On the "Trade Jamal Crawford" talk

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There have been quite a few comments about trading Jamal Crawford. I understand where the idea comes from, but ultimately I believe it is completely wrongheaded.

There's been a lot of "Trade Jamal Crawford" talk flying around on the threads here at Clips Nation. Clearly, the Los Angeles Clippers have a roster hole on the bench where a competent big man should be, something that's been pretty obvious for a while, and many citizens would like to see that hole plugged. I think it's safe to assume that the Clippers would like to do so as well.

I think most people know that I'm not in favor of trading Jamal, but let's talk it through, for argument's sake.

First of all, it's important to remember that trades are meaningless when only one side of the trade is being discussed. Trade Jamal? Trade Jamal for what? Even saying "trade Jamal for a quality big" isn't really going to do it, because without knowing who that big is, there's no way of knowing whether it's actually worth it to the Clippers or rather the other team would be interested in doing it.

So when I say that I don't think the Clippers should trade Jamal, I'm actually applying an overlay of what players I believe are available, what trades would work under the salary cap, and what might be realistic trades. I'm 100% in favor of trading Jamal for a big -- if that big is, say, Anthony Davis. If New Orleans would do it, I would do it. I would trade Crawford for Greg Monroe. Or maybe the Clippers should be trying to get both a big and a wing scorer, since they'll lose Jamal in the deal. How about Crawford for Andre Drummond and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope? All of those trades work under CBA rules -- but somehow I don't think the Pelicans or the Pistons would play along.

By the same token I would trade Chris Paul for LeBron James and I would trade Blake Griffin for Kevin Durant. But there are no realistic trades for Paul or Griffin, players who have incredible value to the Clippers, that I would entertain. So there's not much point in discussing them.

Which brings me to my second point about trades. Because there are two parties involved, both of whom must agree to the trade, there is almost always some basic imbalance being addressed in any trade or it wouldn't happen. Team A must want something different than what Team B wants, or else they wouldn't agree to an exchange. Think of the barter system -- if you're a wheat farmer in the middle ages, you probably have more wheat than you need, but there are other things you'd like to have. So you trade some of the excess wheat you have for other things, like meat and milk and clothing. You have too much of one thing, not enough of another thing, so you make a trade.

The Clippers certainly have a need -- they do not have enough quality big men on the roster, we all agree about that. And comparatively speaking, they do have a surplus of wings, where starters J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley are backed up by Crawford, the currently injured Matt Barnes, rookie Reggie Bullock and the competent if unexciting Willie Green. So the barterers in the community rightly say, let's trade a wing for a big! Problem solved (assuming we can find a trading partner that has a surplus of bigs and a shortage of wings).

Win now mode, in need of playmaking and bench scoring. Who does that describe? It describes the Clippers.

What you're looking for is a team that values your asset more highly than you do. That's why everyone knew that the Clippers would trade Eric Bledsoe -- because other teams valued that asset more highly than the Clippers did, since he was stuck behind Chris Paul in the rotation. So who would value Jamal Crawford highly? He's a proven scorer but he's also 33, so it would have to be a team in win now mode. He has a unique ability, highly valued in the NBA, to get his own shot, so ideally it would be a team in need of an additional playmaker. He's had great success coming off the bench, so it would be a team that needs help on their second unit.

Let's see: win now mode, in need of playmaking and bench scoring. Who does that describe? Well, it describes the Clippers pretty damn well.

Among the inaccuracies spewing forth from the mouth of Charles Barkley during the Clippers-Thunder game Thursday night was that the team was completely dependent on Chris Paul to create offense. That isn't true -- but it would be a hell of a lot MORE true if they were to trade Jamal Crawford.

The Clippers are a very good team, but they are not blessed with an overabundance of playmakers. There's Paul and Crawford who are both elite. Blake Griffin is becoming a better playmaker, but he's certainly not there yet. Redick is better than he's generally assumed to be, but he remains primarily an "off the ball" option. And that's it, until and unless Darren Collison comes out of whatever funk he's in.

So this idea of trading Crawford because he's part of an excess of wings, is, to me at least, completely misinformed. From the Clippers perspective, Crawford isn't part of an overabundance of wings -- he's part of a scarcity of playmakers. He has incredible value to the Clippers in his current role, and in scanning the NBA landscape, I'm hard-pressed to find another team for whom he'd have more value. Can you get a larger human being in exchange for Crawford? Of course you can. But based on what we know, I find it highly unlikely that the Clippers could get more value in return than they are giving up, big man depth notwithstanding.

