The Thunder beat the Timberwolves on Wednesday night. Of course the good guys won. J.J. Barea didn’t play for Minnesota. The Puerto Rican point guard is a Thunder killer. Google J.J. Barea, and the third time item up is “Timberwolves Stun Thunder Behind J.J. Barea,” the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ account of Minnesota’s Dec. 21 victory.
Barea missed the game Wednesday night due to back spasms. He plays on a team with Luke Ridnour and Ricky Rubio, so Barea is part point guard, part combo guard, whole instigator. Good things happen when Barea is on the court.
So good, I think the Thunder should trade for him. The Thunder needs a backup point guard. More than that, the Thunder needs some bench strength. The Thunder bench, which has been such a strength for going on three years, has withered. Beyond Kevin Martin and Nick Collison, not much there. Hasheem Thabeet is OK as the No. 4 big man, but Eric Maynor’s return from reconstructive knee surgery has been painfully slow. He’s a shadow of his former self. Sophomore Reggie Jackson shows flashes but hasn’t progressed to where the Thunder can count on him come playoff time.
Barea would fill the void. He’s a whisp of a point guard. Not a great facilitator, but OK. An excellent driver and scorer. Circle K would find himself open on the wing often with Barea in the game.
Barea was a big part of the Mavericks’ drive to the NBA championship in 2011. Then Dallas retooled and didn’t re-sign Barea. He went to Minnesota and signed a four-year contract. He has two years left on his deal. Barea makes $4.493 million this season, $4.687 next season and $4.519 in 2014-15. That’s manageable money for a player who is so productive.
Barea is averaging 10.7 points, 4.4 assists and 23.4 minutes per game this season. His first season with the Timberwolves, Barea averaged 11.3 points, 5.7 assists and 25.2 minutes per game.
His last season in Dallas, Barea averaged 9.5 points, 3.9 assists and 20.6 minutes.
Barea is 28 and this is his seventh NBA season. So he’s got some tread left on the tire. Plus, he’s got a Miss Universe girlfriend – Zuleyka Rivera — so they could double date with Serge Ibaka and Keri Hilson.
Barea is a valuable hand in Minnesota, so the Thunder would have to pony up to get him. Here’s my proposal: Maynor, Perry Jones III and the Dallas first-round draft pick. Maynor would give Minnesota little depth at point guard in case Rubio goes down again, Jones is a total project but has the talent to at least make you interested, and the Mav draft pick is intriguing. It’s top-20 protected through 2017 but becomes unprotected in 2018.
I don’t know if the T-Wolves would bite. I wouldn’t. But Minnesota likes to deal. Loves to deal. If the Timberwolves played hardball and demanded the Toronto pick — which is much more appealing — Sam Presti would have a tough decision to make.
Barea would instantly upgrade the Thunder bench. Jackson could move to a hybrid role. Come in for energy or an offensive jolt (ala Daequan Cook, except instead of standing in the corner, Jackson would be a driver). I’m not giving up on Jackson. I’m just giving up on Jackson as the backup point guard in the push to the 2013 NBA title, same as the Thunder did a year ago.