The Minnesota Timberwolves have a much more talented, deep and (most importantly and thankfully) healthy roster as the head into the 2013-2014 NBA season. The additions of Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer add solid depth on the wings and the re-signings of Chase Budinger and Nikola Pekovic are big moves for the team as well.
Another thing that Minnesota did this summer that went under-the-radar was to ship out Luke Ridnour, which really helps their guard rotation. Ricky Rubio was always the obvious starter at point guard, but now the reserve roles are more clearly defined and it now seems the backup point guard duties will fall to J.J. Barea.
For an injury-ravaged Timberwolves team last season, Barea fell victim to trying to do too much at times and pressing the issue to often. In 74 games, Barea finished the season averaging 11.3 points, four assists and 2.8 rebounds in 23.1 minutes per game, but only shooting 41.7 percent from the floor and a mere 34.6 percent from three.
However, as Barea played for Puerto Rico at the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship, it became clear how effective he can be when he’s playing in a more comfortable position.
In 10 games and while playing 26.2 minutes per game, Barea averaged 14 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists and one steal per game while shooting a solid 45.1 percent from the field and 37.8 percent from beyond-the-arc. It was clear that Barea was one of the leaders of this Puerto Rico team and, even though they lost in the championship game, he played like a much more intelligent and mature player in the tournament.
Heading into the upcoming season, Barea is going to be a big part of the Wolves’ success. His offensive abilities will be a huge asset off of Minnesota’s bench, but he has to play smarter now that he’ll be in a better situation. We’ve all seen that he’s capable of playing that way, but now we have to see him do so in Minnesota this year.
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