Two days removed from the Earl Clark addition, about which I published 700 giddy words, Chris Grant made another move, this one much more unexpected. The Cavs and Jarrett Jack have agreed to terms on a 4-year, $25.2-million deal, with a team option for year No. 4. The move was first reported by Marcus Thompson of the Contra Costa Times.
What follows are unorganized initial thoughts on the move.
Pro: Cleveland adds a Sixth Man of the Year candidate
Golden State’s not a playoff team last without Jack. A sixth man who started 4 regular season games, Jack averaged 12.9 points, 5.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds in 29.7 minutes per game. On his 5th team in his 8-year career, Jack shot 45.2% from the field, 40.4% from 3 and 84.3% from the line, all super-efficient numbers. Per 36 minutes, Jack netted 15.7 points and 6.7 assists. He finished with 14 first-place votes for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award, finishing 3rd behind J.R. Smith and Jamal Crawford.
For a 6’3″ guard, Jack’s an incredible finisher and all-around offensive talent, with an ability to attack, score in isolation and distribute. A very physically imposing, strong guard, his Draft Express profile from 2005 noted Jack might be the best defensive point guard in that year’s draft, one that saw 3 — Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Raymond Felton — selected in the top 5.
In the NBA, Jack’s been a solid role player from Day 1. He’s played in at least 79 games all but 1 year; he missed 21 games in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season as a member of the New Orleans Hornets. He’s a career 11-points-a-game scorer, who’s averaged 4.4 assists and 27.9 minutes. His career high for scoring is 15.6 points in 45 games for the ’11-12 Hornets. Given his consistency, I’m comfortable in not attributing his success last season to ‘contract year’ status.
In last year’s playoffs, Jack really flourished. His minutes jumped to 35.5 per game, in part thanks to Stephen Curry’s bum ankle in the San Antonio series, and he averaged 17.2 points per game on an unreal 50.6% from the field. It was the first time Jack won a playoff series; his only other postseason appearance, in 2010-11 with the Hornets, ended in 6 games to the Lakers.
Con: Terms of the deal
My only reservation with this contract is its length — 3 years with a team option for a fourth. Jack turns 30 in October, but Cavs fans can take assurance in a) Jack’s worth ethic, and b) his relatively clean injury history. Still, a 32-year-old guard, probably still coming off the bench, could make Cleveland fans uneasy 28 months from now.
At the same time, Grant’s not going to receive the luxury of underpaying. For one, Cleveland’s not New York, Miami or L.A. And, secondly, this team’s simply not a title contender. The Darren Collisons of the world are not headed to Cleveland on tragically underpaid $1.9-million contracts to chase a ring, at least right now.
So, I guess I talked myself out of that concern?
Question: What does this mean for backcourt rotation?
This move leaves a lot of rotation questions for Mike Brown. In Golden State, Mark Jackson often, and with success, used a 3-guard lineup of Curry, Jack and Klay Thompson to suit his team’s up-tempo style. But Brown loves his big guards — think Larry Hughes and Sasha Pavlovic, the latter of whom started over 100 games as a Cavalier because he’s 6’7″ — and it’s hard to imagine him resorting regularly to a Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Jack backcourt.
And, in that case, who gets the crunch-time minutes alongside Kyrie? A cold-blooded scorer like Jack or Dion, and what does that mean for Dion’s future in Cleveland? I’m assuming Brown will ride who’s hot on a night-by-night basis, but still an interesting subplot headed into what’s bound to be an increasingly interesting season.
Then, there’s those behind Kyrie, Dion and Jack. C.J. Miles is likely to return on an affordable $2.25-million player option, but you’d have to think Wayne Ellington’s now the odd man out. The Cavs declined to extend a qualifying offer to Ellington before free agency started, yet hinted at a desire the UNC product return. With 6’8″ guard-forward Sergey Karasev and maybe even No. 33 overall pick Carrick Felix looking for minutes, I’m not sure where Ellington fits in.
Pro No. 2: Cap flexibility remains for summer of 2014
Cleveland still has plenty of room to potentially slide in a max contract next summer, as Fear the Sword‘s David Zavac explains here. Anderson Varejao has a partially guaranteed team option of $9.8 million for Anderson Varejao in 2014-15, as well as team options of $4.5 million on Earl Clark and $3.25 million on Alonzo Gee.
By my calculations, even if the Cavs pick up team options on AV, Clark and Gee, a very unlikely scenario, Grant would still have about $14 million in cap space to play with, if the cap were set at $62.5 million. A note: That does not account for any 2014 draft selections, or any additional free agent acquisitions. Scratch Clark and Gee, a much more feasible scenario, and that frees up $7.75 million more in cap space.
Where Dan Gilbert’s wallet will start to take a beating in luxury taxes is 2015-16, if the Cavs happened to land a max free agent next summer. Irving and Tristan Thompson are both in line for lucrative extensions next October, which would kick in for the ’15-16 season. The following October, Waiters and Tyler Zeller, depending on how they develop, could be in line for similar raises. And the following October, the same for Anthony Bennett and Karasev. Oh, the joys of the lottery!
Conclusion: I like the Jack signing!
OK, it took me 900 words, but I like this deal. One reservation I did not include above is Jack’s tendency to sometimes dominate the ball, especially in late-game situations. This Cavs team needs scoring, so I welcome any offensive addition, but it also needs to be made clear, particularly in the last 5 minutes of games, this is Kyrie Irving’s team.
I’m done this time.
Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.