#TwolfRank: #9 J.J. Barea

JJ Barea’s now the only true backup PG to Ricky Rubio in town

Welcome to the second annual #TwolfRank. It’s one of our favorite times of the year, to say the least. Here is the sixth part in this roster-long series. As always, you can follow Jonah (@howlintwolf), Tom (@Tom_NBA) and Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) on Twitter as well to partake in the fun.

There’s been turmoil at the point guard position in Minnesota before the season starts for about as long as I can remember.  Even the years they thought they had it figured it out, supplied with the likes of Terrell Brandon, Stephon Marbury, Chauncey Billups, Sam Cassell and more, they’d still run into some type of drama, which resulted in more turnover than Kentucky’s point guard spot.

So what’s the deal? Why can’t we hold on to a point guard for more than three years? Personally, I believe it’s a greater power that finds amusement in spitting on this franchise or even this state, for that matter, cursing nearly every facet involved in the process. But I digress.

Believe it or not, David Kahn tried to fix that problem. It’s no secret that Kahn used his power to stockpile tryout many point guards during his time here. Ever since picking Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn back-to-back in 2009, it was clear Kahn wanted to end the Timberwolves’ poor history at that integral position by not only adding a future staple (Rubio) but also adding depth to the position by bringing in players with sound ball-handling and passing skills (Luke Ridnour, Ramon Sessions, JJ Barea, Flynn).

The depth that Kahn created at the position was actually pretty astounding and very comforting at the time given the disastrous organizational history at that spot. There was a confidence that settled, at least in my mind, looking up and down those rosters. But then the problems continued.

Flynn flunked out of the league. Sessions couldn’t really score. Rubio tore his ACL. Ridnour was forced to play out of position, and Barea, quite the same, also dealt with a myriad of injuries in his two years here. That confidence in the position’s depth all but escaped and it seemed history was repeating itself.

Now here we are. Rubio is back and should be fully healthy, which means the starting spot is locked down (Fingers crossed). But with Ridnour’s departure back to Milwaukee, the back up duties solely rely on Barea. And that’s a big job but with true shooting guards in town, which means Barea won’t be forced to play at the 2-guard spot too often, he should be able to identify his role very easily and fall right into place (Again, fingers crossed).

The last two years haven’t been all that kind to Barea in Minnesota. He’s been a hero and a villain. He’s proved he can explode and change the face of a game and that he can blow it all up in less than 10 minutes of work. He’s shown us consistent and inconsistent stints in the same game.

With that bi-polar like approach to the game, Barea must show that he can take the backup duties and prove to be effective. It’s that plain and simple. Teams don’t ask much from their backup point guard. Typically it means playing 15 minutes a game, commanding the offense and creating opportunities for 1) your teammates; and 2) yourself. Barea has that ability but it’s the mental makeup and his struggle to overachieve that always seems to get in the way of an effective, efficient outing.

Last season Barea went through spurts of both good and bad on his way to 11.3 points and four assists per game. Respectable numbers for a backup. The problem was in his efficiency, which suffers during his “I can be the hero” stints. He improved his field goal percentage from last year to this but he failed to connect on more three-pointers than he did in 2011, which is an important part in his new, established role. And even though Flip Saunders made it a goal to sign more perimeter shooters, Barea is still going to have to show that he can make it from deep on a more efficient clip.

Barea’s prospects moving into the season look good. Finally, he has a distinguished role as the Wolves move into the season without any injury issues in the backcourt (Fingers crossed, third time’s the charm). A clean slate might be exactly what Barea needs to settle into his role as Rubio’s backup as well as the emergency plan to generate some serious offense late in games, which he definitely can do. I personally believe that Barea ought to be ranked higher than this because of the shallow depth at point guard and his abilities on the court, but here he is at #9 in our #TwolfRank and still important as ever. Let’s just hope history doesn’t repeat itself and the Basketball Gods leave the Wolves’ point guards alone for a season.

Here’s what you all had to say on Barea:

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