Making the Jump: Jarrett Jack’s Improvement This Season

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Published: January 31, 2012

Jake Madison analyzes Jarrett Jack’s stats and improvement this season.

When the Hornets lost franchise cornerstones in Chris Paul and David West, a number of holes were created: Where would the scoring come from? Who would provide leadership on a team filled with new faces? Who would be the go-to scorer in crunch time?

At first the answers seemed obvious. Eric Gordon was expected to shoulder the scoring load. Emeka Okafor, as the longest tenured Hornet, would be the team leader. But as Gordon sat out with an injured knee and the team struggled to win games, Jarrett Jack emerged as the answer to all of those questions.

Jack was a starter for one season in Portland and split time as a starter in Toronto before the Hornets traded for him last season. In his first season as a Hornet he led the second unit and had a handful of memorable games. He has been a borderline starting point guard in the league, but one who will ultimately leave fans wanting more–until this season.

Currently, Jack is having his best season as a pro. As the unquestioned starter, Jack is averaging 36.8 minutes per game which is a 34.3% increase in playing time. Because of that jump, and Gordon’s injury, he has established himself as the main offensive threat for the Hornets. Jack is averaging 16.2 points per game and has seen his assists increase by 3.1 per game over his career average. That explains everything, right? More minutes equals better stats. Not in this case. Jack’s stats per 36 minutes are surprisingly close to his career averages.

Jarrett Jack Per 36 Minute Stats

Year FG FGA AST TOV PTS
2011-12 6.0 13.4 7.0 2.4 15.8
Career 4.8 10.8 5.4 2.5 13.9

Those numbers make it seem that Jack is playing about the same as the past few seasons. The only real difference is in assists per game and that Jack takes and makes more shots per game. But even then those are minimal differences. Why is it then that Jack looks like he is playing so much better and is currently sporting a PER of 18.9 when his career average in 14.2 (the league average is 15)? Let’s dig a little deeper. Let’s take a look at his advanced stats:

Jarrett Jack Advanced Stats

Year PER TRB% AST% TOV% USG% ORtg DRtg
2011-12 18.9 6.5 35.8 13.6 22.6 109 106
Career 14.2 5.7 24.2 16.7 19.3 108 112

Jack is assisting on 35.8% of Hornets’ field goals while he is on the court. That is a big jump from his career average. Conversely, his turnover percentage drops about 3.1%. Now look at his usage rate. It is up by only 3.3% over his career average and actually slightly lower than last year’s. So, Jack is assisting on significantly more shots and turning the ball over less while barely seeing an increase in his usage rate but a huge increase in playing time. That explains the jump in PER: Jack is playing at a much more efficient level than he has played before.

Even his defense has been solid. Jack is holding his opponents to a PER of 15.8 and causing his man to turn the ball over more than last year.

Even with the season he is having, Jack is never going make people forget about Chris Paul, but right now he is playing at a near-elite level. On Basketball Reference, I did a search for guards averaging more than 30 minutes per game and having an assist percentage above 25% which turned up 25 players. Jack ranks 10th in AST% and 7th in TOV%. More surprisingly, he is 8th in Win Shares, ahead of players like Steve Nash, Deron Williams, Darren Collison and Dwyane Wade.

But that is not even the most impressive part of Jack’s game this season. When it comes to clutch time (4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points) Jack is playing on a whole other level. When the game is close, Jack takes over. This season he is averaging an absurd 37 points per 48 minutes of clutch time (27.75 points per 36 minutes). His eFG% is .55 while the league average is .481. I know Hornets’ fans have been waiting for Gordon to come back so the team can have that go-to closer in late game situations, but Jack is playing about as well as possible in clutch times. Take a look at his numbers compared to some other players, and Chris Paul from last season.

Clutch Time Stats per 48 Minutes

Player FG FGA eFG% FTM PTS
Jarrett Jack 15.1 27.4 .550 6.9 37.0
Kobe Bryant 11.3 37.2 .318 13.5 37.2
Lebron James 5.9 20.1 .294 16.6 28.4
Dwyane Wade 9.5 28.4 .333 6.3 25.2
Chris Paul (2010-11) 7.7 19.7 .415 8.4 24.8

So how and why did Jack increase his level of play? Obviously with Paul and West gone and Gordon hurt, there are more minutes and points to go around. Instead of playing with the second unit, Jack has more quality around him playing with the starters. Additionally, Jack spent 11% of his time last season playing as the off-ball guard. This season, with no Chris Paul, that number drops to 3%.

Last season, Jack wasn’t expected to be the leader of the team. This season, on a team filled with talented but unproven youngsters, Jack has finally had the opportunity to fully step into the leader role. “I’ve always been the leader. That part comes easy for me,” he said after the loss to the Jazz earlier this year. ¬†With the way he’s played, Jack has become the key to the Hornets’ season. Monty knows this too, and said, “He’s had games where he has carried us, and he’s had games where he hasn’t played so well–and we’ve struggled.”

He might not be Chris Paul, but Jack can be a viable starting option for the Hornets over the next few seasons. He is only 28 and, once the Hornets bring in more talent and Gordon returns from injury, he could be a nice complementary piece–especially if he keeps up this level of play.

All stats from basketball-reference.com and 82games.com.

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