It's not often that a player who makes the fewest starts since his rookie season and sees his scoring average decline nearly three points from the year before emerges as a hot commodity. Yet that's the spot Jarrett Jack finds himself in as he hits free agency. Jack was a superb sixth man this season for a Warriors team that won a playoff series, giving the eight-year veteran his first glimpse of the postseason beyond the opening round. He was frequently the No. 1 option on offense down the stretch, while the "greatest shooting backcourt in the history of the game," as Mark Jackson proclaimed Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, deferred to Jack's ability to create off the dribble.
Jack's scored 12.9 points per game this year, off from his career high of 15.6 in 2011/12 with New Orleans. Perhaps picking up some tips from the shooters around him, or benefitting from the same conditions that allowed them to thrive, Jack displayed some of his best touch from beyond the three-point arc, knocking in 40.4% of his attempts. He exceled as a distributor as well, averaging 5.6 assists against 2.0 turnovers per game. The Warriors gave up slightly more points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor, according to NBA.com, but his net effect was positive. The Warriors outscored opponents by 1.7 points per 100 possessions as a whole this season, and by 2.2 points with Jack in the game.
The 22nd overall pick in the 2005 draft, Jack made $5.4MM this season, the last of a four-year, $20MM contract. He reportedly had a chance to extend that deal with the W's this season, but shut down talks with the team in the middle of the season. With the exception of players on rookie-scale contracts, an extension usually isn't in a player's best interest. Jack would have been limited to a 7.5% raise on his salary from this season and three additional years. That would have been a total package worth $18.63MM, a sum of guaranteed money that most bench players don't see. It's not clear whether the Warriors were prepared to go that high in the extension. If they did so, Jack's $5.805MM salary for next season would likely put them in danger of going over the tax apron.
Without Jack, and assuming Carl Landry opts out of his deal while Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush all opt into theirs, the Warriors would be committed to $69,020,402 for 10 players next season. It's not certain exactly where the tax threshold, at $70.307MM this year, will be set for 2013/14, but in any case, the Warriors seem destined become a taxpayer unless they make a major move. Crossing the tax apron, which will be $4MM above wherever the tax line is set, would limit the team's flexbility, chopping about $2MM from its mid-level exception and placing a restriction on Golden State's ability to acquire players via sign-and-trade.
That likely makes Jack and Landry an either-or proposition for Golden State, as Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group wrote last week. Kawakami figures the Warriors will choose Jack, and while that seems logical, I'm not sure they'll be able to afford him unless they either dump other salaries or are prepared to cross the tax apron. Even if he re-signed for his $5.4MM salary from last season, Jack would be tough to squeeze back onto the payroll. The 29-year-old was adamant last month that he'll prioritize a return to the Warriors next season, even if it means giving up the opportunity to start elsewhere.
Jack had an expanded role in the playoffs, becoming his team's second leading scorer, at 17.2 points per game, and drawing four starts in place of an injured David Lee. Even if he doesn't sign with a team that wants to make him a starter, he should at least be in line for a slight bump up in pay. He was one of the top sixth men in the league this year, and teams with cap space probably wouldn't hesitate to pay him $6MM a year. That may be too much for Jack to pass up, as much as he enjoyed his year as a Warrior.