We begin with the player portion of our season preview. Major cogs will each get their own post (and day to shine). Minor guys might double up in a post. Jarrett Jack seemed as good a place as any to start.
Weight: 202 lbs
Years Exp.: 1
Games Played: 79
--One of the first things you notice about Jack is his body. At 6'3" and a solid 200+ pounds he's a sight for sore eyes to Blazer fans used to tiny guards. His strength and conditioning should only improve as time goes by.
--Normally you throw out rookie statistics because they skew so low due to the sporadic playing time and steep learning curve. Jack's 44% shooting clip demands attention though. That's good for any guard, let alone a rookie. He's smart about when and where to shoot and his release is dependable.
--Jack's best intangible is his confidence. He looks like he knows what he's doing out there and he's ready to lead. He seldom gets rattled and seldom makes stupid plays.
--He takes pretty good care of the ball.
--He shoots free throws well.
--Youth and inexperience are Jack's biggest obstacles right now, especially considering the role he's being thrown into. Twenty minutes a game is a pretty healthy average for a rookie but it's a far cry from the 35+ he's likely to see this year. Fatigue could be an issue. Will he shoot the same 44% taking 12 shots a game that he did when taking 5? Nobody had his name high on their game preparation charts last year. This year, considering who's behind him, he could be #1 as teams take the "kill the head and the body will follow" approach. A lot of responsibility rides on his shoulders.
--While his mid-range jumper is solid his long range shooting needs improvement. Supposedly he worked on it over the summer. It's a good bet that opponents will try and force him further out on the floor this year then pack it in and dare him to shoot.
--Similarly he needs to improve his ability to get to the hole. He's not as quick as some guards but he should be able to bull his way inside and either finish or dish. This will be especially important when Martell is in the game, as he could very well be the only guy capable of vertical penetration then. A corollary: with that free throw percentage he needs to average more than two attempts a game.
--Jarrett's passing skills were nothing near poor last year, but they were intermittent. Sometimes he didn't see the right play and a lot of times the right play just wasn't available, but there were also times when he had trouble executing. He plays on a team that often makes post entry passes look like differential calculus. With the possible exception of Roy, if Jarrett's not the man when it comes to moving the rock it won't get moved.
--Jack needs to show both the ability and the tenacity to stay with a variety of NBA frontline point guards on defense. Point guard has become an increasingly difficult position to defend in the modern era because they vary so much in size and playing style and so many of them can score. Going from Baron Davis to Jamaal Tinsley to Jason Terry to Jason Kidd is no picnic for a youngster. (Keep in mind he's never seen these guys for big minutes before.) Keeping his men both in front of him and bothered will be critical to the Blazer defensive and rebounding scheme.
If I were playing against JJ, I would tell my guards to stick in his jock all day long. Make him think about every dribble and waste time getting the ball up the court. Pressure him and try to get him nervous and rushing things. Force him to his off hand in the halfcourt then cut off his passing lane and turn him into a shooter. I would hope he'd get too fatigued and flustered to see the plays and default into just shooting the ball, probably missing and angering his teammates and coach (who depend on him to set the offense) in the process. Then when he got yanked I'd figure to make hay against Dickau or Rodriguez. (If they put Roy in I'd repeat the process with him. He'd evade my guards better but if I could turn him primarily into a scorer I'd still succeed. Neither man is going to beat us on his own.) The first test of Jack's season will be dealing with this kind of harassment.
I'm guessing another big test will be running the pick and roll. Going big (and playing halfcourt) usually means a healthy dose of that set. We got away from it some last year, partially because our main guys weren't that proficient, but with real centers out there I expect to see a return. It's a basic play but it requires some precision and good decision making from the guard. You have to rub your guy off the pick-setter. You have to be able to shoot clean and pass clean and know when to do each depending on what defense they throw at you. The "jumping the dribbler" defense also creates double teams that Jack will have to bail out of skillfully. Appearances aside, it's not easy to pick this up at the NBA level where guys are hyper-athletic and plays happen so fast. Watch how things develop in November. It's possible that as goes this set so will go both Jack and the team portion of our offense.