Jarrett Jack was only in Indy for one year, but he had a large impact. In fact, earlier this summer, Indy Cornrows named Jarrett the second greatest “single-season Pacer” of all time. It’s hard to argue against that claim.
It wasn’t so much that Jack was this transcendent player who fit seamlessly with the team and uplifted the franchise or anything. Far from it. But he was the right fit at the perfect time.
Initially, fans disappointed by the 2008 Draft day trade that sent the Pacers first round pick (the 19-year-old athletic wonder and University of Arizona standout guard Jerryd Bayless) to the Trailblazers for Brandon Rush (who was generally viewed as a potentially solid pro, but a player with a much lower ceiling than Bayless) saw Jarrett Jack as merely a throw-in to that deal. As an NBA point guard, Jack had never set himself apart from even a questionable NBA starter like Steve Blake in Portland, so what great value could he possibly be?
As it turned out he brought exactly that to Indiana: great value.
Less of a traditional point guard and more of an undersized two, Jarrett found himself in a situation suited for him to shine. Mike Dunleavy’s knee injury proved much more serious than initially thought, and less than a month into the season, it was already becoming clear that newly acquired point guard TJ Ford, who joined the roster just days before Jack in the pre-draft trade that shipped Jermaine O’Neal to Toronto, was probably not going to shape up to be the assist machine or consistent shooter that people such as myself believed he would be in Jim O’Brien’s offense. Don’t get me wrong; TJ was adequate, but once it became clear that Dunleavy was facing an uphill batttle to return to action, the back court desperately needed another capable ball-handler who could create some offense.
Enter Jarrett Jack.
Jack is by no means a big-time NBA player. But he is aggressive and has a bulldog fearlessness that can alternately invigorate an offense and frustrate fans — sometimes during the same possession. Along with Jarrett’s tenacity in the open court and his confidence going to the hoop came head-scratching turnovers. Foolish jump passers were frequent and erratic, guarded jump shots came early in the shot clock. But on a team full of tentative ball-handlers and players who preferred shooting step-back threes in space over driving to the hole or getting to the foul line, Jack’s persona provided cojones.
Eventually, those qualities seemed to be what allowed Jarrett to supplant TJ in the starting point guard role. After the team dropped 11 of 13 games from November 21 – December 1 (a losing streak during which TJ shot 41.3% from the floor) it became clear that a change — any change — was needed. Given the personnel available, it’s not like coach O’Brien had a ton of options. In short order, Jack began getting the nod at point. And when TJ began missing games with injury, the point guard spot seemed to be Jack’s position to lose.
But, once again, Jarrett Jack is not really a point guard. So before long, he did lose forfeit the car keys back to TJ. A five-game losing streak in March, however, led to Jack once again taking over the starting role in this ongoing point guard ping pong routine. And neither option was bringing beautiful basketball to the table. But both did have their moments — particularly in the clutch — and it would be hard for anyone aside from Brandon Rush to argue that the most potent lineup that the 08-09 Pacers could put on the court was one that featured both TJ and Jack in the back court, where, depending on your outlook, either (1) they both played point guard at the same time, or (2) neither did.
Looking at the numbers, it would seem that the Pacers have also lost something significant quantitatively. Here is how Jack ranked among all the players on the Pacers roster, with the numbers in parentheses being his totals in each category.
Jarrett Jack in 2008-09
PPG – 6th (13.1)
APG – 2nd (4.1)
A/TO – 3rd (1.84)
PER – 8th (13.1)
TS% – 5th (.554)
ORtg – 9th (107)
DRtg – 11th (111)
WS – 5th (4.1)
OWS – 4th (2.3)
DWS – 4th (1.8)
The Pacers will certainly miss Jack’s ability to fill in when TJ is in going through one of his funks — whether it lasts for a few minutes or a few weeks. Earl Waston will bring some nice stability to the fold during those times — something that Jack was not really capable of — but he obviously can not bring the same versatility or penetrating ability that Jarrett did.
Still, as a player, Jack’s game has many holes. He can score, but he’s not a scorer. He can run an offense, but he’s not a floor general. He can make plays, but he’s not a play-maker. He can guard people, but he can’t stop anybody. Ultimately, if he is a starter on your team — particularly a starter at point guard — your team is flawed. And as we all know, the Pacers are flawed. While the offseason did (theoretically) address a few of those defensive failings, it did little to replace Jack’s offensive aggression. Dahntay Jones should bring a similar bulldog mentality to the defense, but he just doesn’t have the offensive talent for that to translate to the other end of the floor. And the Pacers other two perimeter acquisitions, Luther Head and Earl Watson, are relatively passive players in comparison to Jarrett.
What Jarrett Jack brought to the team is definitely going to be difficult to replace. And no matter how much you like his game, that reality probably says more about the talent deficiency in the Pacers back court than it does about Jarrett himself.
Up next: Rasho Nesterovic.
Lamar Odom can attest to to Jack’s fiery demeanor.