When the Warriors traded for Jordan Crawford, they probably wanted the Brad Stevens, Übermensch version and not the Jordan Crawford who was Jordan Crawford. But while Steezus has disappointing in Blue and Yellow, his stint in Boston has shown Crawford’s impressive potential.
Crawford wasn’t the only player who excelled in Brad Steven’s system. Avery Bradley and Jeff Green also had their share of successes running the point, especially impressive with Boston’s dearth of shooters. The secret to their success was the high amount of screens and picks. Every possession was a mash-up of pick and pops, screen and shoots, pick and rolls, and give-n-gos. They mastered the two-man game and the three-man game, and used their impressive team-wide passing to find good shots. This particularly fit Jordan Crawford’s game; despite his ability as an isolation scorer, he’s a better playmaker off the pick and roll. His spraying-leg shot becomes that much more effective off a screen and his passing is much improved with constant cutters to the rim. It’s those screens that drove Boston’s offense, and there has always been a strong correlation between offensive efficiency and quality picks and screens.
Crawford’s passes aren’t particularly accurate; he won’t win any skills challenge contests, but he has quality vision especially in the paint. He is also willing to pass, Crawford will turn down an open shot to get a better shot for his teammates. Crawford’s vision allows him to find open cutters and bigs inside the lane, and his athleticism allows him to contort his body to create passing lanes. However, outside the paint, his vision struggles, and he often misses spot-up shooters. Crawford didn’t have many good shooters to pass to in Boston, but his inability to find shooters has carried over to Oakland.
Since coming to the Warriors, Crawford’s assist rate has dropped from 31.2% to 18.0%. Despite Crawford’s inability to find shooters, Crawford hasn’t had any trouble finding his power forwards or centers, whether its Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger or David Lee. A good mid-range big, who has the passing and moxie to find open shooters will unlock Crawford’s potential. An elite offensive big-man like David Lee, can anchor an entire offense with their passing and shot creation. Even Marreese Speights has shown some nifty passing, and his touted mid-range game.
Golden State brought Crawford (and Steve Blake), to back up Steph Curry at the point. They could also be an extra ball-handler to move Curry off-the-ball; giving opponents a different look and giving Curry a rest. However, Mark Jackson still utilizes Curry too much as a ball-handler when Crawford is on the court. Crawford is Curry’s equal as a ball-handler, and a capable passer, but is also a complete non-factor as a shooter (31.3%). It’s better for an offense to downgrade from Curry to Crawford at point, than to allow Crawford to be a non-factor in the corner.
Jordan Crawford isn’t known for his defense, but he is a surprisingly effective isolation defender. He can be beat with an explosive first step, but his length and athleticism will allow him to recover or make a play on the ball. Mark Jackson would be an idiot to put Crawford on a LeBron or Durant, but Crawford will usually hold his own. Crawford struggles off-the-ball, however, and while he doesn’t get beat by cutters, he’ll often lose his man behind the arc. He’s caught ball-watching too often, and is an awful help-defender. Often Crawford will rotate to stop a drive or a post-up, but he doesn’t go far enough to pressure the ball-handler, and goes too far to recover to the shooter. This is exacerbated by his terrible close-outs; he either misses the mark on his contest, or bites too hard on a pump-fake.
Crawford struggles to defend pick-and-rolls as well. He did a good job in Boston, where he fights over a screen, while the big stays back and contains the ball-handler, but Golden State defends the pick-and-roll differently. The Warriors prefer to let their bigs step out and hedge on ball-handlers, and Crawford rubs on the pick too much to pressure the ball-handlers. Crawford will fight through a screen on the same side as the hedge, and crafty ball-handlers simply reverse and drive through the lane away from the pick. It’s a fixable problem, and Crawford will naturally pick up this strategy with more time.
In summary: more screens for everyone, play with David Lee, let Curry play off the ball, adjust of pick-and-roll defense, and hide Crawford on non-shooters. It’s a lot to ask for, but it’ll unlock the potential that the Warriors invested in.
I watched five Celtics games for this article. Here are some non-Warriors thoughts:
- Watching Al Horford makes me sad. We should bubble-wrap the dude.
- Brad Stevens might be 37, but he looks like he’s 24.
- Please don’t make me listen to Tommy Heinsohn again.
All stats as of 2/28