By Wade Foley
While we all wait in anticipation of whether Andrew Bynum will agree to a contract in Cleveland, let’s take a look at the first major signing by the Cavaliers in this year’s free agency.
Cavs fans were growing restless because of the team’s apparent lack of involvement throughout the first three days of free agency. On July 4th, however, the Cavs signed Earl Clark and then added Jarrett Jack two days later. Clark will be a welcomed addition to the roster and should be an immediate offensive improvement over Alonzo Gee. Jack was the first substantial signing for Cleveland this offseason, though.
News broke on Saturday that the Cavs had agreed to a four-year, $25.2 million deal with Jack. This means that he will be making just over $6 million a year with a team option for the fourth year. After first learning of the signing on Saturday, this writer had a mix of jubilation and apprehension. Jack is arguably the best backup point guard in the league and had a spectacular season next to Stephen Curry in Golden State last year. Still, paying over $6 million a year for 3-4 years to a backup point guard seemed high, especially when that guard will be 30-years old by the start of the season.
Jack’s age has raised concerns from some, but the contract was more of the red flag for me. The only reason he wasn’t in my top five free agent backup point guards was because I didn’t think Chris Grant would want to shell out $6-plus million for a backup guard. Grant once again shocked everyone though, and I’m glad he did.
First of all, the contract really isn’t as bad as it first appears. Is over $6 million a year a lot of money to pay a backup point guard? Yes. Jack is really more than just a backup point guard, though. He will bring the Cavs several aspects that they’ve been missing, which is covered later.
When you really look at Jack’s contract, it’s pretty reasonable for the type of season he just had. He also has a team option on his fourth year, which really sold me on the contract. The worst-case scenario is that he rapidly declines each year and even then, his contract shouldn’t be too tough to trade. After witnessing some “immovable” contracts being moved over the past season, this writer isn’t about to worry about Grant moving a $6 million player, if need be. Still, it’s unlikely that Jack’s game deteriorates that quickly. He should at least still be a solid backup and shooter in three years.
The Cavs also still have cap flexibility after Jack’s deal. They have yet to even reach the cap floor and still have between $10-12 million (depending on whether they exercise their option on C.J. Miles) to work with in order to fill out three more roster spots. They are reportedly still looking to sign another big man (Bynum) and their cap flexibility will allow them to do so.
Looking ahead to 2014 free agency, the Cavs can simply decline the options of Clark and Gee and either exercise Anderson Varejao’s option or buy him out for $4 million (he is partially guaranteed this in 2014-15), freeing up approximately $14 million. Once you add the extra $4 million from the cap going up next year, the Cavs will be able to offer a max deal.
Secondly, Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Jack will be one of the best backcourt trios in the league, if not the best. Jack brings the Cavs veteran leadership, shooting and a solid backup for Kyrie; three things the Cavs desperately need.
As we saw last season in Golden State, Jack played great coming off the bench for Curry and alongside Curry and Klay Thompson. Jack played 29.7 minutes and averaged 12.9 points and 5.6 assists per game. Obviously, he meant much more to the Warriors than just letting Curry get some rest. He even improved all of those numbers during their playoff run, where they took the Spurs to six games in the Western Conference semifinals.
There’s no doubt that Grant and the Cavs organization believe Jack can play the same way for Cleveland alongside Kyrie and Dion. Jack will be able to give both players more rest as he can play alongside either of them and lead the second unit. He should also be able to free up Kyrie more frequently to score the three, just as he did for Curry and Klay.
Jack is also excellent at running the pick-and-pop, and should be able to do wonders with a healthy Varejao and Anthony Bennett. Possibly his greatest strength that he brings the Cavs, however, is his shooting ability. Mike Brown will have so many more rotation options to play around with now that Jack is in the mix. Besides coming in for Kyrie and leading the second unit, he can play shooting guard alongside Kyrie and knock down the three at a high level. Jack shot over 40 percent on three-pointers last season and an astounding 46 percent on spot-up threes. While Shaun Livingston could have been a much cheaper – and decent – backup option, he wouldn’t have been able to play alongside Kyrie and Dion near as much and definitely wouldn’t have been able to knock down as many threes.
According to David Aldridge, Jack said that Mike Brown was one of the biggest reasons why he decided to come to Cleveland. Brown had reportedly told management that he wanted Jack, and Jack appreciated the vote of confidence. Jack also said that the Cavs are a first class organization and he knows what they have already with Kyrie and Dion.
It’s safe to say that Jack is welcome in Cleveland and will be a great addition to the team. Now let’s see if Grant can work his magic on a former All-Star center.
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