(Written for Blue Man Hoop)
On May 2nd, Marcus Thompson reported that Jarrett Jack did not intend to sign an extension with the Warriors, and would enter free agency. In the article, Thompson wrote, “He is expected to be a fairly well sought after this offseason, especially with the postseason he’s having, as multiple teams are looking for a point guard.”
Jack may have impressed in his first few postseason games, but after recent difficulties, he has emerged as the scapegoat for most of the Warriors’ struggles. Statistically, Jack is only slightly worse than he was during the regular season, but several blown key decisions, typical egregious shot-selection without expected results, and defensive lapses have turned many Warriors’ fans against the sixth man.
During the playoffs, Jack has recorded a Player Efficiency Rating of 15.9, the exact same as his regular season P.E.R. Jack has scored 16.2 points per 36 minutes, 0.5 above his season production, and has actually increased his efficiency in doing so. Jack shot a 54.2 percent true shooting percentage during the regular season, which has improved to 57.8 percent through nine playoff games.
Jack primarily functions as a scoring guard, and while he has maintained his scoring ability, his contribution in other areas have dramatically decreased. Jack’s assist percentage has decreased from 29.9 percent to 22.8, and his turnover percentage has increased from 14.3.0 to 21.0.
The increased turnover rates and decreased assist rates are especially noticeable given Stephen Curry’s outstanding playoffs. Jack is blamed for taking potential shots from Curry, Thompson, and the other Warriors, and often takes the fall for their struggles while appearing irrelevant to their successes.
So, how has Jarret Jack’s playoff performance affected his free agent value?
First off, I do not expect that general manager’s typically put a ton of stock into playoff performance over a limited number of games. The nine games Jack has played in the playoffs represent 10.2 percent of Jack’s total games played this season. While this is not an entirely insignificant portion, there is plenty of data available that should influence a GM’s decision more than these playoffs. We often ridicule GM’s for judging a college player based on his performance in a few tournament games, and a judgment of Jack based solely on his playoff performance would be worthy of equal ridicule.
However, Jack’s play does reveal several of the major flaws in Jack’s game. He is a scoring guard whose shot-selection would not generally lead to efficient scoring, struggles defensively, and whose poor court vision is often detrimental to his team. He repeatedly makes bad decisions, highlighted by a hilariously awful turnover at the end of Game 3 versus San Antonio, and does not appear conscious of his struggles.
Jack’s ability to lead an effective offense has been brought into question by his struggles without Curry on the court, damaging his value to teams, such as the Utah Jazz, searching for a lead guard. If Jack’s 16 game disaster spanning March was not enough to make teams aware of this, the playoffs exemplify why Jack’s current role may already be beyond his ability.
The Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Hornets, Orlando Magic,Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, and Utah Jazz will all have sufficient cap space to offer Jack a contract paying more than his current 5 million dollar salary.
In free agency, Jack will likely be looking for a significant increase in both salary and role. He may be willing to remain a backup point guard, perhaps still with the Warriors, but it is unlikely that he would do so without a pay raise and long-term contract.
Of the teams listed, four, Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, and Portland, have point guards already under contract next season who would likely not surrender the starting role to Jack. Though Jameer Nelson may not be a better player than Jack, it is highly unlikely that the rebuilding Orlando would want to add Jack’s contract, as they, along with Charlotte, have no real motive to attempt to improve next season. Several of the teams listed have free-agent point guards they could likely re-sign. Atlanta will negotiate to keep Jeff Teague, Brandon Jennings has hinted at signing the qualifying offer with Milwaukee, and Jose Calderon may re-sign with Detroit, who could easily switch Brandon Knight back to point guard. Sacramento may or may not be able to retain Tyreke Evans, who is generally used as a small forward or shooting guard, already has Isaiah Thomas, and has no need for another shoot first guard. New Orleans is likely comfortable with Greivis Vasquez as a starter, though he is possibly worse than Jack defensively, and would likely rather keep their options open than pay Jack to continue their mediocrity.
Though the NBA landscape can obviously change very quickly, these conditions present only one destination for Jarrett Jack that would likely offer him the starting job; Utah. The Jazz finished the regular season 43-39, and contended for a playoff spot until the final week of the season despite playing with a point guard rotation of an often-injured Mo Williams, Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson, and Alec Burks. The cap space through which Jarrett Jack would potentially be signed will be created by the possible departure of their leading big men, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Utah may feel that the presence of a decent point guard will recreate the offensive production of Jefferson or Millsap, and that, with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter waiting to replace the incumbent starters, the team will again be able to contend for a playoff spot.
Many of the teams with potential cap space have need of a backup point guard. Cleveland may make a push at the playoffs, and though Shaun Livingston was productive, could use a boost off the bench. If Portland is unable or does not wish to re-sign Eric Maynor, point guard will join every other position on their list of bench needs, and many teams may desire the scoring punch provided by the aggressive Jack.
The playoffs have likely hurt Jack’s ability to be considered as a potential starter, or at least a starter for a successful team, but he may not have had many opportunities in this role to begin with. Jack’s future as a well paid back up has not been dramatically damaged by his playoff performance, as teams are well aware of his flaws and will hope to limit those in a back up role.
I asked the ESPN’s Daily Dime Live what contract the dimers expected Jack to receive and from whom. Cole Patty, a write for Portland Roundball Society responded that he expected Jack to receive a four year, 40 million-dollar offer from the Utah Jazz. For a team that really should be rebuilding and developing young talent, this seems to me like an extreme commitment. I would expect Jack to receive a contract closer to three years, 21-30 million-dollars, possibly with a second year team option, especially if offered from the Jazz.
I also believe that it is best for the future of the Warriors to not re-sign Jarrett Jack. Jack prevented the Warriors from winning many winnable games, but also helped the Warriors to victory. In the aggregate, Jack was a positive contributor this year, but he, especially his crunch-time role, may hinder the development of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Harrison Barnes. Barnes lost many minutes to Jack and the Warriors’ three-guard lineups, Curry was forced off-ball, which, though it may help Curry short-term, is not conducive to the development of an elite point guard and scorer, and Thompson lost several shot attempts and ability to develop his ball-handling skills when Jack took over as point guard.
Part of my belief in Jack’s expendability may come from an irrational love for Kent Bazemore. I do not think that the Warriors’ three-guard lineups featuring Jack are necessary to their long-term success, especially when Jack forces Curry off-ball. In sporadic spurts, Kent Bazemore has shown himself to be a capable ball handler and impressive defender, and could likely play the back-up point guard for 10-15 minutes a game, with Brandon Rush replacing Jarrett Jack in the Warriors’ small ball units.
Jack has his high’s and low’s as a player, and though the playoffs have been a low, his value as a backup point-guard has not decreased significantly, and though it would likely be misguided to trust Jack as your starting point guard regardless of his playoff performance, the playoffs have displayed the flaws that prevent Jack from attaining this role.