Ballin’ Out will break down the best performance by a role player from the previous week, weighing both individual and team performance.
In the inaugural edition of Ballin’ Out, J.J Barea’s three-game stretch for the Dallas Mavericks was the most impressive of any role player last week. Barea averaged 15 points and six assists for the Mavericks off the bench, and was a key reason Dallas picked up huge wins over the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers.
As the unofficial captain of the second unit for Dallas, Barea serves as a security blanket when Harrison Barnes and Luka Doncic are resting. He might be small — standing at 6-feet flat (if you’re being charitable) — but his ability to finish at the rim by using his body to shield the ball for the layup and his vision to flip passes over his head and behind him to the guy open on the 3-point line is invaluable for the Mavericks.
On multiple occasions in the Houston game, Barea darted past James Harden and Clint Capela for the easy layup. Then when more capable defenders like PJ Tucker and Eric Gordon were tasked with guarding him, Barea would draw them into a screen set by Dwight Powell and feed him for the dunk or alley-oop.
Barea finished that game with 13 points and 12 assists. His signature moment came in the fourth quarter when he drove past Harden to the paint, and kicked it out to a wide-open Devin Harris for the 3. His penchant for finding teammates even in the most improbable situations shouldn’t be surprising, he leads the league in assist percentage. Barea assists on 45 percent of the Mavericks shots when he’s on the floor.
When he’s not dictating the offense and dishing the ball to a cutting teammate in the paint, Barea’s shaking his defender or slipping behind a screen for a usually wide open 3-pointer.
In the Clippers game, Barea put up 24 points, 20 of which came in the first half. A majority of the time Barea was guarded by lockdown defender Patrick Beverly, but Barea proved to be too quick and crafty and feasted in the paint. Looking at Barea’s shot chart from the Clippers game you would think it was someone much larger based on the number of shots taken in the paint. But, despite his size, Barea’s strength allows him to finish through contact, or at the very least draw a foul.
Barea can adapt to whatever Dallas needs him to be that night. Whether it’s someone who is getting other guys involved and racking up assists, or taking control of the game and putting up a 20-point performance.
This isn’t new for Barea. He’s made a career in Dallas by being the secret weapon coming off the bench, and so far this season he’s been the main reason why the Mavericks are able to maintain leads when the starters come out. Barea has also been someone coach Rick Carlisle trusts enough to play down the stretch of close games, making him more than just another backup point guard.