Ignoring those brief few years in Minnesota, J.J. Barea is the closest thing to a homegrown rotation player that Dallas has had in a very long time. Undrafted in 2006, Barea found his way into the Dallas rotation thanks a brief but memorable stint with the Mavericks' then-D-League-affiliate Fort Worth. However, he did not really make his mark with the team until Rick Carlisle took over the team in 2008.
Carlisle has always seemed to favor Barea as a spark plug offensive weapon off the bench. The coach often also relies on the "6-foot" guard as an emergency starter at the shooting guard spot, most famously inserting J.J. in the starting lineup midway through the 2011 Finals. We all know how that went, and Barea is a possible candidate to fill in for Wesley Matthews if the Mavs' big free agent signing isn't ready to start the year.
John Jenkins has been starting so far in the preseason, but Barea is the one with the trust of the coach. And the big money in the offseason. If I had to bet, Barea will be starting next to Deron Williams on October 28.
What is expected from J.J. Barea this season?
At this point, Barea's role on the team is fairly well established. He will come in for spurts off the bench when the team needs an offensive boost. He'll play around 20 minutes a game, probably average around 10 points per game to go with a few assists, and generally just run around a lot. He'll be something of a pest as a defender, but more often than not his size will make him a liability on that end. Hopefully he'll be paired with Matthews or Justin Anderson fairly often, who can cover up for his defensive issues and let him be a bit more opportunistic.
Ultimately, what Barea does best is run some good pick-and-roll with Dirk. The two have been doing it together for years, and have some really good chemistry. As long as Barea isn't expected to do too much, he should be a good weapon for Rick Carlisle to use. And at this point, Carlisle knows how best to use him.
Best case scenario
Barea really finds a rhythm working with Dirk and Dallas's new wings (who are generally a good mix of size and shooting than some of the Mavs guards of recent years). Barea's cutting offensive style works well when he can run pick-and-roll with Dirk and either make a play at the basket or kick it out to an open shooter. And on the defensive end, Barea can avoid getting into trouble when he can be overly aggressive without worrying about staying in front of his man. Playing with Matthews, Anderson and Parsons -- even Williams and Jenkins to an extent -- should provide the necessary conditions for Barea to have more success than he has had in years.
Worst case scenario
Chandler Parsons, Matthews, and maybe even Deron Williams take longer than expected to get fully healthy. As a result, Carlisle leans on Barea more than he should. J.J. can do some good for a team in short spurts, but when he is on the floor too long, he is prone to mistakes, over-dribbling, and forcing things more than he should. If Barea is this team's number two offensive weapon, there will be trouble.
Another problem, even if the Mavs' bigger stars are healthy, would be Barea feeling like he needs to live up to the big contract he signed this offseason. Hopefully he knows his role, but with Williams, Matthews, Parsons, and Dirk on this team, J.J. Barea dribbling around for half the shot clock on too many possessions would be a tremendous waste.
Will Barea be judged based on his contract or his play?
As I alluded to earlier, a lot of people were a bit baffled when Barea received his four-year, $16 million extension. It was widely expected he would receive something closer to $2.8 million room exception for two years. Barea was basically given the same contract that Minnesota was widely panned for giving him after he shined on the brightest of stages in the 2011 Finals.
The difference, of course, is that the cap is going up, and Barea is a much better fit in Carlisle's system than he was in Minny. And as long as Barea continues to do what he usually does for this team, in a small but defined role, he will be a positive. Much like with Chandler Parsons last year, there will be a vocal contingent of Mavs fans who will belly ache that $4 million a year is too much to be paying an undersized third string point guard who only averages eight points and four assists a game.
But the contract is done. Regardless of what this humble blogger or any number of fans think of Barea's contract, he is a player who has the trust of his coach and front office. And for a team integrating a number of new players, many of whom should have big roles, that sort of player is vital to have for continuity and chemistry. So don't worry too much about Barea's contract. Hopefully he won't either.