With the NBA Finals officially in full swing, the New York Knicks are currently facing an off-season with questions coming from every angle imaginable. With the news earlier this week that second all-time leading assists and steals man Jason Kidd is retiring, the Knicks backcourt could certainly use a boost in anyway shape or form. Although the veteran leadership and presence of a player like Kidd will be virtually impossible to duplicate, locating a prominent scoring option to fill his role in the backcourt shouldn’t be difficult.
With Kidd averaging a mediocre 6.0 points per game in the regular season, and less then one point per game in the Knicks 12 playoff games, it became crystal clear it was time for Kidd to call it quits on his illustrious career. However, even though Kidd wasn’t on the team to score, and that’s certainly not what he was put in the game to accomplish on a nightly basis, he contributed virtually nothing on that end. Let’s face it, the Knicks needed that extra scoring. If it weren’t for an incredible three-point tear by Iman Shumpert late in Game 6 against the Indiana Pacers, the Knicks would have been run-off the court in the Eastern Conference Semis.
Carmelo Anthony must have a player the can rise up to the challenge, and not shy away from throwing up a big shot, in crucial moments. In my opinion, there is an inexpensive, soon-to-be free agent that certainly fits that mold.
Jarrett Jack is not an All-Star, or considered one of the leagues most prominent scorers, but he’s well respected, and a workhorse. On top of that, he’s not afraid to shoot the basketball, and he’s not worried about failing, a trait any role player must have to prevail consistently. Jack’s not going to demand an outrageous contract, and he’s not going to act like a diva no matter what the situation entails. This is exactly why I’d take him over JR Smith in a heartbeat. Smith absolutely endured in his best season as a professional by being earning the Sixth Man of the Year Award, but he showed us that when the lights are brightest, he simply can’t be trusted.
His natural point guard ability, coupled with his capability to score on a regular basis, would make the Knicks better off with him over Smith. Jack has proved to be a leader all season long for the surprising Golden State Warriors, as he helped mold rising superstars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. That brings me to a very important factor in having Jack on this Knicks roster.
Iman Shumpert has shown flashes that he’s on the verge of becoming one of the leagues top defenders, and his offense seems to be improving by the day. Shumpert is the perfect player for Jack to take under his wing, much like Thompson and Curry, because his youth, coupled with them having a history together. Although the two former Georgia Tech guards didn’t cross paths in college, Jack and Shumpert were able to develop a relationship through frequent recruiting visits.
In 2011, when the NBA was in a lockout, and Shumpert was unable to train and communicate with the Knicks as he prepared for his rookie season, Jack was the guy he turned to. The former Yellow Jackets worked competitively together back in Atlanta, as he pushed him in every drill. Shumpert even went to Jack for advice during his recent knee injury, for guidance and support.
I simply love the idea of Jack taking Shumpert under his wing for an entire NBA season, or multiple seasons, because he was born a leader. He doesn’t have superstar talent, but he has a superstar mentality. If Jack became the third guard behind starters Raymond Felton and Shumpert, then he would have the opportunity to take on a larger role in the offense, an aspect of the game he’s highly capable of doing.
So, how important to a team is Jack? The Warriors shook up the Western Conference in the 2012-2013 regular season, by snagging the sixth seed, finishing off with a 47-35 record and officially cementing themselves as a team on the rise. Jack averaged a stat-stuffing 12.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game in the regular season, all coming off the bench.
In 2011-2012, while Jack was the New Orleans Hornets starting point guard, the Warriors were 23-43 and 13th in the Western Conference, giving them no chance to even sniff the playoffs. On top of the Warriors blow-up season this year, Jack was an integral part of the San Antonio Spurs only two post-season losses thus far, averaging 15.5 points per game throughout the second round playoff series that they ultimately lost in a competitive six games.
I have profound respect for what a player like Jack brings to the table year in and year out, no matter what situation he’s in, no matter who his teammates are. I’m not saying that Jack is the perennial All-Star scoring option that would be ideal to have next to Carmelo, but he will certainly provide a source of reliability that Smith just doesn’t have the ability to offer. If that’s combined with the leadership and determination that he’s shown his entire career, it would be able to open new doors for the New York Knicks.