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Mavericks Backup Point Guard Situation: Feast or Famine?

It had been well-established that the two points of emphasis to address during the summer, outside of a home-run trade, were to strengthen the power forward and point guard positions on the bench.  A choice was made and the Mavericks spent a majority of their summer targeting a backup power forward.  They looked at players such as Udonis Haslem, Al Harrington, Tim Thomas, Ike Diogu before signing Brian Cardinal and Steve Novak.  In addition, the Mavericks decided to pick up the $1.7 million option for guard, J.J. Barea.  At that price-tag, it was a no-brainer move to retain Barea, point guards don't come at that low of a price on the open market.  The question is though, is this team still lacking a backup point guard?

Scapegoat, whipping boy, punchline - whatever you want to call it, J.J. Barea has becomes that player.  An in-depth Barea piece, as promised, is coming this weekend on Mavs Moneyball so I don't want to delve too deep into the "scouting report" aspect of his game.  What I will say about him is that the Mavericks might be trying to fit a square peg in a round hole with the young guard.

The backup point guard is vital role to the roster due to it's responsibilities, those of which include being the "quarterback" for the second unit in the sense of maintaining control, directing traffic, etc.  A huge part of it is protecting Jason Kidd.  It's been stated time and time again that the Mavericks have every intention of trying to protect Kidd from handling excessive minutes during the season.  In the game against Denver on Wednesday, Kidd played just a shade over 38 minutes, that's in the "excessive" range.  You can say it's early in the season and so-on and so-forth but it's controllable and shouldn't be an issue this early.

Similar to Jason Terry, Barea is a shooting guard in the body of a point guard.  He does bring positives to the table but the limitations are there and everyone can see them.  For the stat geeks, for Mavericks players that have logged over 50 minutes in the season, Barea has to lowest PER on the team (8.5).  PER is the brainchild of ESPN's John Hollinger and he states that it sums up all a player's positive accomplishments, subtracts the negative accomplishments, and returns a per-minute rating of a player's performance.  He also ranks the lowest (83) in terms of offensive rating, points produced per 100 possessions.  

So if that is the case, should someone else be the backup point guard? It's not a simple yes or no answer, for a variety of reasons.  There are three specific players who could be involved, outside of J.J., but they're unable to take the spot: Jason Terry, Roddy Beaubois and Dominique Jones.

Jason Terry can handle the responsibilities, he was put in the rough spot of trying to replace Steve Nash as the new point guard in 2004-05 and he did an admirable job.  The problem is, Terry is logging heavy minutes as the starting shooting guard while Roddy Beaubois is recovering from his foot injury.  Beaubois experimented over the summer handling point guard responsibilities and "mixed reviews" would be putting it nicely.  Roddy can shoot but he is dangerous with the ball in his hands.  You can never say never, so it's a possibility they could tinker with the idea for spot minutes when he is fully in the mix, whenever that may be.  Dominique Jones is an intriguing choice to man the spot.  The rookie has logged more minutes than many expected he would early in the season (8.8 min/game) but that's mostly in part to Beaubois being injured.  Jason Kidd isn't known as a primary scoring threat but he can facilitate.  Jones clearly isn't a scoring threat from the perimeter, but he is a threat by attacking into the lane and going for a finish or passing the ball out to an open teammate.  You see the flashes of his play-making potential, it's just the inverse between Jones and Kidd with their scoring comfort zones.

I can't imagine the Mavericks picturing both Beaubois and Jones as long-term shooting guards but if they do, Jason Terry is in trouble unless he gets minutes backing up Kidd.  If Terry does log those minutes, Jones will be able to work along-side him as a defensive-minded guard and can also use his attacking nature with court vision to free Terry up. 

This pretty much paints the picture that Barea is phased out of the mix.  He might be, but it's likely he wouldn't be totally exiled out of the rotation.  Again, this leads to the square peg into a round hole theory.  Barea has moments where he can ignite the offense and shift momentum, but once he has to sustain it for a long stretch of time, it fizzles.  Instead of 18 minutes/game, it could go down to around 10-12 minutes/game, which isn't necessarily bad.  It would still give him enough time to leave an impact on the game.  There are players such as Shawn Marion and Brendan Haywood who are having to adjust to the depth that is around them, this could be just another situation where that comes into play.

Hindsight is 20/20 and fans could argue that the Mavericks should have pursued Steve Blake, T.J. Ford, Shannon Brown or other available point guards this summer.  Dallas pushed in the other direction, towards power forward.  The Mavericks have options for the backup point guard, they just need to find the right fit sooner rather than later.

You can make an argument that the point guard position is the most important position on the court.  Jason Kidd still ranks high on the list in terms of point guards, but we've established he can't play 48 minutes a night.  Someone will have to man that post for 13-15 minutes a night.  For now, that position has to be considered a spot of weakness.  Despite all of the positives that Mavericks are showing right now, and there are a lot of them, that one negative could derail the team.  The season is a long journey and the Mavericks are just barely getting out of the driveway.  They need someone who can take the keys and not drive them to Louisiana instead of the arena.