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Point guard shaping up to be Nets' weakest link

With Deron Williams gone, Jarrett Jack appears to be the Nets' starting point guard this season. Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Over the past two decades -- from Sam Cassell to Stephon Marbury to Jason Kidd to Devin Harris to Deron Williams -- the Nets have built their roster around an All-Star-caliber point guard.

But that won't be the case next season. And for the first time in a long time, it feels like the point guard position might be Brooklyn's weakest link.

Jarrett Jack, the presumed starter by virtue of the recent Williams buyout, hasn't started for an entire season since 2006-07, while 5-foot-11 reserves Shane Larkin and Ryan Boatright have a combined two years' worth of NBA experience between them.

Jack, who holds modest career averages of 11 points and 4.4 assists per game during his decade-long stint in the league, posted an unsightly minus-314 plus/minus rating last season while shooting just 26.7 percent from 3-point range -- 8.1 percent below his career percentage.

The hope is, of course, that his 2014-15 campaign was an aberration, that playing in the same system for a second consecutive year under coach Lionel Hollins, who trusts him and is very fond of his game, will enable Jack to thrive.

"If [starting] is the position they want me to fill, I'm definitely very ready to do so," Jack recently told reporters in Las Vegas. "It's not my first rodeo as far as being thrust into the [starter's] role if that was to be the case."

Always more of a score-first, pass-second point guard, the paint-probing Jack can be prone to questionable shot selection and decision-making at times. But he does possess an ability that his $98.7 million predecessor Williams never really had: leadership. You see it at summer league in Las Vegas, watching Jack cheering on his younger teammates from his courtside seat, encouraging them and bringing positive vibes.

Jack probably isn't the long-term solution for the Nets at point guard. But for a team in transition, he has the potential to be serviceable and set a good example. He's also universally beloved by pretty much every player in the league.

But eventually the Nets will want to upgrade the position. Impending unrestricted free agent Mike Conley is the obvious target heading into the summer of 2016 because of his ties to Hollins, who coached Conley in Memphis. The two have mutual respect and admiration for one another.

But Conley has expressed a desire to stay with the only franchise he's ever known, so he may be nothing more than a pipe dream. Jordan Clarkson (restricted, 2016) and Brandon Jennings (unrestricted, 2016) are other options down the road. Ty Lawson, who just got arrested for DUI for the second time this year, is all but out of the mix. He'd have to be acquired via trade anyway.

Regardless, the Nets need a dangerous point guard who can play well in tandem with franchise cornerstone Brook Lopez.

Williams, for all his negative qualities -- and there were many including his inability to make layups, tendency to over-dribble and poor attitude -- proved to be an excellent pick-and-roll partner for Lopez, often finding the 7-footer with perfect pocket passes which resulted in easy push shots. The Nets' offense operated at a near top-10 efficiency level with him on the court, scoring 104.6 points per 100 possessions. But when Williams sat, Brooklyn's offense scored 98.8 points per 100 possessions -- which would have ranked 28th in the league.

Larkin, who struggled to find his way in the triangle offense as a member of the New York Knicks, hopes to revert back to his dominant pick-and-roll self from college at Miami.

Joe Johnson, who played point guard in high school and frequently with Atlanta, can run mid pick-and-rolls with Lopez.

Boatright has shown a strong touch from the outside during summer league, but he's only an undrafted rookie.

The Nets may have to go with a point guard by committee approach.

It wasn't this difficult when they were employing Cassell, Marbury, Kidd, Harris and Williams.

But next season's point guard situation is what it is, and it's up to Hollins and the rest of his coaching staff to make it work.

Quotable: "I think there's no pressure on him. We're not asking him to come in and be a savior. We're asking him to come in and play basketball and provide shooting and experience." -- Nets GM Billy King on the addition of Andrea Bargnani

Lopez on leadership: "It's weird for me to think of myself as a veteran. It's bizarre, but I'm one of the elders on the team now (at age 27). I was talking to Thaddeus (Young) about this during our whole free agency process, what we expected from Brooklyn, what we were looking for and what we need to do to make the team better. The first thing was we need to be leaders on the court, to lead by example and speak up as well."