You know things are going well for the Golden State Warriors’ sixth man when “Jarrett Jack God Mode” is actually a thing. Jack has 11 games with 20+ points and eight games with 10+ assists. On five occasions those two statistical milestones occurred during the same game. While much attention has been paid to the Warriors’ 6-6 record with Andrew Bogut in the lineup, they’re also 0-3 without Jack.
The last two games the Warriors played were close, exciting wins. The former was an exciting, well-played overtime win over a great team, and the latter was more of a comedic victory over a bad team. Regardless, Jack led the team in scoring in both games.
The three-team deal that sent Dorell Wright to the 76ers and brought Jack to Golden State may have been the best move of Bob Myers’ tenure, although signing Carl Landry for $4 million wasn’t too shabby either. However, these acquisitions also present Myers with a great challenge: keeping Jack and/or Landry beyond this season.
Jack may be the best available point guard in free agency next year (assuming Chris Paul re-ups with the Clippers). Jack will probably be looking for an annual raise from the $5.4 million he is making this season, and the Warriors are up against the luxury tax already even if Landry declines his $4 million player option — which is likely. If Brandon Rush picks up his $4 million player option (also likely) and keep Kent Bazemore, the Warriors’ payroll will come in at just under $70 million. That’s exactly where they are now ($69,631,506, a little more than $300K below the tax line).
One can presume the Warriors are prepared to cross the luxury tax threshold next year, which is why they dumped Jeremy Tyler and Charles Jenkins to avoid doing so this season and prevent getting dinged with the “repeater tax,” a harsh punishment which has owners petrified. Unless I’m wrong (certainly possible), the Warriors hold Larry Bird rights to both Landry and Jack, which means they can go pretty far into the tax zone … if they choose. They also hold a mid-level exception they could use on either player.
However, the idea that the Warriors will spend whatever it takes to keep both players seems unrealistic. For one thing, they’re probably hesitant to guarantee much more money to players through the 2014/15 season, when Bogut, Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson and Rush come off the books. The Warriors only have $35 million committed that season, and that’s with Stephen Curry, David Lee, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green under team control. The last thing they’ll want to do is sabotage their opportunity to completely change the face of their team while keeping their core together, not when so many high-profile free agents will be available. Jack and Landry also will turn 30 next season — not exactly old, but they’ll both want long-term deals.
However, the team has been vastly better this season with both players, and without a first round pick in 2013 it’ll be tougher to sell the team to its loyal fans. Unless Bogut is healthy next season (a huge “if”), without Jack and/or Landry it’ll seem like Golden State is taking a step backwards in 2013/14 … especially if they make some noise in the playoffs this season.
What’s interesting thing is that even though Jack and Landry play different positions they share many similarities, and not just because they came to the Warriors from the Hornets. They’re both guys who come off the bench. They both average 16.8 ppg per 36 minutes. Both are offense-first players who’ve registered close to the same PER (about 18) over the last few seasons. They’re a package deal, but their success this year makes the package pretty expensive.
But it’s Jack who has the dominant personality, and that’s partly why he’ll be seen as the priority. Jack is a fourth quarter mainstay, Landry is not. Also, the Warriors have had difficulty figuring out how to divvy up minutes to the frontcourt players during the games when Landry, Lee and Bogut were available at the same time. Then again, Joe Lacob has repeatedly mentioned how the Warriors have needed to get bigger and Landry helps in that department. In all, without much to worry about in terms of the draft, how the Warriors handle Jack and Landry will be the biggest story of their offseason.