50+ on Four Teams? The Jamal Crawford Narrative

Sorry, I completely missed this really excellent and detailed post on Jamal Crawford that Citizen FlyByKnite posted late last night. I've taken the liberty of changing the time stamp (so it would rise to the top) and posting it on the front page. Nice work and better late than never. JRaffo - 9:43 pm 7-6-12

Chucker. Clunker. Headcase. Ballhog. Malcontent. Am I describing Nick Young or Jamal Crawford? At the trade deadline a few months back when the news slipped out that the Clippers had acquired Young, people were saying it was a dumb move because all he does is ballhog and chuck up ill-advised shots. Well, we saw how Nick Young worked out. Young shot over 50% from beyond the arc in the playoffs and was a valuable piece off the bench. But now the Clippers have signed Jamal Crawford. Fans are heading for the exits and wondering why the Clippers front office didn't better spend that money. Well, I'm here to help you step off the ledge.

Size: Jamal Crawford has it. He's called 6'5" but is essentially 6'6". He's not big, though. He's wiry. The problem that the Clippers had this past season was that their backcourt was often too small. Chris Paul and whoever was with him weren't tall enough to battle with shooting guards so Eric Bledsoe had to draw main defensive assignments on them when he came into the game. This is actually where the injury to Chauncey Billups killed us. Chauncey had the size to actually move shooting guards away from the spots that they wanted to get to. Now, Crawford's size won't have any positive ramifications defensively outside of him being able to stand eye-level with the guy he's guarding but size does help at shooting guard. Crawford, on offense, uses his size well to get his shot off, drive, and even dish it. He's not a guy who's tall and doesn't know how to ball. He does.

Mid-Range Shooting: Last year in Portland, Crawford posted his second worst field goal percentage in his career. It was second to his rookie season. He also posted his worst three-point percentage of his career. Let's take out his three-point shooting for right now. Last season on mid-range jumpers, anything over 10 feet in the 2-point area, Crawford shot 119 of 279 (42.7%). Among players with 250+ FGA of the same variety, Crawford's 42.7% ranked 21st in the NBA. He was ahead of the likes of Jason Terry, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Nick Young, Joe Johnson, Caron Butler, Deron Williams, and a host of others. In fact, the only guards that ranked ahead of him were Chris Paul, Jose Calderon, Jarrett Jack, Luke Ridnour, Ben Gordon, Anthony Morrow, and Jrue Holiday. The other thing to take note with is that he was only assisted on 27 of those 119 makes. A 22.7% mark. It was the ninth lowest mark. Only two guards with a lower assist mark on their made 10+ foot, 2-point jumpers posted a higher field goal percentage. They were Steve Nash and Chris Paul. He'll be playing with one of them. What's that mean? Jamal Crawford can create his own shot. A problem our guards had last season. He's also great coming off screens in the mid-range area.

Three-Point Shooting: I mentioned three-point shooting up above and it's getting it's own little section now. Crawford was horrible last year beyond the arc. He shot a woeful 30.8% and only made 80. Of those 80, 50 were made as a spot-up shooter. In fact, he shot 35% on spot-up three-point attempts last season. It doesn't seem like a great mark but his Points Per Possession last season on all spot-up shots ranked 56th in the NBA. Not a bad thing. But let's go back a little further. In 2010-2011, Crawford shot 34% from deep and made 119. On spot-up three-point shots that season, he shot 37% and ranked 61st in spot-up Points Per Possession. In 2009-2010, Crawford shot 38% from deep and made 163. On spot-up three-point shots that season, he shot 37% and ranked 70th in spot-up Points Per Possession. The guy can make his three-point shots when he gets his feet set and gets fed.

Attacking The Rim: Last year, Crawford attempted 104 shots at the rim. He made 54.8% of them. In 2010-2011, he attempted 117 and made 61.5% of them. In 2009-2010, he attempted 182 and made 66.5% of them. There is a downtrend here and it is quite noticeable. Crawford isn't attacking the rim as much as he used to and he's not making them as much as he used to. However, he still has the ability to get to the rim off the dribble and make things happen around the basket. It's not just with scoring, either. He can also pass the ball when collapsed upon in the restricted area. Which brings me to my next topic ...

Passing: For his career, Crawford is averaging 3.9 assists per game. Over the last three seasons, though, that number sits at 3.1 assists per game. Last year he had 191 total assists. Over the last three seasons, he's had 670. This is where the real fun starts. 526 of those 670 have resulted in 2-point baskets. Of those 526, 237 have been shots at the rim. That's 45% of his 2-point assist total. It's about 10% lower than Chris Paul's total last season. What's this mean, though? It means that Crawford can actually get easy shots for guys around the rim. It makes him a valuable ball-handler out there for the team. And what if I told you he was virtually identical last season to Dwyane Wade when it came to Turnover Rate and Assist Rate?

