For the previous six seasons, Chris Paul has manned the court for the New Orleans Hornets; dazzling with his effortless dribble, bringing the crowd to their feet with timely shots, someone barely six feet tall battling with giants down around the rim for rebounds..... but he's no longer on the team. When he was traded to the
Lakers Clippers before the season started, Jarrett Jack (one of Chris Paul's best friends) was immediately thrust into the starting line-up and was ready to assume the role as starting point guard for the New Orleans Hornets. While Jack has had some maddening games, he's also had some pretty spectacular games as well. He assumed the role as leader of the team and became a solid, if unspectacular point guard for the team as the season wore on. Jack has since been shut down with a stress fracture in his right foot and will miss the rest of the regular season (lucky him). But that gives us a concrete time to really evaluate how he did as the starting point guard for the New Orleans Hornets. How good was Jarrett Jack, really? And can he be counted on to be the team's point guard going forward?
For all intensive purposes, Jarrett Jack had a really good year. He started 39 of the 45 games that he played, regularly fought through his injuries to stay on the court, and probably reinjured himself by coming back too early from a sore ankle a couple of nights ago. Even when injured, Jack is seen on the bench, involving himself in the huddle, giving tips to Greivis Vasquez and becoming a vocal member of the team. In an age where that's no longer the norm, it's a pretty impressive attribute to posses; but especially, pretty impressive an attribute to possess for a good player.
Last year, I made a comment that stated Jack was one of the better NBA back-up point guards but that he would be one of the worse starting point guards. No one's going to argue that Jack's in the top half of his position; however, an argument can be made for him to be a top 20 point guard in the league this season. Considering that the league is filled with great point guards, it's a pretty good spot to be at. And going forward, it's important to see how Jack compares with his peers as it relates to what moves the Hornets have to make this offseason.
Jack VS. His Peers
Jarrett Jack averaged 34 minutes a game this season; so he was regularly on the court and, a majority of the time, Jack was dominating the ball, taking care of almost every possession for the Hornets. He finished the year with a PER of 18.03 which was good enough for 15th among point guards in the NBA. It puts him behind players like Brandon Jennings, Rodney Stuckey and Ty Lawson but puts him ahead of players like John Wall, Ramon Sessions and even Rajon Rondo. Now, PER is a flawed statistic in that it doesn't value defense too much and it tends to favor volume shooters. However, it's interesting to see where Jack's all-around offensive game ranks with his peers. Jack is tied at 22nd with a .540% true shooting percentage with Tony Parker. When you look at the list, you see that the top ten has Mario Chalmers, Jordan Farmar and Chris Duhon on it, so you know that it's a skewed statistic as well (just for the hell of it, Steve Nash leads PGs with a .632%. Chris Paul is at .579%).
One of the spots where Jack underperformed at his position, however, was with his assist percentage. Jack was often criticized at the start of the year with looking for his own shot over creating for his teammates. Often enough, that was the case. Greivis Vasquez is in the top 12 with a 33.6 assist percentage, but Jack is ranked 29th (again, tied with Tony Parker) with a 27.4 percentage. Another big problem with Jack's game was with his turnovers at the start of the season. That, however, is something he gradually improved on. Jack is currently in the top 16 with a 10.2 turnover percentage. Chris Paul, who seemingly never turns it over, clocks in at 7.5. It's something that Jack is regularly criticized for but is a tad overblown.
The Team with Jack
Going off of the statistics from basketballvalue.com, I looked at some of the success the Hornets had with particular lineups this season and how Jack performed with certain teammates. The two most frequently deployed lineups this season for New Orleans have Marco Belinelli at the two guard, Trevor Ariza at the three spot and Gustavo Ayon & Chris Kaman in the frontcourt. Jack and Vasquez were the point guards in those lineups. Oddly enough, when Jack played with that line-up, the team had an overall rating of -2.82. When Vasquez played with that line-up, the team had an overall rating of 4.28. So in the lineup that was most often put out onto the court, the team performed better with the playmaking ability of Vasquez over the decision making of Jarrett Jack. In fact, the team seemed to perform better with Vasquez over the entire season. The team performed at its worse when Jack played with Chris Kaman and Emeka Okafor in the same frontcourt (no surprise there). That line-up was also unsuccessful with Vasquez in at point guard, (and, to be fair, Vasquez's experience with that line-up is a small sample size), but less so than with Jack.
By all accounts, Jack had a very solid individual season and the team really fed off of his play on the court at times. He played off of the bench when the Hornets needed it, he hit the big shots when the team needed it, and you could tell that he really worked on his game this offseason. The hard thing with looking at "the team with Jack" is that the team was never all on the court at the same time. The Hornets have a wildly successful unit with Vasquez, Gordon, Ariza, Jason Smith and Chris Kaman; but that's not a line-up that Jack was able to play in this season himself. But it's arguable, just from looking at the numbers, that the Hornets were a more productive team with a traditional point guard like Vasquez running the show. Now, what that doesn't show is Vasquez's propensity for turning the ball over or his lack of lateral quickness and how it affects the defense. Jack is better than Vasquez in those areas and he's also a better shooter (with a better shot selection; in my mind). Maybe a lot of the reason for the Hornets' lack of success with Jack in the line-up has to do with Jack assuming the role of the team's closer without Eric Gordon; a move he's just, sadly, not good enough for.
Looking back at it all, I'm fine with Jack coming back as the team's starting point guard next season. In fact, given his close relationship with Monty Williams and his role as the team's captain, I'm almost positive he'll enter training camp as the team's starting point guard. But, especially at the age of 28, he can't be looked at as a long term option going into the future with this team. At that point, neither can Vasquez really given that he's already 25, himself. But to be completely fair, I'd say I'm more comfortable with Vasquez returning in his role as the team's back-up than I am comfortable with Jack returning as the team's starting point guard. And that purported comfort level comes as it relates to the Hornets being ultimately successful next season. Now, all that weighs on finding someone who's better than Jack either through the draft or free agency. Unless Deron Williams is joining the Hornets this summer, it's safe to say there may not be a better option.
So how good was Jarrett Jack this season? He was good. Better than most of the other players who suited up for the Hornets this season. It may be fairer to judge him when he's surrounded by better players but for this season, it was a lot of individual success for Jack and you have to wonder if that is a result of being surrounded by people who weren't going to take shots from him.