The bottom line when thinking about Jarrett Jack is simple: Jack is a shoot-first point guard ... and last season, he didn't shoot well. At 35 percent shooter from deep over his career, he shot less than 27 percent last season.
But that didn't stop him.
Jarrett Jack has no idea what his 3-point percentage is.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) February 28, 2015
He is not the prototypical floor general; he focuses on shooting and creating for himself. The Georgia Tech product plays at a frenetic pace and takes the ball to the rim with his head down and seemingly only worries about getting his buckets, as shown in his career average of four assists.
As anyone with a computer or a calculator can tell you, it led to some ugly numbers last season. That's not to say he doesn't have redeeming qualities. Even John Schuhmann of NBA.com, his biggest critic in the media, wrote this about him when Deron Williams was bought out.
"Jack isn’t on Williams’ level as a point guard, but Williams isn’t on Jack’s level as a leader," wrote Schuhmann.
Now, with Lionel Hollins giving him the keys to the kingdom, will Jack take responsibility for not only himself, but his entire team? Can he make some necessary adjustments, can Jack step into the role Deron Williams left in BK. If one were to look at his past, one might doubt that the 31-year-old guard can do it.
It's not like the second year Net was a complete failure when he came into the starting role, averaging a shade under 16 points per and nearly seven assists. Brooklyn went 11-16 in games that Jack started, but 4-10 when DWill wasn't active at all. It also helps that Jack is welcomed by his teammates, all of whom say great things about him. C.J McCollum, in an article for the Players Tribune, said he tries to model his game off of Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, and Jarrett Jack! The MVP, Stephen Curry, asked what leader had taught him the most, replied, ""The leader I learned from the most? Probably Jarrett Jack has a big influence when he was here."
For Jack this season, he needs to recognize the role he is in, one he hasn't been in since his second year in the league: the starting point guard with no real competition. Jack is the only proven commodity in Brooklyn's backcourt rotation and he will have control of the team until someone (anyone?) shows otherwise. No. 2 is going to be the one getting Brook Lopez his shots down low, Joe Johnson his iso's, and Bojan Bogdanovic his spot up three's.
It's been seen in bits and pieces, but there are ways that Jack can assimilate into a different guard than he has been through his first 11 seasons in the league.
Take for example the clip below:
Jack is being his normal self, looking to push the pace and get into the teeth of the defense, but it is when he looks up that he can create for others. He does a fine job of rejecting the Lopez screen—the fundamentally sound Lopez sinks with Jack—and Jack finds the big man at the foul line. It's a simple play by Jack, and should be a second nature, he finds Brooklyn's open center. Lopez then finds the team's open three-point specialist who knocks it down.
As the season fast approaches (70 days now) it seems that Jack, Johnson, Bogdanovic, and Lopez will figure prominently in the Nets' offense, and simple pick-and-roll action between the point and big, with Johnson and Bogdanovic spotting up, can yield positive results for a team that may struggle to produce otherwise.
As the number one point guard, Jack has to be willing to get others involved. With ball dominant players like Johnson and Lopez on the roster with him, Jack needs to defer to them at times and let the offense run through them. By doing so, Jack can be utilized as an off-ball threat too.
After Game 4 of the Atlanta series, Hollins touched on the good and bad of his guy.
"What he did better than anything was he made plays," . Usually he just shoots the ball," said the coach. "But he made plays for other people, which was huge with the way that (the Hawks) play us. That’s as important as the shooting. He got the ball moving to the other side and activated our offense and activated their defense to closing out—just like they’re trying to do to us."
Because he was so invested in creating for himself, Jack used only about two-percent of his possessions on cuts, according to Synergy Sports Technology on NBA.com. If Jack can defer to other offensive weapons, he can use his quick feet and choppy steps to cut backdoor and off of baseline screens in Hollins' flex offense to get easy buckets. Jack is way too fast not to be seeing more looks off of a cut, or off of an off-ball screen (not even three-percent according to Synergy).
Where Jack is going to have to better himself through the offseason is his shot. Despite being a gunner of a point guard—for reference, Nick Young, a notorious chuck, averages four more shots than Jack per 36 minutes, according to Basketball Reference—Jack was a poor three-point shooter. He hit on 26.7 percent of his three-point attempts last season, his worst since his rookie season in 2005.
In the NBA today, defense's are smart; they will simply not play Jack outside the three-point line and force him to win the game from the perimeter. The guy is a streaky shooter and could very easily catch fire, but Hollins can not bet on Jarrett Jack to knock down five threes a game night in and night out.
Lead guard Jack is going to need to vary his game up. Too many times Jack comes off a screen and pulls up off of two dribbles ...
...Or he will take it to the elbow or further down and take an inefficient, poor jumper.
If he wants to be a threat, Jack is going to need to prove to be a true facilitator. As alluded to before, that means he will need to get his high usage players going first and worry about himself later. If Jack is to get his teammates hot, for example Thaddeus Young, and have defenses thinking about double teaming Young, Jack will find his nifty floater inside of ten feet easier. Or maybe he will see more open long two's (no, seriously, he should stop shooting those). More important that anything, Jack must become more conscience of his teammates and what defenses are going to do with the flow of the game.
Jack averaged more than 10 shots per game last season, nearly the second most of his entire career, behind an outlier year in New Orleans when he averaged 13. For the Nets to succeed, he is going to have to lower that number and bump up another one, his assists. Jack averaged less than five assists per game last season, right on par with his career numbers.
One way he can get his assists numbers up is simply work with Brook Lopez at the elbow. Lopez sets a ton of drag screens and bumbles into the lane like a bull in a China shop; Lopez is so big and takes up so much space that he bumps into things on his way to the rim, but he always finish. However, the big man is quite graceful at other times, watch this easy sideline out of bounds play from last March, and how easy it is for Lopez to pull up from nine feet out. Even though Jack isn't the primary ball handler, it is simple, effective action.
Above all else, Jack should trust Lopez to create for himself and not take too much on as the point guard (it's a clumsy play, but this should get across my point that Jack should let Lopez control the O many times). This is Lopez's team, not Jack's, as much as it may seem.
The last thing Jack must be wary of is his health. Turning 32 this year, Jack has had a fairly healthy career, but he does play incredibly hard. His style of play, fast and constantly banging bodies, takes toll on players and with Jack getting a heavy dose of minutes this season, he could be prone to injury. Jack must take care of himself, and Brooklyn better hope that Shane Larkin and/or Donald Sloan impress in training camp so the starter isn't forced to play 40 something minutes a game, like he did at times last season.
It is a lot to ask of a man who has made millions of dollars playing a certain type of way. Jack has become a solid NBA role player over the past several years being a bit of a hot-and-cold type, but now, in an unlikely situation, Jack needs to become something he hasn't been before, a true point guard, alert of the game around him and his teammates, not just himself.
That's not to say he can't. At Golden State three years ago, he started only four of 79 games, but played the fourth most minutes on the team (29.7), had the fourth highest scoring average (12.9) and the second highest assist average (5.6) … and the team finished 47-35.
The question remains will he?