A friend of mine bought season tickets to the Washington Wizards last year. People warned him not to, but he did it anyway.
The Wizards went 29-53 last season, thanks in no small part to Jordan Crawford’s over-aggressiveness on the offensive end. Crawford averaged a respectable 18.1 points, 5 assists and just over 3 turnovers per 36 minutes last year before he was dealt to the Celtics. Those hardly tell the full story, however, as the Wizards offensive rating plummeted from 103.1 to 93.2 whenever he took the court.
Here is what my friend had to say about Crawford: “He can be a starting quality point guard and a below average D-Leaguer in the span of one game.”
“Enjoy the experience. When he gets on fire it’s really quite something.”
The description is a bit unnerving, especially when you consider how important Crawford – and fellow gunner MarShon Brooks — will be to the Golden State Warriors’ playoff hopes.
Fortunately, Crawford has shown some improvement since joining the Celtics. His untethered, free-shooting tendencies were reined in by Boston Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens early in the season, so much so Crawford earned Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors in early December. During that three game span, Crawford averaged 23.3 points on extremely efficient .610 shooting, 6.7 assists and 3.0 rebounds. He also went 12-for 23 from deep, according to a league announcement.
That hot streak impressed the Warriors (and others), whose then-backup point guard Toney Douglas was struggling with injuries and mediocre play at the time.
Crawford went completely cold soon after, averaging just 13.5 points on .361 shooting in 17 games since winning Eastern Conference honors,. Although his assist statistics remained steady – remarkable given his reputation as a gunner – he also averaged just under 13 shots in 32 minutes of play per game.
His efficiency and shot selection should improve as a Warrior. Crawford will serve as a backup ball handler to Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala. Small ball lineups with those three and Thompson or Barnes should be able to create a lot of space against opposing defenses, which should improve ball movement and minimize the number of threes and deep-twos taken in isolation. This in turn should create more open looks for Crawford, thereby improving his now mediocre shooting percentage.
Most importantly, Crawford will be responsible for maintaining the offense whenever Curry sits, something the bench struggled to handle with the absence of a true point guard. Golden State’s offensive rating plummets by 8 points whenever Curry rests.
Although his statistics leave much to be desired, Crawford’s recent performance in Boston proved that he can work within a system if given the opportunity. Thompson, Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes struggle to create their own shot (particularly off the dribble), Crawford’s skills as a drive and kick passer should relieve pressure for those three.
As for Brooks, I’ve actually had a chance to see him play in person on more than a few occasions.
I spent my first NBA season as a New York resident schlepping out to Newark for New Jersey Nets games. Although many NBA analysts considered Nets point guard Deron Williams an elite player the time, his propensities for injury and pouting had already begun to emerge. With an unengaged Williams running an offense staffed by NBA also-rans (Jordan Farmar! Kris Humphries! DeShawn Stevenson!), the 2011-2012 Nets lacked punch, motivation and drive for much of their last season in The Garden State. As a Golden State Warrior fan and sucker for punishment, I couldn’t have been more charmed.
The Nets’ inability to maintain a roster presented rookie (and New Jersey native) MarShon Brooks an excellent opportunity to develop his game over the course of the season. As a 23-year-old, Brooks emerged as one of New Jersey’s few bright spots. An aggressive and efficient attacker, Brooks shot .545 from within 10 feet of the basket and averaged 3.2 free throw attempts per 36 minutes, an impressive tally for a rookie who had been tapped to engineer offense whenever Williams rode the bench.
That willingness to attack the basket hid his deficiencies as a shooter. Brooks’ shooting percentages dropped off a cliff when he shot from midrange (.376) and beyond the arc (.313). He still insisted on shooting, however, as 60 percent of his attempts came from beyond 10 feet, according to basketball-reference.com
Perhaps even more troubling than his inability to shoot; Brooks could not play defense. Not one bit.
In three NBA seasons, Brooks’ teams hold opponents to 6.7 fewer points per 100 possessions whenever he takes a seat. Although offenses improve significantly with him on the floor, his lack of effort on the defensive end creates problems for teams that are already deficient at that end.
There is a chance that may improve as a member of Golden State. Head Coach Mark Jackson’s bizarre decision to play bench units without a single starter has limited the Warriors’ offensive potential. Kent Bazemore and Draymond Green are above average defenders. Marreese Speights has been a tick below adequate and Toney Douglas… there’s a reason Toney Douglas doesn’t play here anymore.
A bench unit featuring Crawford and/or Brooks offers more of a wallop than anything Jackson got out of his reserves before. Despite both players’ poor defensive habits, the trade should take some of the burden off Stephen Curry and the rest of the starters.