive outbursts can be momentarily suffocating to opposing teams when he’s on top of his game. You can’t really say the same about Luke. Aside from an exciting triple-double watch at the end of last season, Ridnour was always fairly steady but never that momentum changing when he wasn’t turning over the ball at a career-worst rate.

You can experiment playing Barea and Rubio together. I doubt it will even come close to working in the first two seasons, but it gives you options for creating havoc in the halfcourt that this team hasn’t had in a long time. It’s not a perfect signing, but it’s also not like we just signed the Darko version of a point guard to the roster either.

Kahn point guard jokes. I love a good David Kahn joke as much as the next disgruntled Wolves fan, but the fact of the matter is this team doesn’t have a copious amount of point guards. They had two on the roster before the Barea signing and can use Malcolm Lee as a combo guard of sorts whenever they need to. But ultimately, Lee should be focused on filling the awkwardly vacant shooting guard spot on the floor for the Wolves.

A lot of NBA teams have three point guards on the roster. Yes, David Kahn “drafted three point guards” during his first draft for the franchise (even though Lawson was the Nuggets selection in order to complete the trade), but it’s much more with-the-times to make small forward or SF/PF tweener jokes about Kahn. Look at how many small forwards and 3/4 guys this team has. Forward-tweeners are the new point guards in Minnesota. Update your joke-making Rolodex, please.

Overall, I like the options that the Barea signing gives this team. I know there will be nights in which I will look back at my enthusiasm from this post and probably realize I was just happy the contract wasn’t for $30 million as I’m cursing his name during cold stretches. But there will also be nights in which this looks like a beautiful addition to the team as he and Kevin Love are surgically destroying the opposing team’s halfcourt defense.

Zach Harper

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15 responses to Watch how I attempt to justify the JJ Barea signing

  1. Thanks Zach. This wasn’t on my radar at all. And even though I love Barea, I needed to see some justifyin’.

    I have the same impressions as you about Barea, but I appreciate your rankings to back it up. I agree that the contract isn’t that bad considering what we saw last year before the new CBA. But right now it seems sad to use that money in an area where we don’t have as much need.

  2. I never noticed their cap situation next year. Seems to me that they might be well served to hold on to that and be players in the FA market instead of the draft (thanks McHale). They could show enough under Adelman where a young guy (like Eric Gordon) might be signable (especially if he stays on the Clips – how are they going to pay him after they’ve paid Jordan and will need to pay Griffin?).

  3. I’m still not crazy about the trade when they so desperately need a defensive center or consistent true shooting guard, but at least they went after a decent player and a moderate name. Maybe they can get some value in trading Ridnour…

  4. I guess the main problem I have with this move is that it is typical Kahn (in many ways) in that he loves to hand out these 4-year just under MLE contracts to mediocre players who had career seasons in their walk year because it is low risk/low reward. Ramon Sessions, Darko and Ridnour anyone? These are the kind of moves mediocre GMs make so they can say they did something, for the sake of being able to say they did something. But they don’t actually make your team better and they aren’t big enough chips to flip to get a big-time player. You can add Damien Wilkinses for $2M and say you got solid players for a fair price. Which is all true, but unless you are trying to build the anti-Heat (including anti-success) simply accumulating as many decent players on decent contracts as possible is a recipe for failure on the court. Good business maybe, but not good team building (which, when you think about it, is why the owner’s arguments during the lockout were so hypocritical).

    Barea is a useful player and this is not a bad deal. However, the problem with Kahn is that in a vacuum you can say that about lots of his moves but they have yet to coalesce into any kind of a plan or success on the court. I guess year three will be a lot like years one and two, we’ll just have to wait and see.

  5. I agree with Mac about the type of contracts Khan likes to give out, but I’d rather have that than trading 1st round picks away for players like Jaric or James (Mike, not LeBron) or signing Trent Hassell to more money per year than he ought to make in a career. Kahn is in no way a good GM to me. He’s made a lot of baffling moves and we haven’t improved our record in his years here, but I’m still happy McHale is gone.

    This latest move makes me wonder where we’ll send Ridnour and who we’ll sign for a $19mil 4 year dela enxt year and where we’ll send Barea then. There is a clear pattern. Sessions, Ridnour and now Barea. Sessions lasted one year. Interesting to see what happens to Luke now.

  6. I am desperately hoping that this signing is a precursor to a larger move. My dream scenario is Beasley and Ridnour for Kevin Martin. The money works, Houston needs a PG, and it would fill our gigantic hole at the 2 with one of the most efficient players in ball.

  7. The previous scenario would leave us this as a starting 5:

    PG Rubio, Barea
    SG Martin, Johnson
    SF Williams, Webster
    PF Love, Randolph
    C Darko, Peckovic

    That is a decent roster. The real effectiveness is when this roster goes small for offensive spurts and puts out Barea, Rubio/Martin, Johnson, Williams and Love. That lineup would be tough to guard and could work at a good pace.

  8. Nate, I’m not a Kevin Martin fan, but I don’t mind that trade either. However, Houston currently has three point guards (Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic and Jonny Flynn). Okay, 2.5 point guards. Don’t know that Luke is a selling point for that trade.

    Also, I really don’t mind this team having three point guards. It’s a smart move. I’d rather a team have a surplus of centers and point guards than have to fill in those roles with incapable players… **looks at Darko**… you know what I mean.

  9. pagingstanleyroberts December 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Anyone who says this move was driven by Kahn obviously isn’t paying attention to the reports indicating that the person calling other teams is R.J. Adelman or entertaining the possibility that the Adelmans now control all personnel decisions.

  10. Ha, I forgot about Flynn… Who would have ever thought that a Wolves fan could forget about Flynn….

  11. Zach or others, what do you think about the Crawford rumor? Now that Barea is in the fold, Crawford seems redundant. Yes, he is a 2 guard, but if him and Barea are on the floor, who guards what?

    Lots of these scenarios are “fixed” by saying that Rubio can guard a 2 thanks to his quickness and length, but in my opinion, having Rubio guard a 2 diminishes one of his most valuable assets. He appears to be fast enough to guard ones, and large enough to really give them a tough time. He could develop into a stopper while guarding 1’s, swallowing them up with his size, while still being quick enough to stay in front of them, never allowing them to beat him on the block, and making them exclusively perimeter players. Those advantages are mostly negated with 2’s.

    i am terrified that we overpay Crawford and would much rather fix the hole at the 2 via a trade… suggestions, thoughts?

  12. I would very much like the TW’s to make a play for Afflalo either with a sign-and-trade or outright through free agency. If the Nugs sign Nene, he might not be that hard to get.

  13. Afflalo is a stud and a great defender. He’s be an amazing acquisition for this team. We sooooo desperately need a capable SG on this squad.

    Crawford is NOT the answer. He’s an old, inefficient “chucker” that has played the past seasons coming off the bench and just jacking up shots. And he plays zero defense.

  14. The Mavs will miss JJ. He is a gutsy player with a mean streak. Who did LA wack when they were losing to the Mavs? Byunum wacked JJ and So di the other team. This guy can be dangerous. JJ and Rubio on the floor will be like having JJ and Jason Terry on the floor, awesome.

  15. JJ is not a grand piano …. but for sure his notes set the momentum

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