JJ Barea is having himself another fantastic year off the bench, but is he having a good enough year to be considered the 2019 6th Man? Let’s dig in.
Last night on the Mavs pregame show with Dana Larson and Cedric Ceballos, Cedric posited that JJ Barea should be in contention for the 6th Man of the Year and he is not alone. It’s been said across numerous Mavs podcasts, some fan based and some team sponsored, so you know that JJ has earned the respect of those keeping an eye on his year. Let’s look at his stats and his overall impact on his team from the bench to see how JJ is lobbying for this honor a quarter way through the season.
JJ leads the “bench mob” of the Dallas Mavericks which consistently overwhelms opposing teams’ bench units. They are an offensive juggernaut with some very plus defenders in Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber. The bench unit in and of itself deserves accolades, but JJ is the heart and soul of it. JJ has been dubbed “The Maestro” by Derek Harper and Mark Followill on the broadcast, and that fits him rather appropriately as he orchestrates this second unit masterfully. Without the wisdom, court vision and shooting of this unlikely hero, the Mavs would not be 10-9 this season.
On the Court
JJ Barea is coming off a mind boggling career year last year at the age of 34 with highs in average points per game, field goal percentage, and assists and is essentially continuing that trend this year. JJ is averaging 11.0 points, 6.2 assists, 2.4 rebounds in sub 20 min of playing time. Per NBA Stats, JJ produces a Net Rating of 12.8 for the year and a whopping 22.3 for the last 10 games when the team has turned the ship around. That jump alone shows you the impact he’s having.
So that’s not enough for you to see his value, ok…how’s this? Per yesterday’s broadcast, JJ is #1 in assists (5.8), #10 in plus/minus (+4.8) and 19th in points scored (10.9) for all players off the bench this year in the NBA. Cumulatively, that AT LEAST puts him in top 10 consideration for bench players in the NBA.
You still need more to value his impact to the Dallas Mavericks? Alrighty, then. Per NBA Stats, JJ Barea is second on the team in effective plus for the year with +5.9 (His best friend Devin Harris leads with a 6.0). More recently, during their red hot streak of beating last year’s conference finals teams like Golden State, Boston and Houston, JJ is the team leader in plus minus with +8.3. He’s also part of 4 out of the top 5 rotations for the Mavericks this season.
Past the purely statistical impacts we can easily measure, JJ is selflessly doing yeoman’s work for this team. He scores when he needs to, he gets his teammates involved and has shown the true value of some teammates, just by doing his job effectively. He’s turned Dwight Powell into one of the best pick and roll bigs in the league, helped Devin Harris turn back the clock, and is teaching Jalen Brunson how to be a professional backup in the NBA.
On top of all of that, he is helping the Mavs by keeping Dennis Smith Jr fresh. Last year, it was apparent that Dennis was not able to keep his intensity up for 30 min a game and would lapse on both defense and driving. This year, he is pick up his defensive assignments full court and pushing the tempo far more than last year. It’s no small thing that JJ plays 20 minutes a night to help keep him fresh and attacking. He helps as indirectly as he does directly. Impacting a team in different and somewhat intangible ways is the unofficial definition of a great 6th man.
Off the Court
JJ Barea is as upstanding of a guy as you will find in the NBA. Proved last year by him winning the J. Walter Kennedy Award for his humanitarian efforts to help his home of Puerto Rico after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. He raised over half a million dollars, and donated over 100,000 lbs of supplies to the area to help get it back on its feet. This kind heart and determination makes him both a fan favorite and a locker room guy that is unmatched.
As a backup point guard, you could very easily understand if JJ flew under the radar off the court, but he looks at himself as a leader for this team. When the Mavs were 3-8, JJ Barea spoke to media after a team meeting saying “It’s not good. There are a lot of things going on. We’ve got to do something.” You don’t go to the media saying that unless you know you have the support of your teammates and you don’t do it unless you think it serves a purpose like lighting a fire under your team.
JJ is the guy who will do that for his team, even if it’s not the popular thing to do. And what happens when a mic gets put in front of his face after they start winning: he compliments everyone else. After the win vs Boston where the Mavs got back to .500, JJ told the media, “The way we were playing, we were 2-7, to be 9-9 right now says a lot about this team, this coaching staff, the players. We stayed together, we made adjustments…and we’re rolling.”
He’s essentially patting his team on the head after he scored 20 points, had 8 assists and 6 rebounds in 26 minutes. That is how you lead even from a backup role.
So, is he a 6th Man Candidate?
By all these metrics, JJ should definitely be considered. But there are few caveats to him getting the nomination.
The Mavs must keep winning – They are just above .500 and would need to make a serious playoff push for him to get in front of a national stage to do what he does to get enough votes.
JJ must stay consistent – JJ is a streaky player and he always has been. He’s been red hot coming into this season off a career year that no one thought was sustainable. He’s proving them wrong and has to continue doing so all year.
JJ must stay healthy – JJ only played 69 games last year due to various injuries. So far, he’s only missed 1 game, but if he gets any lingering injury, that could cost him in the voting by missing significant time.
Scoring – The last thing that could keep JJ from earning the 6th Man accolade that MFFLs think he has so rightfully earned through a quarter of the year, is his scoring output. The last 3 6th Man winners have averaged 17.3 points per game for the season, which is well above JJ’s current scoring output. Hopefully JJ’s assist numbers, which are far better than any of those scorers, will weigh into the decision.
All that is to say that even if JJ doesn’t win the 6th Man award this year, he’s the 6th Man we want in Dallas and all of his hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Thank you for your work ethic, your tenacity, for all of the bumps you’ve taken along the way, for starting in the finals to bring Dallas its lone championship, and most importantly for being yourself you crazy little spark plug.
Featured Image: 247Sports.com