The Cleveland Cavaliers were looking to sign a point guard during free agency. They signed the best one available when Jarrett Jack agreed to a four-year, $25 million deal, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.
The signing came out of nowhere. There had been no hints or rumors of any discussions, but that has been Chris Grant's modus operandi since he took over as general manager.
At first glance, the pairing is a bit of a surprise, but there's a lot to like from Cleveland's perspective.
Jack's versatility makes this a smart deal. He is good enough to start and can play either guard spot. He can create his own offense, provides veteran leadership and depth at the guard spot and will be a headache for defenses to deal with when Kyrie Irving goes to the bench.
Opposing backcourts will get no breathers against Cleveland this season.
It is surprising that Jack signed with a team that intends to use him as a backup. Irving is entrenched as the Cavs' starting point guard, and Dion Waiters is clearly the starting 2.
Jack just finished a fantastic season for the Golden State Warriors, averaging 12.9 points and 5.6 assists in 29.7 minutes and finishing third in the Sixth Man of the Year voting. He was an integral part of the Warriors' postseason success.
Coming off that kind of a year, it seemed likely Jack would be looking for a starting role. Many teams have their point guard spot settled, and those that don't are rebuilding and not looking to sink money into a veteran starting point guard. So circumstances may have factored into the decision as much as anything.
Still, the Dallas Mavericks gave a more lucrative deal to Jose Calderon, who is set to make $28 million over four years, according to Matt Moore of CBS Sports. While that speaks to the value Cleveland got for Jack, it seems like he might have been able to find a more prominent role.
As long as he is comfortable as the first guard off the bench, Cleveland added a solid player to its backcourt.
He can play the 1 or the 2, or possibly run with both Irving and Waiters in some three-guard sets.
He ran point in similar situations with the Warriors last year, but that was with two shooters. Things will be a little different with Irving and Waiters. They are not classic catch-and-shoot guys like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson—although both are able to stroke it—but the lineup could still be effective for short stretches.
Jack's biggest impact will be when he's running the second unit.
Cleveland's bench was a disaster last season. As soon as Irving went to the bench—usually after torching the other team for most of the first quarter—the offense stagnated. Any lead the starters managed to cobble together quickly evaporated.
Beyond the second quarter, the Cavs blew too many big leads to count—the 27-pointer at home against the Miami Heat springs to mind—either because the bench collapsed or the starters were worn down.
Jack doesn't solve that all by himself, but he's an upgrade who will be able to run things properly. He's an effective shooter, but more importantly, he can create his own shot or set up other guys for good looks.
Cleveland's bench was utterly devoid of any offensive initiative. Jack can and will get things done.
Jack won't start, but he will have plenty of minutes available to him. He's also an insurance policy for Irving, who has missed time over the last two seasons. If Irving were to suffer a major injury, it would a catastrophe that no backup in the league could salvage, but Jack would keep the Cavs above water if Irving has to miss a game here or there.
His contract keeps the Cavs' long-term plans intact. Assuming no other big-time deals, Cleveland will still have cap room to sign a max-level free agent next summer. Plus, Jack's fourth year is a team option. So it is a long deal, but it maintains Cleveland's financial flexibility.
Jack told TNT analyst David Aldridge that playing for Mike Brown was a big reason he wanted to come to Cleveland. That's surprising and a nice bonus I did not see coming when Brown signed on for his second go-round with the Cavs.
His role in player acquisition has been front and center: He apparently helped lure Jack, was a proponent of Anthony Bennett and coached Earl Clark a year ago. If he's as successful in implementing a defense as he has been in acquiring players, you can pencil the Cavs into the playoffs.
This is a bold move by Grant—Jarrett Jack is a luxury. He's the kind of player that contending teams sign when they're making a title push. He's arguably the best backup point guard in the league.
I was expecting a more pedestrian, team-friendly signing at backup point guard, maybe someone like C.J. Watson. Cleveland's best player is a point guard, so sinking considerable resources into a backup might not have been the wisest investment.
But Grant was apparently pleased enough with his starters that he felt comfortable using the draft and free agency to bolster the bench. Jarrett Jack and Anthony Bennett—and maybe Sergey Karasev—are upgrades over Cavs who didn't get their names announced during starting lineups last season.
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