Both during and after the Indiana Pacers' Game 7 loss to the Miami Heat on Monday, basketball Twitter was already speculating about what they could do to get themselves over the hump and back to the NBA Finals in the first time in over a decade.
Again, how different would this series look if the Pacers were able to sign Jarrett Jack?— Some Random (@shawnintheflesh) June 4, 2013
Yesterday, Zach Lowe of Grantland explored exactly that question of how the Pacers could get themselves over the hump listing Jack as a relatively high priority.
Jack may have priced himself above the midlevel exception with his solid scoring on the postseason stage. He’s one of many guard/wing types who teams like Indiana (and Memphis, and Oklahoma City) will try to squeeze under the midlevel exception, either via a cooler-than-expected market or a player’s willingness to take a discount. Other such higher-end names they’ll look at, depending on whether they want to use the midlevel on a wing or a point guard: O.J. Mayo (whom they nearly acquired for Josh McRoberts two seasons ago), Devin Harris, Kyle Korver, J.J. Redick, Kevin Martin, Jose Calderon, Martell Webster, and a few others. Some of those players will likely fall out of Indy’s price range, but they’ll kick the tires.
His comment about a player's willingness to take a discount speaks directly to a key question for the Golden State Warriors this offseason: what factors is Jack weighing as he goes back out into free agency after having a career-year with an exciting Warriors team?
In an interview on Jay Mohr Sports the other day, Jarrett Jack described a number of the reasons why the Warriors might be his first choice: coach Mark Jackson's style allowing him to flourish and have a career year, his appreciation for Bay Area fans, and - as he stated in the interview - just being happy. All of those are reasons why, as Brandon Jefferson of Dime Magazine stated the other day in his analysis of the Warriors' offseason, staying put is actually rational for Jack.
Call me naive, but I believe all of that - after years of being in the league and trying to find a niche in a winning situation, why leave the very situation that enabled you to succeed? But would the Pacers, for example, be a more attractive and lucrative option as a team that is arguably closer to a Finals appearance at this point, as argued by Lowe and others?
That, in part, depends on cap room, need, and a team's assessment of Jack's game. It's the latter that's more difficult than some folks are giving it credit for and I thought Rob Mahoney of SI's The Point Forward laid out the dilemma of figuring out Jack's value quite well.
The way he plays isn't exactly selfish, but functionally it's not so different; Jack might set up a wide-open teammate in the center of his field of view, but otherwise the blinders he bears tend to deny his team high-value opportunities (corner three-pointers, open cutters, etc.).
None of this should preclude a team from employing him, as Jack, 29, is so good at working into the paint and scoring on difficult, contested attempts that he largely makes up for his playmaking deficiency. But it's something that potential suitors need be cognizant of in making their offers, particularly at the price that Jack is likely to command after a strong postseason for Golden State.
Mahoney ranked Jack 7th on his list of free agent point guards and one thing that stands out when looking over those free agent options is that there's not so much a hierarchy as a group of players who offer different strengths and weaknesses.
But here's the thing: when looking at Jack's season, potential suitors have to entertain the idea that Jack has hit his peak and started to plateau a bit. At 29, he's not exactly old but he is getting to that point where a decline has to be expected. And for reason and the "playmaking deficiency" that Mahoney describes, I'd argue Jack's market value has been overstated by some.
The other side of that coin - and perhaps a more charitable way of describing the same issue - is that Jack might be more valuable to the Warriors than he is to any other team who can pursue him.
On another team that needs a ballhandler but would benefit from someone who can distribute the ball in a more controlled system, Jack probably wouldn't be the best option even if he can knock down a few cringe-inducing jumpers that you begrudgingly learn to tolerate - Jose Calderon (who Mahoney listed as 6th) might be the better option. But that lineup with him and Curry on the floor together mitigates that "playmaking deficiency". And whatever else people have to say about Jackson, Jack says Jackson helped him flourish simply by allowing him to play the game his way - it's conceivable that not every coach will offer him that.
That brings it back to Lowe's original points: how likely is it that Jack will get a massive raise from a team in a better situation to win while he's still in his prime? For which teams able to do so would it be in their best interest given Jack's style of play? And would it even be best for Jack as a player (instead of the human being with a bank account) to accept a more lucrative offer elsewhere in a situation that might not a) offer as much team success and b) offer him a favorable situation?
My approach to this offseason has been that the Warriors need to do what they can to keep this team together to the extent possible: we really don't know what this team (Brandon Rush included) can do at full health, but we do know they can be one of the best teams in the last 30+ years of franchise history at partial health? Jack is clearly part of that, despite all the well-documented deficiencies.
If it's true the Warriors are unafraid to veer into luxury tax territory - the benefit of dumping Charles Jenkins and Jeremy Tyler - then there's a legitimate chance that the entirety of what the Warriors have to offer (from organizational culture to coaching to team success) will be the best on the market for Jack.
That still leaves the door open to wonder whether the Warriors should consider any one of those other options on the market...and anybody who has sat within earshot of me at Oracle Arena could probably guess my feelings about considering other options. But the Warriors might actually be in better position to bring Jack back than some have initially assumed, especially if they're willing to outspend the few elite teams asking him to "squeeze under the midlevel exception".