Toronto Raptors: Jarrett Jack, Backup Starter!

Stephen Brotherston@@ProBballNBAAnalyst ISeptember 9, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 27:  Jarrett Jack #1 of the Portland Trail Blazers celebrates after hitting a two point basket in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on February 27, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. The Trail Blazers defeated the Clippers 82-80.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

In perhaps what was the Raptors’ second most exciting signing of the 2009 offseason, Jarrett Matthew Jack, the restricted free agent point guard of the Indiana Pacers came to Toronto.

Like any restricted free agent acquisition, the Pacers had the right to match Toronto’s four year, $20 million offer.  However, the Pacers have reportedly been feeling the financial pinch and weren’t at all interested in testing this season’s luxury tax line.

As Jack played his first three seasons on the west coast, Raptor fans haven’t had much opportunity to see him play and develop in the NBA.  So who is Jarrett Jack?

Strong enough to force his way to the basket and absorb contact, an effective pick and roll player, and an excellent rebounder for his position, Jack brings many of the skills the Raptors sorely missed from last season’s backup point guard position.  

As a four year NBA veteran and a three year college player, Jack’s basketball experience should bring comfort to Raptor fans that last year’s untenable point guard situation will not happen again.

Jarrett Jack, a college teammate of Chris Bosh and a junior from Georgia Tech, was the 22nd pick of the Denver Nuggets in 2005.  Jack was traded immediately to Portland on draft night for the No. 27 pick, Linas Kleiza and the No. 35 pick, Ricky Sanchez (d-leaguer).  Before the start of last season, Portland traded Jack to Indiana.

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Jack was an outstanding college player, leading his team to the NCAA tournament in each of his final two seasons while being named to an all-ACC team each time.  The only season Jack didn’t play in the NCAA tournament was during his first season at Georgia Tech while playing with Chris Bosh!

Each year in college saw Jack’s scoring improve and his college career averaged 12.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 1.8 steals per game.  His shooting percentages also increased each year to 51.4 FG percentage, 44.2 percent three-pointers, and 85.5 FT percentage in his final season.

Draft Express’ comments about Jack’s college career summarize Jack’s play and draft night issues nicely. “Playing the way he has...(will)...further silence the critics who say that he is not a pure PG (ridiculous if you've ever watched him play) and can't shoot (again a ridiculous comment considering his stats this year).” 

As Jack slipped out of the lottery, one has to guess that NBA GM’s still had their concerns.

Jarrett Jack entered the NBA as a big, strong guard, not necessarily a point guard.  At 6’ 3.5” in shoes, 198 lbs, and a standing reach of 8’ 4”, Jack looked more like the typical shooting guard.

Jack has proven unusually durable, missing only six games in four seasons including an offseason ankle surgery in May 2006.  He’s also been able to log a lot of minutes, averaging 28.6 minutes per game thus far in his career.  Something Raptor fans should be able to appreciate after last year’s injury fest.

Jarrett had a nice, if unspectacular start to his NBA career in Portland averaging 6.7 points, 2 boards, 2.8 assists and 0.5 steals in 20 minutes.  But he led his team in games played and became their first rookie to play over 1,500 minutes in a decade.

Jack’s second season was much more impressive.  12 points, 2.6 boards, 5.3 assists, and 1.1 steals in 33.6 minutes are very good numbers for a second year player drafted outside of the lottery. 

But, the ankle surgery required at the end of that season possibly slowed Jack down and his third season’s results were decidedly weaker. 

Probably leading to ESPN's Hollinger comments that “Jack's season cemented the idea that (a) he can do a lot of different things and (b) running the point is not one of them.”  Even though Jack once again led his team in games played, this decline was likely the reason for Jack’s trade to Indiana.

Once in Indiana, Jack again showed his stuff and eventually won the starting point guard position away from former Raptor T.J. Ford. 

Finishing an impressive bounce-back season by playing all 82 games and achieving career highs in: Points, 13.1 ppg; three-point shooting, 35.3 percent; Rebounds, 3.4 rpg; Steals, 1.1 per game; and, Blocks, 0.2 per game.

The stars aligned themselves in Toronto and after a seemingly improbable trade that netted the Raptors Hedo Turkoglu, Toronto found themselves still in possession of their mid-level exception.  Thus, the Raptors were able to make serious offers to restricted free agents with some chance that their own teams wouldn’t simply match.

A four year, $20 million dollar contract for a backup point guard with decent, but not overwhelming stats may seem like a lot of money.  Well in the NBA, that isn’t even an average salary, but comparisons would be in order.

Strangely, the best comparison is likely to be Jarrett Jack’s own cousin, Chris Duhon.  Last year, after his fourth season, Chris Duhon signed a two-year deal with the Knicks for about the same annual salary as Jack.

Chris Duhon was a 7 point, 2.4 board, 4.5 assist, 0.9 steal per game backup point guard with Chicago for four seasons.  Chris’ worst being arguably his last. 

Now with the Knicks, Duhon has found some new life and is looking more worthy of his contract, but as a point of comparison, the Raptors have done well with the Jack signing, financially speaking.

For those of you who may not have watched the Raptors official introduction of Jarrett Jack after his signing, there were some very interesting things going on.

Bryan Colangelo gave every indication that Jack would likely be playing minutes at both guard spots, which seems reasonable considering his contract and his skill set.

Jack’s parents, Carlton and Louise Jack were in attendance at the press conference and answered questions.  It appears that the Jack’s have been feeding and housing (when necessary) Jarrett’s teammates since he started playing basketball and it was normal for Jarrett’s entire college team to visit the Jack’s when they were in town.

Chris Bosh crashed Jack’s press conference and nearly took over the Raptors media interview with Jack.  Bosh was noticeably excited to see his friend.  It also looked like Bosh still has strong feelings for Jack’s parents as well. 

While I doubt Bosh’s friendship with Jack is a bigger motivator than dollars when considering his next contract, it can’t hurt.

Raptor fans are expecting the point guard position will be a source of strength for the team this upcoming season and with a solid backup in Jack, those expectations are extremely reasonable.

But the possible Jackeron and Calderack nicknames for the pair do seem to bring back uncomfortable memories!

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