Two Weeks In: Harrison Barnes Shines Amidst Team Injury Woes

The Dallas Mavericks entered the week 0-3 in their first action, and the beginning was no smoother as they fell to 0-5 with consecutive losses to the Utah Jazz and Portland Trailblazers. Devin Harris remained sidelined with a toe injury, Dirk Nowitzki struggled with a sore Achilles before returning and then leaving again; Deron Williams would get injured, and Andrew Bogut had to take a one-game leave for personal reasons.

Amidst it all, Rick Carlisle worked his magic to keep the pace down and manufacture offense with J.J. Barea and Harrison Barnes. Barnes was the key factor in both wins and struggled to show up in the losses. Barea, on the other hand, has juiced the offense when in, although his late clock three-point heroics could prove to be unsustainable. The team has struggled to score with Matthews’ shooting woes and the injuries to key playmakers, but the defense has flirted with top 10 status (on a per possession basis). Let’s review the week:

The key lesson for the Mavericks this week? You cannot play inside-out unless you are a threat to score inside. Utah, Portland, and Milwaukee all sat on the passes back out and contested every shot, tipped many passes, and forced Dallas consistently into late clock situations. If Barea, Matthews, Williams, Bogut, Powell, and others can’t finish around the basket, this offense will be stuck trying to move the ball around the edge to generate space and will continue to struggle to get good shots.

Overall Record: 2-5

Record This Week

  • Loss @ Utah Jazz: 81-97
  • Loss vs. Portland Trailblazers: 105-95
  • Win vs. Milwaukee Bucks: 75-86 (OT)
  • Win vs. Los Angeles Lakers: 109-97

Player of the Week: Harrison Barnes

In a time when Dirk Nowitzki and Deron Williams have both sustained injuries, where Andrew Bogut has been forced to miss a game, and where Wes Matthews has struggled to find his shot, Harrison Barnes has been a rock for Dallas, stepping it up this week with Nowitzki on the mend. He is 38/74 from the field (51% shooting) and made it to the line for 18 free throws.

He has played 35, 35, 48, and 39 minutes in this week’s games, leading the team. In those minutes, he was a +3 overall (-14 against Utah, +14 against Milwaukee). The key question on many NBA minds is this: Can he sustain this? With three 30-point games this season, after only 1 in his career with Golden State, is Barnes on a hot streak or has he jumped along the path his All-Star talent always teased was a possibility?

Much of his success has come in isolations and catch-and-shoot situations (both spotting up and off of screens). He hasn’t been a screen setter too much, but in the pick and roll, he’s had a lot of success as the roll man, scoring at a rate in the 81st percentile league-wide.

Where is his scoring success coming from in these situations? Per Synergy, he’s knocking down jump shots at about 1.2 PPP, good for the 85th percentile in the league, and he’s finishing around the basket in the 96th percentile. When a big man guards him, he blows by and finishes strong. He’s knocking down step backs in isolation, turnaround jumpers off of post ups, and pull-up jumpers all over the court. As for sustainability? He finished last season in the same percentile for jump shot efficiency, but his strength around the rim has increased dramatically. If you’re worried about a drop-off, look around the rim. Those smooth jumpers will likely continue to go in at a similar clip.

Playoff Picture

At 2-5, the Mavericks sit ahead of only the Pelicans and are 12th in the conference, two games back of the 8-seed Lakers.

Injury corner

  • Dirk Nowitzki, one week: Achilles soreness
  • Deron Williams, day-today: left calf strain
  • Devin Harris, three weeks: sprained right big toe

Like what you've read? Share it with your friends on