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Five Early Thoughts On Jordan Crawford

Now that he’s been here a few games, I spent some time watching film on Jordan Crawford.

I may eventually regret sharing these but here are my early impressions:

1. Crawford came in with a rep as a terrible defensive player but, at least so far, that’s only a partial truth. He’s best in ISO situations, because he looks committed to man-defense and in a new system, there are fewer opportunities to fail when it’s just you and the opposing scorer. That doesn’t hold true in post-up situations because he’s small for a SG (Harrison Barnes crushed him for an And-1 recently) but even when he was in Washington he rarely had to defend that spot. He’ll never be Avery Bradley but if he puts in the effort I think Crawford can be effective enough as a perimeter defender to justify rotation minutes.

2. So far, the major defensive problem is that Crawford is still not integrated in the team defense. We can give him the benefit of the doubt in terms of rotations but that’s been less of a problem than you’d expect. He does get caught ball-watching the strong side of the floor and seems to lose track of his man, which means he often finds himself closing out hard and late to his shooter. Either the opposing team gets a good look at a jumper or his man can blow by him for a drive to the basket. 

3. Crawford’s upside might be as a Jamal Crawford-style scorer but he makes terrible, terrible decisions when he thinks he has a chance to score… which is anytime he has the ball. His most egregious play: the botched transition attack. It goes something like this: Crawford gets the ball off an opposing miss and streaks upcourt, blissfully unaware of anything but the tasty two points waiting for him at the other end. Then he dribbles the ball into a sea of defenders and fades to the baseline for a difficult contested jumpshot. Crawford LOVES this move and that love runs deepest when he can take the shot from some acrobatic position hanging in the air. While it’s nice to have another offensive-minded player on the roster, it seems like Crawford needs to either take the ball into contact to get to the line, or, when faced with a wall of opposing players, pull the ball out and look for a higher percentage shot. He just doesn’t value possessions enough, which I hope is a product of growing up in Wizards culture and not indicative of his overall basketball IQ.

4. Crawford looks like a decent pick and roll ball handler, in part because the play is not always designed for him to score and in part because he’s actually a decent passer. I know the Celtics see him as a microwave scorer but his career-long awfulness from the arc and tendency to turn his teammates into spectactors at the Jordan Crawford Dribble-Drive Show make me think he’d be better served looking to pass first, score second. I don’t know if you can completely rewire him but that wouldn’t be the goal as much as it would be reminding him that there are other players on the court who could benefit from his ability to beat his man off the bounce. You’ll notice this is another area where good coaching and a disciplined culture could make a difference. Eeks. I sound almost hopeful here. Forget you ever read this.

5. Warts and all, I love having Crawford in the fold. He may shoot himself into Doc Rivers’ doghouse and out of Boston by the spring but there is something so very satisfying about watching him launch up a contested early-clock jumpshot while his teammates bow their heads, sigh, and jog back on defense. Especially when you see that glint in Crawford’s eye when his shot finds the bottom of the basket. There’s a reason he compared himself to Michael Jordan.

  • Ge0gre

    Crawford scares me… I don't trust him, yet. Trust must be earned.

  • High Rollers

    Nice little twist with that last line, Ryan, like the ending of a good book or movie. I like it. Let’s hope that mesh inspired glint becomes a commonplace.

  • Phil725

    The important thing to me about Crawford is that expectations are low. He's expected to be an end of the bench hot/cold guy, and he's only being paid a few million total over the rest of this year and next year. If it doesn't work out, you just move on, nothing lost. He's not someone who you're counting on, or who it's necessary to play.

    Given that caveat, I love the potential upside he brings every time he's on the court. Doc seems committed enough to the one dimensional bench guard role that I don't expect him to lose minutes, and Crawford seems committed enough to the team stuff to fit in. I've got as much stock as possible in the KG/Doc culture, and Crawford has said all the right things since arriving. That just means it's a question of ability. He's a good enough scorer and passer, with BBall IQ and decision making being the only thing holding him back. I don't think those latter two have to be too high for him to succeed in his current role though.

    Crawford's been about what I expected so far, and that has value. I'm encouraged by it all though, and I'm hopeful that he can be a little more with a little realistic improvement.

  • The Cardinal


    I hope the C's resign him at the end of the season and place the onus on him to be a rotation player going forward. Crawford knows what his reputation is and the mid-20's are a make or break time for talented players with bad reps, so the C's should give him his home work assignments for the summer. During next season's camp, they can evaluate whether Crawford "has gotten it" by observing whether he took his homework seriously.

    At worse, you have a guy who is talented at the end of the bench, but won't get much playing time because he won't get with the system. If you are really fed up, you can trade him – there will always be other teams willing to take a chance on that kind of potential. At best, you have a good, young scoring threat coming off the bench who if he keeps improving, will be a steal for years to come.

    • Phil725

      No need to resign him, he's still on his rookie deal, so the team has a ton of control of the situation. He's under contract for 2.2m next year, and there's a 3.2m qualifying offer the year after that. You can keep him until 2015-16 without spending any real money, that's part of why I liked the deal so much.

  • CG12

    Count me a Crawford fan. I like fast-paced, attacking basketball, and that's what Crawford does. His shot selection I like less, but his heart is in the right place. Agree that he can be a decent defender – he's surprisingly athletic – but he will never be a difference-maker on that end. He's all about O, and that's okay. He is a very good passer, when he deigns to pass. If he is your 4th guard, you are doing well.

  • Phil725 makes a good point of his contract, which is a plus for the Celtics and puts the ball in their court in regards to controlling his deal.

    Personally, I'm a little torn with Crawford. Like CG12 said, his fast-paced, attacking basketball is a solid addition to the Celtics. It can provide a bit of an offensive spark when the older, more methodical Celtics need it. On the flip side, this often comes with a bad shot selection, which is what I don't like about Crawford. If Doc is able to work with him and mold him a bit better, he'll be a nice addition coming off the bench he needed. One thing is for sure, with Crawford coming off the bench, the second team shouldn't have a big issue finding someone to pull the trigger, which can often hinder a lot of second teams out there who do too much passing, and too little shooting or attacking.

  • OlSkool1972

    I still think Ernie Grunfeld put Crawford, Javale Mcgee, Andray Blatche, and Nick Young all on the Wizards at the same time because he was in a competition with another GM to see who could put together the most dysfunctional and comical NBA team in history.

    • Phil725

      I like this theory. You think he conceded this year because he realized he had no chance to beat out the Maloofs in Sacramento?

  • Nich

    I'm a wiArds fan, I adore Crawford.

    He has a great attitude, he- despite his own defensive shortcomings- is largely responsible for keeping DCs defense near-elite all year, he just had everyone keeping their heads up and trying.

    It's weird.. Crawford "got it" all through December and January, then DC gave up on him. I'm assuming John wall hated him lol