The Mavericks reportedly lost their sixth man, JJ Barea, to a season-ending Achilles tear during Saturday night’s 119–115 victory in Minneapolis against the Timberwolves.
Source: The Mavericks believe J.J. Barea tore his right Achilles tendon. Barea, 34, a longtime Dallas fan favorite who played a key role on the 2011 title team, is averaging 10.9 points and 5.6 assists as the Mavs' sixth man this season.
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) January 12, 2019
It’s a devastating injury to any player in the league, let alone a 34-year-old point guard who thrives with the ball in his hands. When Barea was out on the floor this season, the pesky Puerto Rican featured a career-high 27.8% usage rate. It was no secret that when Barea was on the floor, the majority of the offense ran through Jose Juan. He averaged 10.9 points and 5.6 assists per game for the Mavericks.
Barea is in his final year of a 4-year, $16 million contract he inked prior to the 2015–2016 season. He is owed $3.7 million this season.
If the Mavs do bring JJ back, one would have to figure it would most likely be on a veteran minimum deal. He would miss a large majority of the start of next season.
Injuries are cruel, but the NBA does not stop.
The Mavericks must find answers immediately. Losing someone as valuable as Barea is a brutal blow the Mavericks. It’s time to look at one possible solution.
Shake up the starting lineup
Shake up the starting lineup? Barea didn’t start!
Yes, we know JJ Barea was the heart-and-soul of the Mavericks bench mob. The lineup of Barea, Harris, Finney-Smith, Kleber, and Dwight Powell was the teams fourth most used lineup, playing 108 minutes together, flourishing with a net rating of plus-16.3.
It’s been no secret all season long that the Mavericks play has improved when Rick Carlisle has called on his bench. Adjusting the starting lineup will have a ripple effect on the bench.
If you’ve watched any Mavericks basketball this season you’ve surely noticed that the starting lineup simply is not working together. In 17 games and 350 minutes collectively, the starting lineup of Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, Luka Doncic, Harrison Barnes and DeAndre Jordan features a net rating of minus-9.3, per NBA.com. That is not good.
The problems seem to start on the offensive side of the ball. The starting lineup musters up just 97.1 points per 100 possessions. That is Cleveland Cavaliers bad. It’s hard to score points when you cough the ball up. The starters turn the ball over on 18.4% of their possessions which ranks just in the 9th percentile, per Cleaning the Glass.
So if the Mavericks do decide to adjust the starting five - who is the likely candidate to get relegated to a bench role?
I haven’t reached the point where I feel it would be good for Dennis Smith, Jr. to come off the bench. He’s one of the key building blocks for the future of the Mavericks - moving him to the bench could have a negative psychological impact on a player that age.
Sorting through lineup data when Wes Matthews hits the bench for Dorian Finney-Smith - the big problem of turnovers continues - but the defense does stiffen up. The Mavericks go from conceding 104.3 points per 100 possessions with Wes and the other four starters to allowing just 101.9 points per 100 possessions which ranks in the 71st percentile, per Cleaning the Glass.
The lineup of Smith, Doncic, Finney-Smith, Barnes, and Jordan has played the third most minute together out of all the Mavs lineups at 133 total minutes and has posted a plus-3.1 net rating.
In the meantime, while Dennis Smith Jr. continues to miss games, it may make sense to debut an extremely big starting lineup of Doncic, Finney-Smith, Barnes, Kleber, and DeAndre Jordan.
This lineup allows Doncic to continue to run the show as the do-everything point guard. Jordan remains a key-cog in Doncic’s pick-and-roll success. Yes, Finney-Smith and Kleber have struggled on the offensive side of the ball particularly shooting the 3-point shot, but they bring so much value defensively.
Carlisle has recently tinkered with Doncic’s minutes, giving him a quick breather earlier in the 1st quarter and bringing him back in with Finney-Smith & Dwight Powell around 3-4 minutes left in the 1st. Carlisle used these kinds of lineups with Dirk which allowed him to thrive with the second unit. The problem is that Doncic was handing the reins over to Barea during his first break of the quarter. Barea is a high usage, pick-and-roll player. Matthews’ most optimal role would be a catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter. As I said, I’m not in favor of Dennis Smith Jr., coming off the bench - but if the Mavericks are looking to just plug and play Barea’s absence, Smith would be the perfect fit. He could run the show with Doncic on the bench.
The Mavericks may opt to continue to see if starting lineup ends up improving and try to patch together Barea’s playmaking by playing Devin Harris and Jalen Brunson more. The Mavs have options in terms of how they want to deal with the loss of their veteran point guard. Either way, this injury could end up deciding whether the Mavericks make the playoffs or not. Stay tuned to see how they adjust.
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