Here’s the thing — Mavs fans (besides me, apparently) LOVE J.J. Barea. And there’s lots of reasons for it that have nothing to do with whether he has been a quality contributor to the Mavericks’ team. For example, he was somebody nobody had heard of that turned out to be an NBA backup. Rags to riches stories. People love those. He carved out for himself a ten-year NBA career, despite the fact that he wasn’t even drafted. Mmm. Delicious.
And then, for Mavs fans there’s the fantasy that he’s the reason they won the NBA Finals in 2011. The story goes that after three games against the heavily favored Heatles, resulting in two losses and one win that took an epic comeback to pull off, noted warlock Rick Carlisle pulled the magic trick out of Kevin Durant’s backpack of inserting J.J. into the starting lineup and the rest is history. The Heat could not handle the crazy driving ability of this 5-foot-4 wunderkind and subsequently fell apart.
The reality is that that legend is garbage. Sure, JJ actually got hot in Games 5 and 6, and that played some role in the Mavs coming home with it. However, first of all he was due a hot streak, since he had shot 30 percent or under in four out of five games prior to being inserted into the starting lineup. Second, he posted a -7 in both Games 4 (which he also started) and 6, finishing the last eleven games of that playoff run – since the beginning of the Thunder series – a remarkable -53.
The same is true of his career generally. He has never once finished a season with a positive net rating, and stands -6 for his career. His Box Plus-Minus, a box score based estimate of a player’s net production, has been every year of his career. His highest ever “Value Over Replacement Player” was a sizzling 0.4 in 2012-13. He has contributed, on average, 1.7 Win Shares a year – even Steve Blake averaged 2.2.
In other words, for his entire career, he has been a slightly below average back-up point guard. People come for his occasional hot streaks, and try to forget that he inevitably gives up at least as much on the other end. They look for any sign that he’s succeeded, and they throw it a party. After 2011, they burnished his statue because people hate leaving things unexplained and love cause and effect. They missed this one.
And now, someone wants to make Yogi – beloved Yogi – into the next him. This is a desirable thing for some people. They’re slavering for this. They want him to be this guy who should probably be benched the instant he makes his third shot in a row so he doesn’t shoot you out of the game. They want this now, when Yogi’s just begun to find his destiny. It’s the cruelest thing I’ve ever heard. It’s mean-spirited. I won’t have it.
Don’t you put your wings in syrup when you’re just now learning to fly, Yogi. Don’t do it. You don’t have to be J.J. Barea. You can be anybody. Grow two feet and become the next Dirk. Put springs in your legs and become the next Vince. Tattoo yourself becoming Jason Terry and you will become Jason Terry. Anything, my young friend. Anything but this. The world is your picnic basket — go out and grab it.