Goodbye Shaun, Hello Jarrett

Amongst the injury storm that was the 2013-2014 Brooklyn Nets’ season, one name was notable for consistently staying off of the injury reports — Shaun Livingston, who set career highs in games started and played. His resurgence last season was a welcome sight league-wide, as he established himself as one of the better backup point guards in the league with his athleticism, defensive ability and his leadership on the court, before getting picked up this offseason by the Golden State Warriors on a 3-year, $16 million contract.

It is Livingston’s mantle that now falls to the shorter, broader shoulders of Jarrett Jack, the 6’3″ combo guard acquired from Cleveland this past offseason as the Cavs looked to clear cap space to sign some hometown hero who had been toiling away down in Florida. How well Jack can handle his responsibilities will play a significant part in how the Nets fare in the new look Eastern Conference.

What Nets fans should be most looking forward to from Jack is his scoring punch off the bench. He can play either guard position on offense, averaging 12.9 points and 5.6 assists per game just two seasons ago backing up the Splash Brothers in Golden State, and earning himself a nice paycheck in Cleveland. There, his numbers dipped to 9.5 and 4.1 respectively. Keep an eye out this year as he finds his way in Lionel Hollins’ offense, especially if he’s asked to be the spark plug off the bench. Look to see him as part of some two-PG lineups as well, as it’s possible Hollins uses Jack to take some pressure off of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.

As versatile as he is offensively, he’s limited on the defensive end, especially when compared to Livingston, who at 6’7″ with the wingspan of a pterodactyl could guard three positions. Gone, however, are Jason Kidd’s small-ball lineups with Paul Pierce at the 4 (for better or worse). Instead, expect to see traditional 2-big lineups from Hollins, with Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez and Plumlee at his disposal. And though Garnett may have lost a step and neither Lopez nor Plumlee are considered elite defenders, the combination of size and Hollins’ schemes should be enough to keep Jack serviceable on that end (hopefully). Still, without Livingston’s length and athleticism to deal with the league’s plethora of athletic wings, there’s bound to be some drop-off.

While he gets paid to score, don’t discount the value that Jack’s veteran leadership brings to the Nets, because the league sure doesn’t: He finished fourth in the annual GM survey this year as the current player who would make the best coach some day. Although nobody’s going to confuse the Nets’ core for young guns any time soon, they have no choice but to further incorporate their younger pieces into their game plan. Second-year center Mason Plumlee will be asked more of after being a part of the USA squad that won gold at this summer’s FIBA World Cup, and don’t forget rookie Bojan Bogdanovic as he makes his transition to the NBA. Having a vet like Jack around should only help ease the (admittedly incremental) youth movement into place.

Ultimately, Jack will probably be this offseason’s most significant acquisition, depending on how quickly Bogdanovic can adjust to the NBA and if he can live up to his dark-horse all-rookie first team potential. Either way, he’s not the headline that was Pierce/Garnett. And it’s safe to say that with all the question marks entering this season, it won’t live or die with him. When it comes to stories that will capture the basketball world’s hearts, S-Dot’s was better. But Jack is versatile, and he’s good at what he does. After trying the summer Hollywood blockbuster route last year, maybe a limited-release indie is what Brooklyn, naturally, needs.