In our “What’s Next” series, a Right Down Euclid writer will look at each individual member of the Cleveland Cavaliers by analyzing what their future looks like and/or what’s the next step in their development. In this piece, Trevor Magnotti looks at Cavaliers guard Jarrett Jack.
Two more years. 12.6 million more dollars.
A lot of Cavaliers’ fans currently have those figures in the back of their minds after the conclusion of the 2013-2014 season. Those are the contract figures the Cavs have to wait out before Jarrett Jack can come off the books. After all, he was probably the most disappointing Cavalier on a team full of them this year. Jack was supposed to be the super-sub that he was in Golden State in 2012-2013, providing floor spacing and secondary ball-handling in an attempt to replicate the Warriors’ high-flying splash brothers attack with Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Jack. Instead, the Cavaliers got a player who looked absolutely lost on the court this year.
Jack attempted to force things too much, didn’t seem to understand his role or the offensive game plan, and clearly did not mesh with Irving on the floor. Jack’s shooting totals free fell, his PER dropped from a respectable 15.9 to 11.5, and he was often more of a detriment than a help to the team this season. If that’s what we can expect from Jack for the next two years, there’s reason to panic.
To expect that Jack would stay at that level of production, however, probably isn’t realistic. Jack’s major difference coming from Golden State to Cleveland was that the Warriors could mask Jack’s weaknesses, while the Cavaliers exacerbated them. Jack’s never been a great decision-maker, especially in the pick-and-roll. However, in Golden State, he had so many quality options, from a pick and roll finish from David Lee to Steph Curry and Klay Thompson kick-outs to the space to create himself, that every decision became a good decision for him. This past season, the kick-out options became Waiters and C.J. Miles; the pick-and-roll partner became Tyler Zeller; and the spacing evaporated. This made life hard on Jack for decision-making purposes, and often that resulted in him attempting to force things offensively. Couple that with the offense seeming to refuse incorporating Jack when he was playing with Kyrie and/or Dion, and it’s easy to see why his numbers dropped.
This season, that shouldn’t happen as much. Jack likely won’t have to play above 27-28 minutes per game unless injuries strike again. The Cavs will likely have better shooting brought in, and the pick-and-roll game will get better with new pieces and development of Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller. The Cavs can stagger minutes better to allow Kyrie and Jack to have more time as the primary ball-handler, which they began to do at the end of the season, and all of this should make Jack more comfortable offensively.
While Jack was legitimately terrible this year, to expect him to continue to play at that level is slightly foolish. He’s a guy who gets better as the team he’s surrounded by gets better, and as things open up more offensively for the Cavs, Jack should rebound as well. He doesn’t need to revert to his Warriors numbers to be effective, as well; while it would be nice to see Jack hitting 40 percent from three and dishing 6 assists per game, something more in the middle of his Warriors season and his first Cavs season seems like it would be enough to make him worth his contract. If Jack can get to shooting 43 percent from the field, 37 percent from three, and put up around a 25 percent AST% (His career average, after dropping to 22.7 percent of field goals assisted last season), we’d see how much value Jack could actually give to this team.
If you’re in the party of Cavs fans that’s counting down the days until Jack’s no longer a Cavalier, through his contract ending or by trade, it’s a little early to make that assumption. One year should not make the decision of whether this deal was worth it or not, especially a year where he was a victim of much of the circus surrounding this team. Trading him this summer would not be fair to him, and would not bring in much in terms of return given his most recent play. The Cavs are probably stuck with Jack for at least a second year as it is, so why not give him a second chance to make an impact?