Playing with the Brazilian team in the FIBA World Cup, Barbosa has the perfect platform to show NBA teams that he can still play at a high level. Although guard is one of the most densely populated positions in the league, Barbosa's lightning-quick first step and brilliance in transition could be seen as an upgrade for a few teams in need of a little more depth.
It's a good sign for Barbosa that in advance of the World Cup, he's already had a few nibbles from NBA teams.
Here's more from Shams Charania of RealGM:
Leandro Barbosa has had discussions with a few NBA teams about a possible free agent deal, hoping to use the upcoming FIBA World Cup to further prove his health, the 11-year veteran told RealGM.
Barbosa hasn’t held visits with any team, nor is he considering a return to the Brazillian league. The 31-year-old has focused on his Team Brazil, which lost to USA Basketball in its first exhibition game.
“I don’t know what owners think about the World Cup, but hopefully I do a great job over there and a team sees,” Barbosa said on Sunday. “I feel healthy and my body is feeling healthy. If I have free agency in my mind, I won’t be able to be myself on the court. Hopefully, I sign a contract and I’ll be happy.”
Health has been the biggest issue for Barbosa, as multiple injuries over the last few years have robbed him of at least some of his athleticism. Barbosa incredibly returned to action in Brazil last year only eight months removed from ACL surgery, which is pretty remarkable.
The injuries have taken their toll, however, as a hurt shoulder limited Barbosa's effectiveness with the Phoenix Suns last year. Even though he struggled to hit from behind the arc, shooting a career-worst 28 percent from deep, Barbosa still scored at a decent clip (14.7 points per 36 minutes, according to Basketball-Reference.com) and gave the Suns a nice option off the bench with Eric Bledsoe sidelined.
Unfortunately, it seems highly unlikely that Barbosa will find a home in Phoenix once again. While Bledsoe is still a restricted free agent, the Suns picked up Isaiah Thomas and drafted Tyler Ennis. It's just too crowded a backcourt.
It's a shame, because it seems like Barbosa really fit well in the uptempo system Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek likes to employ.
Here's what Hornacek told Paul Coro of USA Today last year: "It doesn't even look like he is going that hard, but he knows when to do it. He takes one or two dribbles and then he explodes, and that explosive step is what gets him by people."
It's that first step that made Barbosa an iconic figure with one of the most remarkable offensive teams we've ever seen: the "Seven Seconds or Less" Suns under Mike D'Antoni. There's a reason Barbosa was known as the "Brazilian Blur," as very few players could get out in transition and score the way he could.
It's important to remember that Barbosa was a great spot-up threat on those teams as well. In his 11-year career, Barbosa is a 39 percent three-point shooter. Defenders often left him open for fear of getting blown by, but Barbosa was plenty dangerous from all over the floor.
While it's unfair to expect Barbosa to ever get back to that status as one of the league's best sixth men, he could be in for a bit of a revival as long as he has a clean slate of health.
Here's Nate Loop of Bleacher Report with an interesting fit for Barbosa:
If the Cavaliers can't sign [Ray] Allen and Barbosa proves he can still shoot, the Brazilian might actually be a solid backup option for the team. He's still relatively young for a veteran free-agent looking for another payday, although if his athleticism has drastically declined it could definitely hurt his overall effectiveness as a player.
Barbosa would be an interesting option on Cleveland's bench, as he can chip in some at the point in addition to backing up Dion Waiters at the 2. The Cavs may want a better defender off the bench, but you can dream on Barbosa leaking out to receive gorgeous outlet passes from Kevin Love. If Cleveland wants to run, he's a good fit.
Another interesting option would be the Washington Wizards. That's a team that should want to get out and run with John Wall and Bradley Beal in the backcourt, and it might be dangerous to rely on Andre Miller as the sole backup point guard at this stage of his career. Barbosa's shooting on the wing could help quite a bit with Martell Webster sidelined as well.
The Golden State Warriors would be a strong fit as well. Scoring off the bench was a major issue last year, and Barbosa's athleticism in transition would be nice to have on the wing. Shaun Livingston's ability to guard bigger players would make for a nice defense-offense pairing off the bench.
If Barbosa didn't impress enough teams with his stint last year with the Suns and his play in FIBA, he'll stay on a lot of lists for a midseason pickup once injuries hit. He'll be valued as a veteran who can learn systems quickly and play either backcourt position.
As long as he stays patient and turns down contracts overseas, Barbosa should have at least one more run in the NBA left in him.
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