Rebounding: I don't even need to talk about Crawford's rebounding or lack thereof. He's terrible. Atrocious. Among qualified shooting guards with 25+ minutes per game last season, only Jason Terry had a worse rebound rate. So, yeah. And on we go.

Free Throws: Quick, who led the NBA in free throw percentage last season? Jamal Crawford. That's right. Nearly 93% of his trips resulted in a make. He's a career 85% free throw shooter so he is, sorta, money from the line. Outside of his free throw percentage, Crawford actually does get to the free throw line. He attempted 3.4 free throws per game last season. It was nearly 5 per 36 minutes. He'll probably be seeing at least 30 minutes a night with the Clippers. Among shooting guards who played 40+ games last season and averaged 25+ minutes per game, Crawford's free throw rate ranked tied for 8th with Paul George. It ranked ahead of notables like OJ Mayo, Ray Allen, Joe Johnson, Jason Terry, Evan Turner, Courtney Lee, and Brandon Rush. Make no mistake about it. Crawford can get to the line.

Creativity: One might call it being a ballhog but I call it creating. Using that same 40+ games, 25+ minutes baseline, Jamal Crawford had the third lowest assisted field goal rate in the league. Meaning he had the third lowest percentage of made field goals actually assisted on. It means he creates his own shots. It means he can create shots for others, as well, since the defense has to key in on him off the dribble. He had 40.3% of his made field goals assisted on. The only two guys with lower totals were Jordan Crawford and Dwyane Wade.

Defense #1: This is going to be split into three different paragraphs for a reason. The first section will deal with raw defensive data and the second and third will deal with advanced stuff. Last year, Jamal Crawford was credited with 76 defensive plays. These are steals, blocks, or charges. He had 74 personal fouls. It means he doesn't really foul. He averaged nearly a steal per game. Crawford, in his career, has averaged one steal per game. He's not really a guard who can block people's shots but he has had nearly 200 blocks in his career.

Defense #2: Defensive Win Shares put him at 0.7 last year. This was on a bad team. His Defensive Rating last year was 109. And Basketball Value says the Blazers were nearly 5 points better defensively with Crawford on the bench than on the court. Crawford ranked 240th in the NBA last season in Points Per Possession Allowed (0.86). Opponents shot 38.8% against him from the field and 37.1% from deep. In Isolation he allowed 0.91 PPP and 41.5%. However, in Pick-and-Roll Ball Handler situations, Crawford was actually quite good. He held opponents to 0.76 PPP and 38.8%. The PPP ranked 80th. In Post-Up situations, he allowed 0.60 PPP (11th) and 31.6%. Opponents had a PPP of 0.94 (189th) and 36.5% in Spot-Up situations last year. And, finally, opponents averaged 1.05 PPP (142nd) and 43.2% Off Screens last year.

Defense #3: These numbers mean something. I've said he's an average defender. And he is. He's not great. He's not bad. He's just average. He has bad areas and he has good areas. But combine them together and he's average. An interesting stat, though, is that 7.1% of total possessions by opponents used against him resulted in turnovers while he only committed a shooting foul just 4.3% of the time. He isn't a bad defender. He's not going to wow you there but he's going to be decent. For those wondering, Courtney Lee this season posted a PPP Allowed of 0.88 and 39.5%. So, if you're keeping score at home, Crawford outdid Lee on defense. And let's not even get started about OJ Mayo.

X-Factor: Chris Paul. Only once in his career has Jamal Crawford played with a point guard who averaged 8+ assists per game throughout the duration of the season. That was Stephon Marbury back in 2004-2005. Yes, Crawford did shoot 39.8% from the field and 36.1% from deep. However, he also averaged nearly 18 points per game and 4 assists. And that season he finished with a 48.3% eFG. That's the fourth highest mark of his career. Of the three that are higher, two occurred in the last three years. As great as Marbury was then, Paul is better. Paul can get guys shots that they can only dream of. What's the one thing our wings get a lot of? Open corner threes. Last season, Crawford shot 37 of 80 (46.3%) on corner threes. Paul will get the ball to Crawford in those spots.

Conclusion: Do I think Crawford was a flawless signing? No. However, it made sense. You have to get what you can when you can. It's a sign that times are changing when the Clippers are proactive instead of reactive. They got the guy they wanted, didn't waste time, and now can move on towards other players. Plus, it'd be interesting to see if Jamal Crawford can score 50 points in a game with a fourth different team. That'd be quite insane, wouldn't it? Anyways, I think this will work out much in the same way the Nick Young trade worked out. You just have to give it time, see where it's going, and trust that it'll work out for the best. We're competing for a title and Jamal Crawford is not some random piece of the puzzle to scoff at. He's valuable. And it's time we realize it.

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