Free agency and the NBA Draft have passed. The Cleveland Cavaliers' roster is starting to take shape. Now seems like a good time to look at what some of the new Cavs can bring to the team.
While we can argue back and forth on the parameters of Jarrett Jack's contract, it's probably better just move on to more important things like how he can affect the Cavaliers' play this season. Jack sets himself apart from other guards in a seemingly odd way. While most scoring point guards are either excellent at getting to the bucket, or are excellent marksmen from deep, Jack makes his living in the midrange. While the midrange game has seemingly been ostracized from the basketball community at large with the statistical revolution, Jack is one of the few players that can make it an efficient part of his game.
In 2012-2013, Jack attempted 500 midrange shots (which we'll define as between 10-23 feet) according to basketball-reference.com. At slightly over 6.3 per game, that would put him in third among point guards in attempts per game from this range (according to Hoopdata.com, who apparently has different statistics on the amount that he's shot from 10-15 feet per game, but we'll roll with it). For point guards that play at least 25 minutes per game, the NBA-average field-goal percentage in the midrange is about 39.8% on about 3.4 attempts per game. Jack takes nearly double the average amount of these shots and converts them at a 45.2% clip. Here is a shooting chart from Grantland's Kirk Goldsberry to illustrate just how efficient Jack is from the midrange.
So how has Jarrett Jack found a way to exploit this area to "lethal" -- as Goldsberry puts it -- efficiency? Very few of these midrange jumpers come off of curls or off the catch. Jack is most dangerous in the midrange when going off the dribble, and he utilizes three weapons extremely well when lining up to make a midrange jumper from this set.
1. Crossover Dribble
The first thing that one has to notice about Jack's game is that he's not strong at getting to the rim. He doesn't have an especially quick first step, and isn't a blow-by guy in the vein of Russell Westbrook or John Wall. However, what Jack lacks in foot speed he makes up for with excellent ball-handling ability. Due to this skill, Jack is excellent at using a strong crossover to find space off the dribble against his man to get an open jumper off. Let's take a look.
One might ask why the defense doesn't simply play tight on Jack at all times if he can blow by them so easily, and a lot of the time, they do in order to counteract his also-excellent three-point shot. However, because of this dribble they're risking getting beat side to side. If the defense plays up on Jack, he can get right past them and into the midrange with a low crossover. Another big thing here is that he's stronger than most point guards at 6'3" 200 lbs. If they play up on him, he can simply overpower them and get where he wants on the floor. Even though the crossover is a finesse move, Jack's powerful body helps to set it up.
2. Recognizing the Mismatch
One of the better things Jack does is recognize the switch on a pick-and-roll and attack the mismatched bigger, slower opponent. It's unsurprising that a smart, veteran guard like Jack is able to do this, but he is particularly excellent at isolating the big man and forcing him to match up one-on-one.
He's particularly good at making sure the big is drawn out to him and stays on him, allowing him to break him down off the dribble. With his extremely high-arcing shot, the length of bigs doesn't bother him nearly as much as it does other guards. A skill like this is extremely important against a team like the Bulls (who the Cavs have struggled with in the past), whose goal against the pick-and-roll is to draw inefficient midrange jumpers with the ICE defensive strategy on side pick-and-rolls. As in the clip above, normally bigs like Joakim Noah are normally able to affect smaller guards' jumpers with their length, However, Jack's midrange efficiency is a legitimate ICE-breaker here against such defense.
3. Shooting in-between rhythm.
Most shooters need to be in rhythm to be good shooters off the dribble. For instance, all of Westbrook's shots in the midrange off the dribble look the same. Even a shooter like Stephen Curry's shots all look the same rhythm wise. Jack differs from those guys in that he doesn't need to be in rhythm to get a good shot off. A lot of his midrange jumpers seemingly come a split second earlier than the defender or the viewer would expect. It's hard to explain, so just watch video.
It's like Jack either uses that hesitation move as his rhythm, or holds onto the ball a split-second longer after a crossover into to lull the defender to sleep before rising up. It throws the defender off by a split-second, and allows Jack to get the space needed to get his shot up and over larger guys. With such a quick release, it's difficult for the defender to recover. Now, admittedly a lot of these are bad, contested shots. But that's what Jack does. He takes a lot of bad shots in the midrange, and he's a bad shot maker. If he's going to make them at a 45% clip, I don't think the Cavs can really complain.
It's questionable whether the Cavs will allow Jack the same sort of freedom in the midrange that he got in the Bay Area. For one, the Warriors' spacing last season was absolutely exceptional. The defense had to live in a constant fear of a kickout to either Curry or Klay Thompson a lot of the time that Jack was on the floor. Defenders having to stick to Thompson and Curry on the wing gave Jack a lot more space to operate with in that part of the floor.
The Cavaliers obviously don't have the luxury of Thompson and Curry on the wings. Jack's effectiveness in this part of the floor may have very little to do with his own skill. If defenses are able to sag off of Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee, and Earl Clark into the midrange, Jack's percentages will assuredly fall. Therefore, as I've said all offseason, the Cavs' spacing and long-distance development is going to be essential to their success on offense.
And one of the best indicators of that success in spacing the floor will be Jack's numbers from the midrange.