Villanova Wildcats: J.J. Barea’s injury opens the door for Jalen Brunson

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

With J.J. Barea out of the picture for the remainder of the calendar year, ex-Villanova Wildcats guard Jalen Brunson’s role with the Dallas Mavericks should expand considerably.

“I will study and prepare myself, and someday my opportunity will come.”

This quote, famously attributed to Abraham Lincoln, has to be weighing heavy on the mind of former Villanova Wildcats star Jalen Brunson as he prepares to take on a more expansive role with the Dallas Mavericks moving forward.

As we’ve previously highlighted here, the 2018 NCAA Player of the Year already looks like a second-round steal halfway through the 2018-19 NBA season, but now, after news broke that J.J. Barea‘ season is officially over following a torn Achilles in the Mavs’ 119-115 win over the Thibodeau-less Minnesota Timberwolves, Brunson’s player development will all but certainly have to be accelerated.

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Now granted, it would be hard for any team to lose their backup point guard, just ask the Philadelphia 76ers and Markelle Fultz, but this loss is particularly rough for Rick Carlisle‘s incredibly young corp.

As one of the few veteran players left on the Mavericks’ team from their 2011 Championship squad, along with Dirk Nowitzki, Barea has remained a solid offensive contributor coming off the bench, averaging 10.9 points and 5.6 rebounds a game while soaking up about 20 minutes of action a night. Furthermore, he’s a wily veteran who’s been there before, a vital resource for Luka Doncic, Dennis Smith Jr., and Brunson as they explore the brand new world of NBA basketball.

But moving forward, that experience about is all Barea can bring to the table.

With the 14-year vet now out of the picture for the remainder of the season, and potentially most of next season, a la Kristaps Porzingis, Brunson will presumably receive a serious uptick in minutes of action a night, going from 16.3 a night to somewhere in the mid-20s, depending on how Carlisle decides to utilize point Luka moving forward.

And if that is the case, fans in Dallas best believe the Jersey native will be ready.

As one of the most storied college basketball players in recent memory, Brunson will forever be remembered on the Main Line as a calculated floor general, a leader of men who willed his team to not one, but two NCAA National Championships. While he was never the fastest, strongest, or most athletically gifted player on the court in any given game, Brunson’s heart was elite, and in a game like basketball where only five players see the court at any given time, that matters.

That heart and leadership has been evident in Brunson’s limited action coming off the bench for the Mavericks this season, and it will need to expand out further with Barea’s future now very much up in the air.

Next. Could Dennis Smith Jr. complete the Process?. dark

Can he replace Barea’s 10.9 points in 19.8 minutes of action a night? Only time will tell, but with Jalen Brunson’s role expected to grow with the Mavericks, it’s clear Villanova Wildcats fans should keep an eye on the surging young Western Conference upstarts in Dallas, as one of the school’s favorite sons will be under the spotlight once more.