Free Agent Profile: J.J. Barea
This is the 11th post in a series of profiles analyzing a free agent and how he might fit with the Lakers.
Dallas shooting guard J.J. Barea
Type of free agent: unrestricted
Positives: Some of the defining images of the Mavericks' sweep over the Lakers: J.J. Barea blew past the Lakers' interior defense off one dribble; Barea made the Lakers overreact on defense and averaged 5.5 assists per game; the Lakers became so frustrated with Barea that Ron Artest nearly clotheslined him in the final minutes of Game 2, and Andrew Bynum delivered a forearm that sent him to the floor in Game 4.
It makes sense for Laker fans to want Barea's services -- he offered in the 2011 playoffs many qualities the Lakers lacked. The team didn't have the same speed Barea possessed when he made up for his listed 6-foot frame with lightning quickness off the dribble. The Lakers lacked a reliable guard; Derek Fisher and Steve Blake were inconsistent throughout the season. And they lacked Barea's courage and toughness, most notable when he absorbed the Lakers' cheap shots. It's no wonder ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon argues that the Mavericks need to focus on re-signing Barea on the grounds that he's a need -- not a luxury.
Negatives: Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin makes a good point that there's a danger in overestimating Barea's abilities -- assuming he can player a bigger role just because he fit well within Dallas' system. Teams could be spurred to pay a higher price than Barea might actually be worth. In the Lakers' case, their finances are pretty tight since they're coming off a season with a $91-million payroll, and their core lineup remains locked in to multiyear deals. It's also unclear how much the NBA midlevel exception will be because of the uncertainty surrounding the collective bargaining agreement.
Verdict: Barea's agent, Dan Fegan, told HoopsHype.com that he'd want to keep Barea in Dallas. Likewise, Barea told Primera Hora's Raúl Álzaga that he would like to stay in Dallas (link in Spanish). But within that same article, Barea also expressed interest in the Lakers, Heat and Knicks if negotiations with the Mavericks didn't work out.
This clearly should give the Lakers optimism to move forward, but they shouldn't fall into a bidding war with Dallas. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wouldn't readily concede Barea since he would want to keep a championship roster as intact as possible. He also wouldn't want to benefit rival team the Lakers. If the Lakers were able to sign Barea at a reasonable price (such as the three-year, $5-million deal he signed with Dallas in 2008), acquiring Barea would significantly help the Lakers' backcourt. But if the price tag keeps increasing, it'd be time for the Lakers to look at better deals.
-- Mark Medina
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