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2016-2017 Clippers Exit Interviews: The Mercurial Jamal Crawford

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Up next is Jamal Crawford. Love him or hate him, he definitely makes you feel something.

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Name: Jamal Crawford

Age: 37

Key Stats: 12.3/2.6/1.6 (points, assists, rebounds) per game on 41.3/36.0/85.7 (field goal, three point, and free throw percentage) shooting, averaged 26.3 minutes per game in 82 games. (1 start)

Playoff Stats: 12.6/1.9/1.3 (points, assists, rebounds) per game on 42.2/24.0/100 (field goal, three point, and free throw percentage) shooting, averaged 28.0 minutes per game in 7 games. (0 starts)

Years in NBA: 17

2016-2017 Salary: $13,253,012

Future Contract Status: $14,246,988 in 17-18, $14,500,00 in 18-19 ($3,000,000 guaranteed)

Summary: Jamal Crawford has always been a lightning rod for Clipper conversation, I’ll give him that much. We’re at the end of another year and it will be another summer where Crawford headlines every Clipper fan’s trade machine as the player everyone is willing to give up. When talking about Crawford, he is the same player he has always been, particularly during the time he has been a 6th man. He’s instant offense, handles like you’ve never seen, an inefficient shot making of yesteryear, and definitely not particularly good on the other end of the floor. He’s slowly declined since his early Clipper peak, and you can see as much as his points per game have slowly trailed downward. For his credit, Crawford doesn’t look a day older than when he came to the team, but his schtick has very much grown tired to many Clipper fans.

Strengths: Even if Crawford has made Clipper fans weary, his shot making is still very much an asset on this team. Crawford can get the ball from anywhere on the court and dance his way into a shot, contested or not. He’s the master of “NO NO NO... ok” shots on the Clippers, driving fans crazy since 2012. Considering J.J. Redick’s forte is shooting jumpers off picks and Chris Paul very naturally likes getting others involved, Crawford’s ability to create off the dribble has often become under-appreciated. The emergence of Austin Rivers as a “downhill player” would seemingly make Crawford’s role a bit redundant, but in fairness to Crawford, he’s had to very often increase offensive responsibilities whenever one of the Clippers superstars is injured as they often seem to be. And that’s not just a reflection of this year, but the last few years while Crawford has been a Clipper. Crawford seems unnecessary when the team is at full strength, but when the team is missing a scorer, he can be very vital to maintaining the offense, especially when the starters aren’t in the game. This was particularly evident in 3 of the Clippers last 4 playoff games, where Crawford made some huge shots to keep the Clippers afloat when the offense felt otherwise dead while missing Blake Griffin. Kudos to Crawford this year for being the only Clipper, along with Marreese Speights, to play all 82 games.

Weaknesses: Crawford’s breed of iso heavy ball really ices the players around him, and can reduce playmakers to mere bystanders. This has always been an issue for as long as he’s been a Clipper. Crawford does this less when he’s put in to close games with the Core 4, but the times he does do it even with them is particularly cringe-worthy. Crawford has shown some chemistry passing here and there, particularly with a player like DeAndre Jordan off pick and rolls, but he’s also been prone to very predictable passes when running plays like that, including very awkward hook passes that can be seen from a mile away.

Even with all that, Crawford’s ability to hit spot up three pointers through most of his Clipper career has made him a go-to player for Doc Rivers down the stretch in games. The biggest problem with Crawford is that defensively, he’s a disadvantage in every possible way. Crawford is too small to guard bigger players (see: Johnson, Joe) making him a target for switches and he can’t move his feet quickly enough to stay in front of smaller players that will speed right by him. If you watch Crawford enough you can tell he’s trying harder than say someone like James Harden who just doesn’t care to do much defensively unless someone is actively backing him down, but Crawford’s limitations have become the focal point to many a teams offense. Considering the team has done well developing a guard like Rivers into someone who can score and defend, where would that leave Jamal?

Future with the Clippers: I can’t help but remember all the things I said while doing Crawford’s exit interview 3 years ago. Crawford has proven his utility as a Clipper through the years, but while that Clipper team years ago was losing a player like Darren Collison, the emergence of a player like Austin Rivers and the fact that Rivers is on a nice contract makes Crawford all the more expendable. Crawford’s contract makes him a piece that can be used to bring back a player like Carmelo Anthony or another player of that nature. With all that said, Crawford has been nothing but the consummate teammate off the floor and you can’t help but root for him. You can feel Austin’s gratitude toward Crawford whenever Austin has a chance to point it out. Crawford is constantly cheering for his Clipper teammates, whether it be literally on the sidelines or in whatever postgame interview when he plugs one of the guys to win an award. Crawford’s well-spoken nature makes it easy to want to cheer for him, coupled with his occasionally dazzling moves on the court. But I can’t help but feel like he’s the first asset on the trading board, and if there is indeed a shakeup in the front office, his name will continue to be on that trading block. Regardless, Crawford has been an iconic Clipper bench player, and I’m glad to have watched him all these years. If I have to continue watching him as a Clipper, I’m sure I’ll still bitch about it, but I’ll also replay the times he leaves his defenders on skates.