April 13, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers shooting guard Leandro Barbosa (28) brings the ball up court against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeated Cleveland 102-83. Mandatory credit: Michael Hickey-US PRESSWIRE
22 GP 19.8 MP .339 FG% .424 3P% .758 FT% 2.2 TRB 1.5 AST 0.9 STL 1.2 TO 8.9 PPG
One of the Indiana Pacers’ glaring weaknesses heading into the season was the lack of a true scoring punch off of the bench. Larry Bird had attempted to fill the need on multiple occasions by aiming to acquire O.J. Mayo, but the Grizzlies remained stubborn, backing off of the deal any time the two teams neared conclusion. After failure to entice Jamal Crawford in the free agency market, the team entered the season still short that extra push off of the bench.
Not finding the answer on the roster, Bird made a move at the trade deadline in acquiring the 2006-07 Sixth Man of the Year Leandro Barbosa and his expiring contract from the Raptors in exchange for a second round pick. Barbosa debuted against the Los Angeles Clippers, making his impact immediately felt, scoring 9 points at the beginning of the second quarter to put the Pacers up for good the game. His 2-10 shooting effort in a loss to the Suns just a few nights later showcased the ups and downs the Pacers would not only see from Barbosa, but from the second unit as a whole once Darren Collison’s injury moved George Hill into the starting lineup.
Moving Hill to the starting unit gave a green light to Barbosa to lead the bench offensively given the inconsistencies of Tyler Hansbrough and Dahntay Jones, in addition to allowing Collison to return as more a facilitator. The interest in moving Hill to the starting lineup paid dividends immediately, helping an oft slacking starting lineup to jump out to fast starts, but Barbosa’s own inconsistencies cropped up, really crashing the second unit.
The team went 17-6 to close the regular season in games Barbosa played, but the six losses were glaring given how poorly Barbosa played in those particular games. It’s not entirely fair to focus in on just the six losses and the combined 9-32 shooting he put forth, but Barbosa shot a career low .399 in his short time with the Pacers, and it wouldn’t matter if those struggles didn’t come to light in the postseason.
Once in the second season, Barbosa stumbled through an unassuming series with Orlando before getting thrashed by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Not only was Barbosa an unfortunate defensive matchup for the two, but his struggles played a part in the offense bogging down for long stretches. Barbosa’s inability to use his speed against the Heat defense while struggling to move the ball to best utilize the front court played a huge part in Indiana’s three straight losses to close the series against Miami.
When Barbosa did well, the team benefitted from it and in a big way. The Pacers were 11-0 when he scored in double figures, and that wasn’t an accident. Barbosa’s scoring took a lot of pressure off of the starters, which helped result in a lot of wins. The Pacers were better when Barbosa played well; it’s unfortunate the consistency wasn’t there especially as the postseason began.
Despite Barbosa’s shooting struggles at a hair under 40% in his tenure, his three point shooting was a shockingly consistent 42.4% during the regular season. His form was always ugly, but it was hard to argue his ability to kiss the ball off the high glass. As a roster move, Barbosa was an incredibly sound decision by Bird. The desired results when the stakes were high weren’t quite what fans had hoped for.
The indescribable lack of positive impact Barbosa gave the Pacers in their postseason run is woefully disappointing. Given Hansbrough’s struggles and Collison not having the scoring consistency of Hill, while Danny Granger and Paul George were each busy trying to hold James and Wade under 30 in the Miami series, it’s unfortunate there couldn’t be an offset of scoring abilities to at least have Barbosa, who has a fine scoring touch, to go get buckets.
In his defense, it’s not like he wasn’t trying, it just happened the plays he was making, specifically those involving him dribbling around until the shot clock was almost up, unloading it, just to get it back in time to hoist up a contested 35-footer, weren’t very smart. In the postseason, Barbosa posted a -0.028 win shares per 48 minutes. Of the 100 players to average 20 or more minutes in the postseason, Barbosa was 91st in that category, with only Ramon Sessions and Caron Butler having a less winning impact on a team that made it out of the first round.
And the Future
Barbosa was a rental who came up short when the Pacers needed him most. It’s not unfair to weigh him on those standards when considering what his future may be in Indianapolis. It just seems unlikely given Barbosa’s struggles in the postseason that he’ll be here next season. Why the Pacers would use a roster spot and valuable cap space on a guy who likely won’t bring them any more than he already did wouldn’t make sense for them.
For a team that was quiet to show interest in bringing Mike Dunleavy or Josh McRoberts back, each of which had poor series against the Bulls in 2011, it wouldn’t make sense to bring him back if what he offers Indiana can’t be guaranteed come the postseason. The Pacers shouldn’t settle on roster moves if they hope to make a step forward next year.