They compare the 18th overall pick to another ex-Mav point guard: J.J. Barea.
“I don’t think he and Barea are exact duplicates, but we’ve missed the last couple of years the element that Barea brought to the game here,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Being able to get to the rim, being able to get it going from 3, the resourcefulness and some of those types of things.
“Shane’s going to bring some of those types of things.”
The coach said Larkin won’t be identical to Barea, and that’s OK.
“He’ll be better in some areas and other areas he won’t be as good," he said. "But we like him and feel like he can compete for playing time right away.”
Barea, who like Larkin comes up shy of being a 6-footer, played a key role as a change-of-pace reserve point guard for the Mavs’ 2011 title team before leaving for the Minnesota Timberwolves after the Mavs declined to make him a multiyear offer. Barea averaged 9.5 points and 3.9 assists in 20.6 minutes per game that season.
“[Larkin] comes in with that kind of a punch,” Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “He’s able to get by the best of them. He’s about as quick as it gets. His ability to shoot the long ball and create, especially the way the game is played nowadays, is just really, really important.”
Other than size, the primary reason for the Larkin/Barea comparison is their pick-and-roll proficiency, which is especially critical for a point guard who will play with Dirk Nowitzki. As a sophomore for the Miami Hurricanes last season, Larkin averaged 6.4 points as the pick-and-roll ball handler, ranking sixth in the NCAA in that category.
“Our pick-and-roll game this past year was not at the level we’re used to, so we wanted to get better in that area,” Carlisle said. “Shane’s one of the best in college basketball at doing that. A lot of people try to go under screens because of his quickness and he shot behind screens very effectively. He’ll see a lot of different coverages in this league, and what we’ve seen is that he does a good job reading situations.”
Carlisle repeatedly referred to Larkin, who led the Hurricanes to an ACC championship and the Sweet 16, as “a winner.” Like Barea, the Mavs believe Larkin has the kind of grit and mental toughness for a small guard to succeed in the NBA.
The Mavs envision a backup role for Larkin. At this point, they just don’t know who their starting point guard will be next season.
The Mavs were determined to address the point guard position in the first round after a frustrating, non-playoff season that had Darren Collison, Derek Fisher, Mike James and even Dominique Jones all start games at the position. Nelson said the Mavs were prepared to stay at No. 13 and pick Trey Burke, C.J. McCollum or Michael Carter-Williams if any of the draft’s top three point guards slid to that spot.
Once Carter-Williams went off the board at No. 11, the Mavs targeted Larkin, who has a 44-inch vertical leap and ranked among the fastest and quickest players in the draft during combine testing.
“This league now is a lot about playmakers and being able to make plays off the dribble, having a feel for the game,” Carlisle said. “Speed is important. He brings some of those dynamics and characteristics. We think he’s going to help us.”