I have a little secret to admit: I am in love with Shane Larkin. Anyone who follows me on Twitter probably got tired of seeing me break out the same hashtag (#FreeLarkin) any time Calderon, Harris, or Ellis had a bad game. What can I say? In short bursts this season, the kid was ELECTRIC.
Larkin averaged 10.2 minutes a game this season. When you consider the fact that he missed the first 10 games of the season and only logged a total of 6.53 minutes in the last 10, that's actually some pretty good playing time for a rookie on a Rick Carlisle team. The thing that really stuck with me about Larkin was that he always left me wanting more. Generally, I am a very critical fan, who remembers every little frustrating thing a Maverick player does. So it says a lot that, looking back on the season, my memories of Larkin's play are almost all good ones.
So then why didn't he get more playing time? I could mutter under my breath about Carlisle's history of favoring veterans over younger talent or mock the front office for creating such a massive logjam at the point guard position, but really this isn't the article for that. Ultimately, Larkin's season was a success. Despite the fact that he missed training camp and the first couple of weeks while recovering from surgery, Larkin took very little time to work his way into a decent spot in the rotation. Larkin essentially filled the Devin Harris role until Devin came back from injury. After Devin came back, Larkin saw his minutes steadily decline until the tightening race to make the playoffs dictated that Carlisle rely more heavily on his veterans.
Now that I've gushed on and on about Larkin's positives for a few paragraphs, I'll at least try to temper my enthusiasm with some harsh objectivity. The kid only averaged 2.8 points and 1.5 assists per game, and only shot 31.6% from beyond the arc (despite having a reputation as a really accurate shooter in college -- 43.8% overall and 35.7% from three). His free throw percentage was a less than encouraging 64%. And yeah, he's like four feet tall. However, he did play very well against lesser competition in the four games he played for the D-League Texas Legends, averaging 15 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds a game.
Larkin had a very up-and-down season, but I think when you consider the big picture, he had about as good a season as a Cuban-era draft pick can have. He flashed potential, built some trust with Carlisle, and never really looked too lost or over-matched.
2013-14 season grade: B-
Contract: $5,858,042 through 2016-17
Whether or not Larkin has a more consistent role next year probably depends on whether the Mavs re-sign Devin Harris. If Harris comes back, expect to see Larkin in Frisco as often as you see him in Dallas, because there simply aren't enough point guard minutes to give Larkin the consistent playing time he needs to grow as a player. If not, don't be surprised if Larkin earns the majority of the backup point guard minutes next year.
Coming into the season, it felt like a lot of Maverick fans were skeptical of Larkin, thinking that the kid had talent, but at his size, his best case scenario was becoming a serviceable J.J. Barea clone. Depending on whether Devin Harris comes back next year, I think he may well have a chance to prove he is more than that. People mostly compare Larkin to Barea for the shallow reason that they're both very small for NBA players. However, Larkin is a better shooter and passer, and he has a higher basketball IQ than Barea (and I don't mean that as a slight to Barea--he is much beloved in my household). Larkin's size is a liability on the defensive end, but he has the same energy and work ethic to be the kind of pest that Barea was when he was at his defensive best.
Despite a number of odds working against him, I think Larkin has the talent, work ethic and understanding of the game to really earn the trust of Coach Carlisle, if there are enough minutes to go around. Unfortunately for him, that may be a big if.
Here's what we wrote about Shane Larkin during the season: Kirk Henderson explained how Larkin was symptomatic of a larger problem with the big picture planning of the Mavericks' front office.
Jonathan Tjarks previewed Larkin just before the beginning of the season, noting that as a 20-year-old college sophomore, he would have been the best point guard on the Mavs 2012-13 roster.
CultureMap Dallas also had a really good overall look at Larkin's rookie year just after Devin Harris returned from injury.