If you want Jarrett Jack to replace Shaun Livingston’s contributions to the team as a combo guard last year; prepare to be disappointed.
But if you’re upset that Paul Pierce left, Jack may make that loss a bit easier to swallow.
Jack and Livingston share a title, but Jack and Pierce share a mindset. Like Pierce, Jack holds the ability to operate well with a few ticks remain on the shot clock, or when the team is struggling to manufacture points. In fact, that’s when both players want the ball the most.
Jack’s a master of the tough shots: the mid-range pull-up; the off-the-bounce three; floaters from the top of the paint. It makes sense to put the ball in his hands at a desperate moment because it’s when he’s at his best.
Take the ball out of his hands and you get a less effective player. The Cavaliers learned that the hard way. Playing alongside ball-dominant guards like Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, Jack’s usage rate plummeted, as did his role as a pick-and-roll ball handler. The dominoes fell from there, with Mike Brown’s offensive playbook and the Cleveland’s early season cast of shooters only exacerbating the problems.
In Brooklyn, Jack joins a cast that can help space the floor for a ballhandler, and gains a coach in Lionel Hollins who loves the pick-and-roll. Jack will see plenty of time with ball-dominant players like D-Will and Johnson, but he will not need to wrestle the ball from their hands, both men are as comfortable shooting from the corners as they are with the balls in their hands. These traits should contrast well with Jack’s above-the-break game.
Getting excited? You should. The conditions are ripe for a bounce-back season.
What might a rejuvenated Jack look like? For one, the Nets may gain a player with few peers in the mid-range. In his last season with the Warriors, Jack ranked fourth in field goal percentage among NBA guards who attempted more 50 shots from 16 to 23 feet: Chris Paul, Steve Nash and Roger Mason. Take a few steps back? Jack shot above 40 percent beyond the arc.
Jack can knock down shots, but he’ll also distribute. In his best seasons, the two prior to joining Cleveland, his assist rate hovered around and above 30 percent, with 6.7 assist per 36 minutes. Not exactly Jason Kidd, but he doesn’t have separation anxiety when he passes the ball.
I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture. On offense, Jack is prone to over-dribbling, he’ll take some shots you’d want Joe Johnson to take instead, and he’s a below-average finisher at the rim. As a distributor, he faces claims of tunnel vision. Jack seems more comfortable hitting a dive man off the pick-and-roll than he would a third or fourth option.
Defense is a whole different matter. Jack’s a good on the ball: he’s tough, quick and strong. Off the ball is where Jack’s problems lie; his mental lapses won’t earns him a James Harden highlight reel, but his mistakes could help fill up Coach Hollins’ already robust swear jar.
But for all Jack’s deficiencies, he can walk into Madison Square Garden and torch the Knicks like this, even in a down year. He’ll never lack for confidence. That’s why he can easily bounce back this season. In the words of Paul Pierce, that’s why he’s here.