One of the most fiery competitors in the college game, Jose Juan Barea is a rare point guard who shows excellent ability to both score and get his teammates involved.
Physically, Barea makes up for his smallish stature to a certain extent with his excellent quickness as well as his outstanding basketball instincts. If needed, Barea can surprisingly go to the hoop and dunk the ball with authority as he has extremely strong legs and a very nice vertical leap. It would not be a huge surprise to see him do his in the NBA, as he has a Pitbulls mentality, and is constantly in attack mode.
As a point guard, Barea is very much adept at finding the open man, as his outstanding 8.4 assists per game will attest. Hes your consummate modern day floor general who can score as well as run his team effectively, showing very good court vision finding his teammates unselfishly, particularly on the drive and dish. Barea is a quick thinker who sees plays as they happen, and will feed his man instaneously with a lob or backdoor bounce pass for an easy layup, showing very good timing in the process. Its the tougher and flashier passes that he actually excels the most in.
Playing alongside better teammates than he had at Northeastern, for example at Portsmouth or with the Puerto Rican national team, Barea showed to be an even better point guard than anyone could have predicted based on what was seen in college.
In these settings Barea showed the ability to push the tempo of the game intelligently while still staying under control, making numerous pin-point accurate full court passes to a wide open man or getting in the paint himself. Barea looks out of control at times with the way he plays, but this might be due more to how fast he thinks, acts and improvises-- rather than because of a lack of poise. He shows an incredibly wide variety of passes in his arsenal, whether with a beautiful bounce pass from the perimeter or from 50 feet away, moving left or right from outside and slinging a perfect one-handed pass to a cutter, driving and dishing no-look passes with incredible creativity, or with an assortment of underhanded or over-handed alleyoop lobs. Most of his assists are for easy dunks, layups or wide open looks from behind the arc, as he makes the game extremely easy for his teammates, passing the ball equally well to everyone to make sure they all stay happy and knowing exactly where to place it to ensure that it finds it's way into the opponent's basket.
Barea's perimeter game is extremely advanced and shows most of the moves you would expect from a player with years of experience creating shots for himself. Hes a terrific ball-handler, going left or right equally well. Barea has an excellent crossover, as well as a wide array of other hesitation moves to keep his man off balance and constantly guessing. He improvises extremely well and is very adept at creating something out of nothing when the offense bogs down.
Barea sees small openings in the defense and will react immediately to exploit them, splitting the double team right down the middle to shred apart the defense if needed. His body control is excellent and he really knows how to sell his moves to create space for himself. Hell act like hes about to take his man right, but will instead make a sharp ball-fake left and then blow right by his man when he has him on his heels. If he feels the urge, he has a nice in-between game he can go to at this point, being able to pull-up off the dribble and knock down the mid-range shot, or spin his way into the paint and finish creatively off the glass.
Once hes in the lane, hes strong enough to finish at the basket with contact as his 620+ career free throw attempts will attest. He likes to keep his man on his hip and ride him all the way to the basket, drawing the foul only when he decides the time is right. He is small, but extremely strong and stocky, which makes him tough to rattle and get off-balance. He maintains his focus very well and will get the unconventional 3-point opportunity a few times a game at the mid-major level. If the lane is too crowded for him to make his way all the way to the basket, Barea has some floaters/runners/tear-drops in his arsenal that he can go to to finish over bigger and more athletic opponents.
His shot-fakes are equally as effective, and he uses them to perfection to get himself into the lane. If he can find a way to become a more consistent outside shooter, his credibility in this area will only get much better. As it is, its not rare to see him get his man in the air a couple of times per game with just how herky-jerky and unpredictable he is.
Bareas outside shot is extremely streaky, but he can knock it down in a variety of ways. The type of defenses that are usually thrown at him has made him adapt his game accordingly, as Barea can square his shoulders in an instant and get his shot off even while on the move going left or right. His mechanics are not pretty, but he gets his shot off quickly, which is whats most important. Barea has range that extends well beyond the NBA 3-point line, but he abuses it, which hurts his percentages.
Barea already possesses all the wily veteran moves needed to make up for his size and create an advantage for himself. Little tricks like pushing off coming off a screen, tugging his mans shirt to slow him down or giving him a little business by sticking his elbows out when setting screens are certainly not beneath him. His play borders on dirty at times, but he does it well enough to usually not get caught by the refs.
Defensively, Barea is capable of playing very aggressive pressure defense, getting right in his mans grill and pestering him without mercy. His exhausting offensive role and the fact that he must stay out of foul trouble means that he isnt always able to show this, though. Considering his size, hes an excellent rebounder, averaging 4.4 per game, often snatching rebounds away from players a foot taller than him. This is largely due to his toughness, also not being afraid of stepping in to take a charge.
Despite playing for just a decent team in an average conference by national standards over the past four years, he has plenty of experience to fall back on from his play with the Puerto Rican national teams. He's held his own or even outplayed present or future NBA players like Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo and many others in international play.
In terms of intangibles, you won't find many players with stronger ones than his. He comes from an academic family and clearly has a great head on his shoulders, being a pleasure to be around both on and off the court according to every report we've received. He has a rare combination of brains, a huge heart and plenty of cojones, and just refuses to be denied success. His leadership skills are outstanding, and he appears to have the perfect mentality needed for a basketall player to succeed.