Now, if you're looking at the unguaranteed years three and four on his contract and thinking "We can trade him to another team that wants to cut salary going forward" then I don't have much to say. If you're really treating Jamal Crawford as "expiring contract" then we're just not having the same conversation. You've reduced Crawford's value to that of Steve Blake or Luke Ridnour -- $4M off the books in the off-season. What would you expect in return for Ridnour?

Is Crawford a poor defender? He's most certainly a terrible on-ball defender, but he is actually a decent team defender. He's got long arms and he gets a fair number of strips and deflections. You don't have to take my word for it -- Doc Rivers thinks he's a good help defender also. The second unit has been unable to cover for the presence of three to four poor on ball defenders on the court at the same time and have been truly dreadful defensively as a result -- but if the question is which of these poor defenders should the team cover for because of the offensive value he brings, I'm going with Crawford over Collison or Byron Mullens.

Does Crawford take bad shots? Well, that argument isn't really working all that well for you this season. Crawford is clearly among the players in the league who has the ability to take tough shots while making more than one might expect him to. The three pointer he hit near the end of the Memphis game was absurd -- but he does that sort of thing from time to time. But here's the deal: Crawford's true shooting percentage is currently at a career high .602. That's higher than Griffin or Paul or Redick or even DeAndre Jordan. Crawford's TSP last season was a solid .558. The argument that Crawford is a low-efficiency scorer simply hasn't been true of his time with the Clippers. He won't remain over .600 in TSP all season -- but after 95 games as a Clipper, I'm also convinced that he's not going to be the .506 shooter he was in Portland.

We've already agreed that the Clippers have a problem with their reserve bigs. But can we also agree that the Clippers have a problem with their bench in general? Imagine what that bench looks like WITHOUT Jamal Crawford. Ryan Hollins has a TSP of .612. He also commits turnovers and fouls at breathtaking rates, not to mention that a LOT of his scores have come from Crawford assists, where all Hollins had to do was catch the ball and finish (which is far from a given). The next most efficient bench scorer for the Clippers this season? That would be Byron Mullens. No other Clipper non-starter currently has a PER higher than 11.1 (Collison). Take away Crawford, and the bench is frightening.

Player

MP

PER

TS%

eFG%

AST%

TOV%

USG%

FG%

3P%

FT%

Jamal Crawford

345

17.3

.602

.588

14.4

14.0

25.1

.484

.440

.677

Darren Collison

185

11.1

.442

.396

15.4

16.0

20.4

.343

.318

.800

Matt Barnes

160

10.6

.502

.395

10.9

17.6

15.3

.342

.250

.850

Ryan Hollins

85

9.9

.612

.650

1.7

21.1

16.8

.650

.429

Byron Mullens

102

9.1

.503

.513

5.9

16.8

20.2

.421

.292

.250

Reggie Bullock

53

3.9

.397

.361

2.6

13.7

17.8

.278

.231

1.000

Willie Green

31

3.0

.438

.438

8.8

20.0

13.9

.375

.500

Yes, I agree that Rivers needs to adjust his rotations in order to have either Paul or Griffin on the floor at all times, something I believe he will eventually do. But how much would a lineup of Collison, Green, Barnes, Dudley and Griffin struggle to score? Griffin's presence would help -- but not enough to avert disaster. It's worth noting that while Rivers hasn't felt compelled to have either Paul or Griffin on the court at all times, he has felt compelled to have either Paul or Crawford out there. Turns out, Doc Rivers isn't stupid.

This is a blog, and people talk about trades on blogs. That's how it works. But from my perspective, Jamal Crawford has as much or more value to the Clippers as he has to any other team in the league. I'd certainly shop Dudley or Barnes before I shopped Crawford.

Maybe some great deal will fall into the Clippers' laps. That would be terrific. But I'm not seeing a Crawford-for-a-big deal that makes any sense for both parties involved. Crawford is an amazing scorer who happens to be in the midst of a career year doing what he does best -- I can't force you to stop trying to get rid or him and instead just enjoy  the privilege of watching one of the most creative scorers in the league. But I can certainly recommend it.

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