Finding Jarrett Jack’s Real Value
There’s a growing belief that the Warriors go as Jarrett Jack goes. Well, maybe that’s a bit extreme; Steph Curry and David Lee are still this team’s best players, and the play and impact of Andrew Bogut remains this season’s biggest “swing” factor. But Jack’s Sixth Man of the Year worthy season is going unnoticed no longer, and as he continues to rack up big individual numbers his value to Golden State from a public eye standpoint is definitely rising.
Take various responses after last night’s humbling 119-98 loss to the Thunder in Oklahoma City, for example. Jack was a pre-game scratch from the lineup due to a right shoulder contusion suffered in Houston the day before. After the game, I wrote reactions for ESPN.com’s Daily Dime that included the following: “…[playing] without Andrew Bogut and Jarrett Jack, a Warriors win always seemed unlikely.” In assessing the game for consistently awesome blog The Point Forward over at SI.com, Rob Mahoney said, “Mark Jackson has wisely structured his offense to work through Curry, Lee and Jack (who again, did not play Wednesday)…” And a couple weeks back after a similarly lackluster loss to the Heat in which Jack was hobbled, our own Ethan Strauss opined, “Golden State does not have the top level talent to survive a gimpy Jarrett Jack…”
Along those same lines, I was ripped by a vocal consensus of fans and analysts for suggesting a trade in this 5-on-5 piece that would bring Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to the Bay Area for Harrison Barnes, Jack and Festus Ezeli. But interestingly, losing the potential-laden Barnes isn’t the aspect of the deal – which was for fun, fictional, purely speculative, etc. – that upset folks the most. Rather, the collective vehemently opposed it because of the supposedly never-ending, negative ripple effect that would come with shipping Jack off to Boston.
What’s surprising isn’t that the Warriors have the potential to struggle without one of their top six or seven players; few teams have the high-end star power and versatile depth to consistently win while playing through a loss like that. But considering Jack’s reputation as a solid but unspectacular player coming into the season, that his worth is compared so consistently to former/current All-Stars like Bogut and Lee and an offensive savant like Curry should shock. It’s fair to assume Golden State didn’t know what they were getting in Jack when they acquired him this offseason.
It’s true that Jack likely shouldered a much larger burden than initially anticipated when Brandon Rush was lost for the year in the season-opener. Nobody knows for sure what Jackson and his staff had in mind for the veteran before 2012-2013 kicked off, but nearly 30 minutes per game and a 20.8 usage rate surely wasn’t in the cards. But injury, as always, necessitated change, so Jack’s responsibilities increased and Golden State developed reliance on a three-guard lineup faturing he, Curry and Klay Thompson. And though his influence on the team’s culture and work without Curry alongside him has been stellar, one assumes Jack’s perceived public weight to the Warriors is mostly rooted in his presence allowing Jackson to play that very lineup and, more specifically, let Curry work off the ball.
First, it’s important to show how important lineups featuring Jack-Curry-Thompson and just Jack-Curry are to Golden State. That trio is the the the Warriors’ 14th-most used (531 minutes) of the season and boasts an offensive rating (110.4) and net rating (+3.5) above team averages. Jack-Curry, meanwhile, have played 814 minutes together this season – 10th most among tandems – and have offensive (108.0) and net (+2.7) ratings that are better than the norm. So these Jack-centric combinations are definitely used and definitely successful; there’s no debate there.
Dig deeper into the numbers, though, and look at them from through every lens, and you come to a logical conclusion: that it’s fair to question the merits of Jack’s play this season in lineups that don’t feature Thompson and/or Curry. Whether that makes him less worthy of this increased attention should be a negative factor in his Sixth Man of the Year candidacy is up for debate. What’s not is that the Warriors, big picture wise, aren’t much much better or worse off whether Jack is playing or not.
Here’s a screenshot of the team’s numbers with respect to Jack on or off the floor (click to enlarge the images).
Below are the opposition’s, again taking Jack’s presence into account.
And finally, advanced statistics.
The takeaway is the same given every graphic; the Warriors are ever so slightly better offensively and ever so slightly worse defensively when Jack is on the floor. That’s not surprising. Jack has played 835 of his 1,385 minutes this season with Thompson, Curry or both, those three-guard quintets sacrificing size defensively but making up for it with better efficiency on the other end.
Knowing all that, though, and understanding Jack is just a shade into green statistically, what’s most interesting of all this data is how little the offense changes when he’s in the game or not. Playing the majority of his court-time with one or each of the Splash Brothers, sporting an assist ratio higher than Curry’s and a role more closely aligned with that of a traditional point guard, you’d assume Golden State’s/Jack’s shot-chart and distribution would be highlighted by an increase in three-point or maybe even rim attempts. But you’d be wrong. See to the right.
Finally, it’s time to examine the team’s numbers when Jack is on the floor without Curry and Thompson. They aren’t good. The Warriors’ offensive rating is 99.0 when he’s on the floor without his backcourt cohorts, and their defensive rating is 102.8. That’s good for a net of -3.8, worse than Golden State’s season-long mark of +1.5 and worse-off still than the numbers he puts up with Curry and Thompson. Head to NBAwowy.com for a full breakdown; the metrics are telling.
So this was all a roundabout way of saying the statistics don’t paint Jack in the overwhelmingly positive light simple eye-tests and conjecture do. That doesn’t mean he’s not valuable or isn’t having a hell of a season; he’s a starting caliber guy coming off the bench and allows Jackson major roster/ role flexibility, and is deserving of consideration for Sixth Man of the Year.
But the notion that Golden State can’t win without Jack or he’s some irreplaceable cog in what makes this team go is flawed. He’s as important to the Warriors as Nick Collison and Kevin Martin are to Oklahoma City, Shane Battier is to Miami, or Matt Barnes is to the Clippers; basically, a crucial piece of the puzzle, indeed. But the drop-off Jack’s absence would and does precipitate has more to do with the caliber of his replacement(s) than some extremely rare positive influence. Which is to say, like the esteemed reserve quartet just previously mentioned, he’s a valuable role player for a good team. According to the statistics, though, Jack just isn’t any more than that.
Statistical support for this article provided by NBA.com and nbawowy.com
Follow Jack Winter on Twitter @armstrongwinter.