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.