J.J. Barea Season Highlights

Look back on some of J.J. Barea's best plays of the season.

Things weren’t looking too good for the Mavericks after a 133-111 loss to the Sacramento Kings on March 27.

With no Deron Williams, no Chandler Parsons, and no grip on a playoff spot — the road loss pushed them down to the ninth seed and a 35-38 record — Dallas found itself at a significant crossroads. Should the losses keep coming, a playoff berth would become even more unlikely. Turn it around, however, and the club could keep playing. Something had to give.

Then J.J. Barea happened.

The next night in Denver, Barea scored 18 points and dished out 11 assists as the Mavs won, 97-88. He’d score a combined 103 points in the following four games — all wins — as Dallas would win seven of its final nine contests en route to a 42-40 finish and the sixth seed in the West. Make no mistake: His play down the stretch was one of the biggest factors as to how Dallas advanced to the playoffs this season.

Along the way, he picked up his first Western Conference Player of the Week award and witnessed the birth of his daughter, Paulina. Barea called that time one of the best weeks of his life.

While that specific period stands out for many different reasons, Barea proved once again this season why he’s such a valuable player, particularly in his role as a backup point guard. He has terrific command in the pick-and-roll and can make an immediate impact off the bench on any given night, especially in partnership with Dirk Nowitzki at the top of the arc. That pair’s unique synergy fueled the Mavs to scoring 109.1 points per 100 possessions when they shared the floor this season, according to NBA Stats, fifth-best among any pair of Mavericks.

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Barea’s many different intangible attributes come to life anytime he’s paired with Nowitzki: patience, command, and precision. The point guard can probe a defense and finish himself or find a shooter or roll man for an easy bucket, and Dallas almost always finds good shots whenever he’s on the floor. That goes for Dirk in particular, who was on the receiving end of 70 Barea assists this season, per NBA Stats. Only Williams assisted Nowitzki more.

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As we saw toward the end of the season, Barea was even more effective in the starting role. He credited his explosion to having more time to let the game come to him, so to speak, as when he’s playing 35 minutes instead of 15, he can better develop a feel for that particular game and play in rhythm for most of the night. Coming off the bench, on the contrary, players can feel pressure to make an imprint upon the game right away. It turns out he’s good in both roles.

Unfortunately, however, in a game against Memphis at the very end of the regular season he suffered a strained groin, which severely inhibited him during the playoffs. He was unable to move at full speed and it seemed very difficult for him to go to his preferred right-hand side when coming off a screen, limiting his effectiveness as he knifed into the teeth of the Oklahoma City Thunder defense.

“It was frustrating. I was playing my best basketball ever,” Barea said at his exit interview last week. “I was feeling great until that move in the Memphis game. I was looking forward to the playoffs, then this happened and I couldn’t get back to normal. But things happen. It could be worse. I just gotta take care of everything and be ready for next season.”

Barea also said during his exit interview that he would have his right knee scoped to address a medial meniscus injury. He said recovery time should be between one month and six weeks, so it shouldn’t affect his availability at the start of next season. It could, however, affect his ability to play for Puerto Rico this summer as the country looks to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Although Barea’s injuries — latter of which had previously been undisclosed — limited him during the postseason, while others similarly limited his teammates, the point guard was pleased with his team’s spirit this season.

“It was an up-and-down season, a tough season,” he said. “But, team-wise, I think we fought until the end. We fought all year. We had our good moments, our bad moments, but we stayed together, though. The important part is we stayed together as a team at all times. I think we left it all out there. I think it was a great season.”

Barea has multiple years remaining on his contract with the Mavericks, so odds are he’ll be back in the same role in which he flourished this season. And, depending on how the summer unfolds, Barea might even earn a bigger role heading into 2016-17. As he proved this season, he’s ready to do whatever it takes, regardless of what’s at stake.

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