Bareas main weakness is a big one, as he's very short for an NBA point guard at just 5-10 or possibly 5-11. His apparently poor wingspan does not make up for that at all. As an athlete, Barea is not quite as explosive as most sub-6 footers weve seen make it over the past few years. His footspeed is good, not amazing, but his initial first step and style of play mask this very effectively.
Barea is a volume scorer, and will likely never be very efficient in this area considering his career percentages in college and international play. In college he relied too much on the 3-point shot, which is as streaky as can be. His mechanics are not very good, making his shot highly inconsistent as he appears to release it in different fashion every time he shoots it. One possession he will nail a 30 foot jumpshot with the greatest of ease, and hell then will proceed to miss 3 wide open stand-still looks from 20 feet out for no apparent reason.
Barea is a bit of a freelancer on the offensive end, and its unclear how many NBA coaches will stand for his completely unstructured and unconservative style of play. He is a bit headstrong, not being the type of player that really likes to have plays called for him from the sidelines, although doesn't look to be uncoachable at all.
One of Northeasterns biggest problems this season (at least from the tapes I saw), beyond the obvious lack of talent, is that their offense often had little rhythm to it with him at the helm. His herky-jerky aggressive style of play is a weakness as much as it is a strength. You rarely see a calm possession out of them with Barea in the game. Everything always comes in chaotic fashion with the ball in JJBs hands for 90% of the possession or more.
He has a tendency to dribble and dribble and dribble the ball and then dribble some more, being extremely dominant offensively, needing the ball in his hands at all times and not really trusting his teammates to give it up unless they are in a position to score immediately. At some point his teammates will just stand around and watch him pound the ball frantically all over the court as the offense gets stagnant and the shot-clock runs down, only to see it end with an off the dribble fadeaway jumper from 25 feet out that might just go in.
Bareas decision making can be very questionable at times, as he is either making a spectacular play or a terrible one, with very little in between. He is very turnover prone (4.7 per game), and tends to force the issue excessively even when things clearly arent there, particularly with taking shots at inopportune times too early in possessions.
Despite having the attitude and mentality of a natural born winner, Barea actually hasnt won much at all in his career. In fact, he never reached the NCAA tournament in his four years in college. Although a large part of that has to do with the fact that his teammates werent very good.
His size will be an issue defensively as well, as taller opponents will be able to just shoot over him. His lateral quickness is not off the charts either.
Barea plays in the Colonial Athletic Association, one of the best mid-major conferences in the NCAA, likely to receive 3 bids in this years NCAA tournament. His team had a nice run this season, finishing with a 19-11 record (12-6 in CAA) before bowing out in the semifinals of the CAA tournament. Barea finished the year scoring 21 points per game with 8.4 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 4.7 turnovers per game. His shooting percentages are fairly appalling, at 40% from the field and 29% from behind the arc (on a huge number of attempts). He was named conference player of the year for his efforts.
In his three previous seasons in the NCAA, Bareas team Northeastern played in the America East, considered a run of the mill mid-major conference until Taylor Coppenrath and Vermont briefly made people think otherwise last year by knocking Syracuse out of the NCAA tournament. His numbers were pretty similar, except his assists have drastically risen since his freshman year.
Internationally is where Barea really made his mark as a basketball player in the junior categories. He was one of the top player in the 2003 U-19 World Championship along with Linas Kleiza and Andrew Bogut, as well as extremely dominant in the 2004 U-21 World Championship Qualifiers in Halifax, where he outplayed Chris Paul in the finals against Team USA, with 27 points, 6 assists and 6 rebounds. He led the tournament in points (24.8 per game) was 2nd in (7.2), while pulling down 6.8 rebounds and 3 steals per game. Other notable players at this tournament besides Chris Paul were Charlie Villanueva, Adam Morrison and PJ Tucker.
In the 2005 U-21 World Championships he was not quite as good leading a disappointing Puerto Rican team that finished 7th overall, but saved his best for his American counterparts once again with a 21 points, 9 rebounds, and 14 assists in their first matchup and 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists in the 2nd, both losses. This team featured college stars such as Rudy Gay, Rajon Rondo, J.J. Redick and many others. He led the tournament in assists once again with 7.3 per game and finished fourth in scoring with 17.6. He is expected to be invited to the senior team this summer for the Mens World Championship in Japan. In the 2004 Global Games in Dallas, Barea led the tournament once again in scoring with 28.5 ppg.
Barea is clearly a beauty in the eye of the holder type prospect. He has fantastic strengths and glaring weaknesses, and there are many unanswered questions revolving around how effective he will be with more talented teammates around him, which he answered to a certain extent starting at Portsmouth. He clearly has very good passing skills and a terrific feel for the game, but at the same time needs the ball in his hands at all times and shows absolutely no conscious jacking up dozens of shots a game. This was playing for a terrible team that probably wouldn't have won 5 games all season long without him. Can he make his already good teammates better? At Portsmouth it looked like that's all he wanted to do.
Then again, its quite possible that as a backup he'll be fine. There are few backup point guards in the NBA today that possess the combination of passing, scoring and feel for the game that he does, and it goes without saying that if he was 6-2 he'd easily be a top 10 pick in this draft. With the lack of legit PGs in this draft and the astounding success of little PGs in the NBA lately, it's quite possible that someone will see a perfect backup for the next 10 years in Barea and decide to lock him up at the end of the 1st round or early 2nd.
If things dont work out for him in the NBA, he will make NBA money overseas regardless because of his Spanish passport and the fact that he can play like a 6-3 NBA PG would overseas despite his size.