The New York Knicks surprising start to the season can in large part be attributed to the unsung play of veteran guard Jarrett Jack. But the flaws are starting to show.
The Knicks sit ninth in the eastern conference with a record of 12-12 but are just 4-6 in their last 10 and a woeful 1-7 on the road. Each of those road losses has been by double figures. As the luster has worn off of Kristaps Porzingis and the excitement has died down, the flaws and deficiencies of players across the board have begun to be exposed.
The main issue with Jarrett Jack is his defense and especially his inability to keep opposing guards on the perimeter. Overall, the 34-year-old has a defensive field goal percentage of 51 percent. From the three-point line, he’s allowing his man to knock down 43 percent of his opportunities on more than four attempts per night. Further to this, Jack’s propensity to allow inside penetration has been exposed as his opponents are shooting 75 percent on shots around the rim.
In a league dominated by young guards, Jack’s relatively old age is beginning to show. Since the Knicks have cooled off from their hot start, more notice is being taken of how Jack is being beaten off the dribble and blown by on the perimeter. He was benched in New York’s loss to Portland as he was abused by Damian Lillard and more recently he made Magic guard, Elfrid Payton, look like an All-Star.
Defense is now the biggest weakness in Jack’s game. As the man responsible for defending the ball handler, this creates problems all over the floor. If he is blown past then a big man will have to step up, creating a simple dump-off pass for a dunk. In a similar vein, a forward may have to help off the perimeter, either creating a wide-open shot off of the initial pass or following a swing.
Point blank, Jack is a liability defensively. At times he has been terrific at calling out different things he sees and reading the opponent. But more often than not, in a half court set, he is the beginning of the Knicks defensive struggles. The defensive woes have become apparent in the last two weeks.
Aside from his defensive struggles, Jack has become mostly a non-factor scoring-wise. Only 6.8 percent of his shot attempts come from within six feet, which highlights his inability to penetrate the defense. He will often drive past opponents but pull up short or dribble back out and reset, wasting many opportunities.
In addition to this, Jack is supposedly a renowned mid-range shooter. In 20 games this season, 39 percent of his attempts have come between 16-feet out to the three-point line yet he is converting a measly 32.8 percent of these shots. Furthermore, the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket is a non-threat from beyond the arc. Jack is hitting only 32.2 percent of his three-pointers and he is regularly left open and passes up on these attempts. Consequently, by passing up on these attempts, he fails to convert on a shrinking defense and he’ll often take contested mid-range jumpers or make a bailout pass to a teammate.
In saying this, Jack has been tremendous for a young and mostly inexperienced Knicks team. The 34-year-old ranks sixth in the league in assists per 36 minutes and is fifth in assist to turnover ratio which is quite remarkable for someone who was out of the NBA for the better part of two years.
However, he has had down games and his fair share of struggles defensively. Just how long can he keep this up? That is the largest unknown. He may be fool’s gold and have his weaknesses exploited in the near future or he may be able to be the competent, level-headed guard the Knicks have been after for decades.