Roster Review: J.J. Barea

Steve McPherson —  May 28, 2013 — 6 Comments
Yes, he's wearing a Mavs uniform, but come on: the thumbs up.

Yes, he’s wearing a Mavs uniform, but come on: the thumbs up.

We’re kicking off our offseason coverage here at A Wolf Among Wolves with a comprehensive roster review of the team from this past season, looking at how each player’s 2012-13 went and what we see for them going forward. One player a day for the next couple weeks, starting with the bench and rolling up to the starters.

When J.J. Barea gets that steely glint in his eye, the possession is only ending one of two ways, and neither are not shooting. You saw that glint most often this past season somewhere around the mid-third quarter, at the point where the Wolves had let the lead slip enough that it was in jeopardy, or else had fought back enough that it was within striking distance. As Barea received the ball on the inbounds pass, someone on our row of the media section would likely mutter, “It’s going up.” Or maybe as Barea brought the ball across the half-court and held one hand up in a fist, someone would joke, “That’s the number of passes that are going to happen on this play.”

Then Barea would slip behind a pick, either dashing with his head down towards the rim or else going into the half-crouch that signaled 3-point jumper. Either way it was going up. He missed a lot of these shots, sure. But he also made a lot of them. Enough that when they went through, you just kind of shrugged or scratched the back of your head. Barea is fundamentally a results guy, not a process guy. Or is he?

It might be tempting to draw a comparison between Barea and another mighty mite, Chicago’s Nate Robinson. But there’s a fundamental difference between the similarly-sized—there’s no way Barea is 6’0”—players: If Robinson were bigger, he’d be just as much of a swaggery, inveterate gunner, whereas I’ve become convinced that if Barea were taller he’d actually be more fundamentally sound—the only reason he’s such a wild card is because he’s learned that’s what a man his size is best at.

I mean, let’s face it: fundamentals are only going to get you so far when you’re the smallest guy on the court. Time and again in postgame comments this season, Barea showed a genuine self-awareness of how he works best. It’s not his job to make decisions about how to play the game; it’s the coach’s job to decide when to put him out there and let him wreck shop. I remember after a particularly ill-advised stepback 3-point jumper that Adelman pulled him, and Barea’s reaction in the locker room was to be glad that coach took him out. Otherwise, he said, he was going to try and shoot another.

He is, in essence, a berserker. He is Winston Wolf. If you’re paying him to do a job, you have to let him do his job, which in Barea’s case is be an agent of chaos. It might rub you the wrong way or even infuriate you, but if his help isn’t appreciated, he can’t magically turn into who he’s not. When the game has ground to a halt, when the other team has solved your offense or your own offense has run out of steam, you throw Barea in there like you’re tossing baking soda into vinegar. Then you cross your fingers and hope it’s the other team that has to clean up the mess and not you.

That directedness, that inherent understanding of his role, is what won me over to Barea. He’s not actually results-oriented; he’s so process-oriented, in fact, that it’s easily mistaken for the inverse. He knows the result is up to the whole team working together, playing their roles, and he knows what his role is. This is why he’s always going to have a place on an NBA team so long as he can play when there are so many other bigger, more overtly talented players. He can’t do it all, but he’s going to do all of what he does—driving, shooting 3-pointers, pissing off Ray Allen, dribbling his entire self between Hasheem Thabeet’s legs—whenever he gets in the game.

Towards the end of the season, I asked him about his offseason plans and he talked about going to play for the Puerto Rican team over the summer, about how much fun it was to get with the guys he grew up playing with. But he also talked about how volatile things could get with a team of all testy Puerto Rican ballers. He was, believe it or not, the guy who calmed everyone down. I raised an eyebrow.

“I know, right?” he said. He knows.

Steve McPherson

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6 responses to Roster Review: J.J. Barea

  1. IMO between Luke and JJ there can be only one. It just does not make any sense to have Rubio, Shved, Ridnour, and Barea all on the same team. Another one of Kahn’s moves that never made sense to me. A team with no shooting guards and 4 PG’s none of which are really able to play the SG position. Then top it all off with being thin at the 3 with Budinger and Kirilenko. Where exactly was the scoring supposed to come from past Love?

    My 8 year old with a basic understanding of the game could have balanced this roster better.

  2. Shelton burkart May 28, 2013 at 11:48 am

    I’ve always had a quiet admiration for what Barea does, and the time he went through Thabeet’s legs he became one of my favorite players on this roster.

  3. I like Barea. He doesn’t put up with apathy and when he sees it he says something. He not only pisses off the other teams but also his own (his little spat with Love last season…even though I’m positive it was directed at the likes of Beasley, Darko & Randolph in particular). He knows what he is and that in itself is awesome.

  4. It bothered me to no end last season to hear the snarky comments or criticism about JJ in the arena while the same fans put up with Shved. They were basically the same player early in the season, and at least JJ was consistent throughout.

    He and Shved were my least favorite pairing. When Rubio first came back and was coming off the bench, he and JJ were playing crisply together and forcing the rest of the 2nd unit to match their focus and intensity. When Rubio became a starter, the only way it seemed like JJ and Shved were working together was if they were trying to shave points.

  5. Too much redunancy with the 4 point guards and their styles as has been pointed out by others. Not that J.J. is not a fine player in the NBA though he is the player that would be best moved with 2 years and 4.5 million per year left. How about J.J., Pekovich, the T-wolves second pick in the draft for the Bobcats #4 (presuming the T-wolves can get Oladipo). Then use the cap space with the Brandon Roy cap space and perhaps whatever happens to AK47’s salary to sign Josh Smith to a 3-4 year deal. Doubt it happens because for one Josh Smith would almost certainly not move to Minnesota, but Rubio, Oladipo, Smith, and KLove would make for an interesting team anyway and if you throw in a serviceable big and some shooters could be fun team where you could go small or big.

  6. I was never a fan of Barea until I saw him at Utah’s last home game. The Wolves did not win that game, but every time they started to fall way behind Barea mounted the comeback. The boo’s against him by the Jazz fans was amazing to hear no one else on our roster can get under people skin like that, and I think it is an important part of any team to have a player that does that.

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