The Nets have a problem. In the midst of trying to make a miracle run to the postseason, one player seems to be holding them back. His name is Jarrett Jack.
Full disclosure, I thought Jack was key to the Nets remaining afloat during December and January, scoring and dishing out the rock while Deron Williams struggled to stay on the court and the team gave too much time to Darius Morris. Now though, head coach Lionel Hollins has become somewhat addicted to playing the Georgia Tech product at all cost, no matter how much he hurts the team.
As of March 16, when looking at the Nets seven worst two-man lineups, Jack appears in six of them (the one that doesn't include Jack is Brook Lopez and Mason Plumlee), according to NBA.com. Jack, for all the good he has done for the team—hitting big shots, getting the offense moving in times of need—has done some bad. Jack is too dependent on his two-dribble 16-foot jumper, and has been getting beat off the dribble on defense as the season has progressed.
Even though it is not statistically the worst, one duo I want to mention is Williams and Jack together. The two have played 575 minutes together, posting a -98 +/- during that time. Neither are plus defenders, and both are ball dominant guards. Hollins has put Jack, who is less of a facilitator than DWill, at point for the most part, running Williams off baseline screens and such. Hollins has acknowledged he has concerns about the two, yet he has continued to roll out the two in crunch time situations. It has killed spacing—neither have shot well from three—and teams that have a bigger two-guard can bully either Williams or Jack all over the floor.
The opposition has been able to get into the paint against Jack, and his defense of iso jumpers has been considered "poor" by Synergy Sports Technology. Jack has done a good job at defending when players are trying to get to the rim, but Jack has been sagging back and getting beat by jump shots. Overall, the Nets defensive rating goes from 100.8 when Jack is on the bench to 106.7 when he is on, according to NBA.com.
But, back to his offense, because this is where the problem lies. The Nets offense dips nearly six full points when Jack comes on the floor, for the team reverts back to isolations and a lot less motion. The Nets have shown flashes of good motion play through Bojan Bogdanovic and Markel Brown, guys who have been moving along the baseline and trying to make life easier for the point guards to find open men. However, Jack often has tunnel vision. He's either pulling up or taking it into the paint and turning the ball over. In his first year as a Net, he ranks in the bottom half of the league in assist-to-turnover ratio with a mark of 1.92, per ESPN.com. It's not horrendous, but Jack is prone to turning the ball over.
The Nets three-point field goal percentage drops nearly four-percent when Jack comes on the floor because, to put simply, Jack has been a terrible three-point shooter this season. He is shooting a career worst 24% from beyond the arc this season, 10 points below his career number. And, as has been well chronicled, Jack loves to take two dribbles inside the three-point line and take a jumper. While it was working earlier in the season, when Jack was the focal point of the Nets offense, it has now become a tiresome task. Jack is gassed from three months of heavy minutes and his lift seem to be gone on his jumpers. There are more weapons in Brooklyn now than a few months ago, and Jack doesn't need to resort to tough jump shots with the likes of Thad Young on the floor.
There is a way for Jack to play better offense, according to Synergy. Jack, in isolation situations is considered "excellent" when he drives to the rim. Jack has a great floater and is fine at finishing around the rim. He is shooting 53-percent in the paint this season. This could benefit Brooklyn's offense because Jack can draw more fouls, or force defenders to sink in, resulting in open shots along the perimeter (if he looks out there).
Is it too late for Jack to make this transition into this type of role? Probably. The Nets are into the final month of the season. Its rotation is pretty much set and the team has seemed to come to terms with the way it is wired. Hollins is between a rock and a hard place with Jack ... either way. While Hollins seem to have taken a liking to Jack's hard play and late-game heroics, he can't reduce Jack's minutes even if he wanted to. The Nets simply have no options at point guard past Jack and Williams. Darius Morris got time when he was first acquired, and while he tried admirably during his time on the floor, he can't be trusted. Alan Anderson has seen some looks at point guard, but no, that won't work for other than short stretches.
Brooklyn still has an open roster spot—and only 12 healthy bodies—so they could possibly call up a young athlete from the D-League, but the cupboard seems bare. The Nets are going to have to keep playing Jack at a high rate, whether or not he is going to continue hurt the team.
Note: this article was written before the Nets win over the Timberwolves Monday night