There aren’t a ton of mysteries this time of year in the NBA. So many rumors leak out to the press with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo being the lead rumor-producer. We knew of Dwight Howard’s choices of teams well before hand. We knew that Golden State had interest in Andre Iguadala. We even knew that the Cavaliers had a lot of interest in former Lakers forward Earl Clark before he ultimately signed with the team.
That’s what made it so shocking when it was announced on Saturday afternoon that the Cavs had signed Jarrett Jack to a four-year, $25M deal. We hadn’t heard anything about this at all. Chris Grant and Co., who run such a buttoned-up shop over there at Cleveland Clinic Courts, pulled off their second surprise of the summer, the first of course being when they selected Anthony Bennett No. 1 in the Draft.
I think a lot of Cavs fans had become resigned to the fact that we just weren’t going to do anything major in free agency. I even thought that was the case. When you’re first “big” move of the summer is to sign Earl Clark that’s not exactly an indication that bigger moves are ahead. I assumed that the Cavs were holding out cap space in case a deal in a trade presented itself. But for the first time in a long time, the Cavs actually went out and signed a pretty good player in free agency.
I don’t want to pump up Jarrett Jack too much. He’s not a superstar and he’s not even an All-Star. What he is though is a player who is great at playing his role. An 8-year veteran out of Georgia Tech, Jack averaged 12.9 points and 5.6 assists per game last season. With the Warriors Jack played backup combo guard where he backed up both Stephen Curry at the point and Klay Thompson at shooting guard. He will almost certainly play the same role in Cleveland. Jack is an ideal pair with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters in the backcourt. All three guys can handle the ball, create offense, and have to be respected shooting the ball (Jack shot .404 from 3 last season). The other benefit is that you can really play any combination of those players on the court together, including some times where all three might run together.
We saw last season the transformation that took place among the bench players when Shaun Livingston came along and provided competent play as a backup guard. It was a huge breath of fresh air after having to toil through Donald Sloan and Jeremy Pargo. And Livingston wasn’t even that good. Jack is a huge upgrade at that spot. He finished third in the Sixth Man of the Year voting last season behind only JR Smith and Jamal Crawford. Jack found his niche in this league as a super-sub, a guy who you can bring off the bench without fear that everything will fall apart.
The signing of Jack is the move that for me finally makes the 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers come together and look like not only a fair squad but one that can push for the playoffs. As currently constituted we’ll probably still see a starting lineup of Kyrie, Dion, Gee, Tristan Thompson, and Varejao, the same one that started last season. That starting five was actually pretty good together on the court before Andy went down. The big upgrade is with the bench which was an utter atrocity going into last season. Coming off the bench we’ll have mostly new faces with Jack, Sergey Karasev, Earl Clark, Anthony Bennett, and Tyler Zeller. That, my friends, is a legitimate NBA basketball team and a nice blend of young players with a lot of potential coupled together with solid veterans. It’s a team to get excited about.
However, Grant may not be done adding players to this team. I mentioned at the outset that we typically hear a lot of rumors this time of year before stuff actually happens. Well the rumors that started to heat up yesterday were about Andrew Bynum and his interest in coming to Cleveland. While the Mavericks and Hawks are also interested the Cavs have quite a bit of money they can throw at the big man. They have about $15M in remaining cap space for next season and many, including Jason Lloyd who’s been on the front of the Bynum news the longest, believe that the Cavs would look to sign Bynum to a one-year deal and maintain their flexibility going forward. The one-year deal would also make sense for Bynum as Lloyd has pointed out.
It’s well documented that Bynum has a plethora of red flags. He’s had to deal with various injuries all throughout his career. He had several maturity issues come to front in LA (especially playing under Mike Brown). And he missed all of his only season with Philadelphia after he hurt his knee and then re-injured it while bowling before he ever fully recovered. With all that said, he’s a dang good player when healthy and playing. On a personal level, I can’t stand him. But I want the Cavs to win, and if he’s healthy and is willing to play within the system then Bynum can really help the Cavs not only get into the playoffs but also be a team that makes some noise when they get there.
No matter what happens on the Bynum front, the signing of Jack is a move that shows the fans that the Cavs want to win this season and are serious about making the playoffs. While I believe they wanted to win last year, they didn’t exactly do a ton in the offseason to make that happen. This year it’s different. Bringing in Jack improves the team but also allows the young stars to grow into their own and take leadership roles on the team. I didn’t see it coming, but bringing in Jarrett Jack may have been the smartest move the Cavs could have possibly made this summer.
 Unlike former Cavs guards like Mo Williams who fell apart in the playoffs, Jack actually stepped up his production. He upped his scoring to 17.2 ppg and improved his shooting percentage from .452 to .506 in the postseason last year.