As a basketball player, anytime your name is included in the same sentence as Magic Johnson’s, chances are you’ve done something pretty special. So after Jarrett Jack became the first player to post a 30-point/10-assist game off the bench since Magic did so in 1996, we thought we’d take a moment to reflect on the incredible season Jack is having in his first year with the Warriors.
With a season-high 30 points to go along with 10 assists in the Warriors thrilling overtime victory over the Spurs last week, Jack became one of eight players to record a 30/10 game this season. It was also Jack’s third game of 25 points and 10 assists off the bench this season, making him the first player in NBA history (since starters were first noted in box scores beginning in 1970-71) to record three such games off the bench in a single season. Can you guess how many such games all other NBA players have combined for this season?
That would be one.
Need another Hall-of-Famer comparison? After leading the Dubs to a nailbiting 100-99 victory in Minnesota on Sunday, Jack became the first player since Clyde Drexler in 1985-86 with consecutive games of at least 23 points and eight assists off the bench. He’s posted four 23/8 games off the bench this season, which (surprise!) leads all NBA players.
And for you stat freaks, here’s one more: Jack has certainly hit a groove as of late, tying a career-best streak of three-straight 20-point games off the bench, becoming the first Warrior to accomplish that feat since Corey Maggette in 2009.
He also leads all NBA reserves averaging 6.0 assists per game, and is tied for fourth among all players in the league with an average of 2.0 assists in the fourth quarter.
Still with me? Good. But while the numbers definitely speak loudly, perhaps Mark Jackson said it best following Sunday’s win in which Jack kept the Warriors afloat with some fantastic first-half play:
"It's new to a lot of people, but that's who he is for us. He's been a sparkplug off the bench for us, he's been a leader. He's been a no-nonsense guy with a tremendous voice. He's the sixth man of the year for me."
Ranking third all-time with 10,334 career assists, Mark Jackson is about as reliable of a point guard assessor as there exists in the game today. And while anyone would expect a coach to support his own player, Jackson’s sentiments go far beyond that. So what to make of his comment regarding Jack’s candidacy for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award? Truth be told, he’s got a legitimate case. Let’s take a closer look:
The Sixth Man of the Year award is given to the league's most valuable player for his team coming off the bench as a substitute. In order to be eligible for the award, a player must come off the bench in more games than he starts. Traditionally, however, players on winning teams are given heavier consideration. So with that in mind, the Sixth Man of the Year race seems to be narrowing down to five candidates: Jack, Jamal Crawford (Clippers), J.R. Smith (Knicks), Ryan Anderson (Hornets), and Kevin Martin (Thunder).
While each player can certainly make a claim as to why he deserves the award, ultimately only one guy is going to go home with the hardware. So we’re forced to make some tough decisions. Anderson, an offensive machine who leads the league in three-pointers made, is at a distinct disadvantage due to his team’s losing record, so for simplicity’s sake, let’s remove him from the conversation. Martin, although on a better team, is a similar player to Anderson but with worse numbers across the board, so let’s take him out as well. Deciding between the likes of Jack, Crawford and J.R. Smith, however, is like splitting hairs. Smith has the highlight-reel buzzer-beaters in the top media market in the country, Crawford has been at least the third-best player (behind two All-Stars) on a Clippers squad that boasts the fourth-best record in the entire league, and Jack has all of the credentials mentioned above in addition to being the stabilizing force on the most surprising team in the NBA this season. But for the sake of defining a front-runner, here’s one more stat for you:
Jarrett Jack has registered seven or more assists in 20 games this season. Crawford and Smith…have posted one apiece.
So who takes the cake? Chances are that will be determined over the course of the final 26 games of this season. There’s still plenty of time for each candidate to solidify his case, as well as for other late-comers to join the party. And while Jarrett Jack likely stands as good a chance as any, you can bet that’s the last thing on his mind right now. He and the Warriors have bigger fish to fry, and he’ll be the first to tell you that while personal accolades are great, the team’s goals take precedence.
Sixth Man of the Year? Quite possibly.
Heart and soul of the Warriors? No doubt.