This is the first in a thirteen-part series that will examine all players currently on the Wolves’ roster that played for the team last season. We’ll be omitting Kevin Love, because…well, you know why.
Along with Kevin Love, J.J. Barea is the next-most-likely player to be moved to another organization before training camp begins. I decided that it’s still important to take a look at Barea’s performance throughout the 2013-14 season, if only for the context surrounding the signing of his likely replacement in Mo Williams.
Therefore, this article will be a look at Barea’s production (or lack thereof) from a season ago, as well as touching on Williams’ arrival. Since he didn’t play for the Wolves last year, we won’t look too carefully at his overall performance, but more at how he’ll fit with Flip Saunders’ 2014-15 squad moving forward.
Prior to the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, Barea inked a four-year, $18 million contract with the Wolves after a fantastic performance in the NBA Finals en route to a championship with the Dallas Mavericks. It was a clear overpay by the Wolves, and an interesting choice considering that fellow diminutive combo guard Luke Ridnour was just one year into his own four-year pact.
Barea performed passably during his first year in Minnesota, but battled significant injuries for the first time in his career and only played in 41 of 66 games.
The 2012-13 season was once again so-so for the Puerto Rican point guard while playing in 74 games alongside Ridnour, rookie guard Alexey Shved, and a recovering Ricky Rubio as he made his return from a torn ACL. Barea hoisted the most-aggressive three-point attempt rate of his career while shooting the lowest-percentage (34.6%) of his career beyond the arc to that point.
Barea again battled injuries throughout the season, and the prevailing thought was that he could get back to replacement-level value in 2013-14 if was able to maintain his health. Additionally, with Ridnour having been traded to Milwaukee, he wouldn’t have to be playing next to another undersized guard for much of his time on the court.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Barea was absolutely atrocious last season, and there really isn’t anyway around it. He’s always been a terrible defender, but was at least able to mitigate some damage by drawing one or two offensive fouls on his opponent. Once the NBA enacted anti-flopping fines, Barea’s hands were tied.
The effect it had on Barea’s effectiveness was obvious, and he was a devastatingly bad defender for the entire campaign. On offense, Barea shot just 31.6% from three-point range, despite launching nearly three attempts per contest. He saw his ability to draw fouls and get to the free-throw line dissipate as well, whether due to compounding injuries, age, a new-found obsession with jacking up threes, or some combination.
Barea utterly ineffective and occasionally downright harmful on offense. While he had little help on the second unit, Barea’s unnecessary calling of his own number certainly did not help matters, and as the point guard, there is absolutely blame to be placed on his shoulders.
Throw in the fact that head coach Rick Adelman was generally inclined to lean on Barea’s “veteran presence” in the fourth quarter of close games, favoring the experience and erratic play over Ricky Rubio’s occasionally flashy but usually very good orchestration of the offense.
Barea will surely be off the roster by the time the team goes to training camp. He’s being replaced by another shoot-first combo guard in Williams. The main difference, of course, is that Williams is a 38.5% three-point shooter, although he shot just 36.9% in his lone season in Portland.
Williams’ size will help on defense, and he’s eminently more playable next to Rubio than Barea ever was. He’s not a good defender by any stretch, but there’s little doubt that overall, he’ll be more effective than Barea, and at a lower price (one-year, $3.75 million).
Saunders did a good job addressing the backup point guard spot this off-season. Keep in mind, however, that Barea will likely bounce-back a bit from his career-worst 2013-14 campaign. Just don’t expect it to be significantly better, and certainly not with the Wolves.