Every offseason I find myself trying to sell people on adding past-their-prime veterans to join our young Sixers squad. I’m not looking for a guy to play significant minutes or challenge for a starting role on the team, but I also don’t want the equivalent of an inept, bench-warming 38-year-old Juwan Howard on the 2011-12 Miami Heat. Guys like Vince Carter and Jamal Crawford come to mind. Since my all-time favorite dunker is off the board, and rookie Zhaire Smith is likely out for most or all of the 2018-19 campaign, I’ve come back around to rationalizing the flawed, yet necessary addition of Jamal Crawford.
As a 37-year-old shooting guard for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Crawford contributed 10.3 points, 2.3 assists, 1.2 rebounds, and 0.5 steals per game in just under 21 minutes per contest. Those traditional stats don’t quite tell the whole story, however, so let’s take a look at some advanced stats to discern what kind of player the Sixers could be getting.
Assist: Usage Rage
(Stats courtesy: Cleaning the Glass)
Let’s start with Crawford’s usage rating compared to other wings in the NBA. His 24.7% UR in 2017-18 put him in the 88th percentile among wings, while his 17.7% assist percentage was good enough to put him in the 84th percentile. His usage rating was considerably higher than anticipated, especially considering his minutes per game, while the assist percentage was around where it’s been for the last eight years.
The conventional wisdom with a player’s usage is that he would/should contribute to more points and impact the game at a greater level by virtue of having the ball in his hands more frequently. What we can see in the AST:Usg column is that not only was Crawford a key contributor and ball handler, but his playmaking led to a high percentage of assists being registered. With the still-unknown contributions of a hopefully improved Markelle Fultz, adding Crawford to the mix as a guy who can not only create his own shot, but put his teammates in successful scoring positions would be immeasurably valuable.
Most NBA fans know that JC has been able to fill it up at will from anywhere on the court, though the numbers tell the story of a player who’s shown an aversion to attacking the rim.
(Stats courtesy: Cleaning the Glass)
Crawford’s overall shooting numbers rebounded slightly in 2017-18, though his propensity for taking lower percentage threes is a bit troubling. He’s established himself as an elite midrange shooter (47% overall/93rd percentile among wings) and a dreadful non-corner-three shooter (32%/29th percentile). It’s a bit perplexing to see Crawford sticking to his guns and jacking 41% of his shots from deep despite the low percentage likelihood of converting the basket.
The knock on Jamal Crawford throughout his career – and even more so in recent years – has been his defensive ineptitude and his ball dominance. The latter can be tampered down by his USG:Ast percentage, but the former is a valid concern.
Crawford was on Scoop B Radio Overtime, and the Sixers came up in conversation.
On interest with the Sixers:
“I think for me, especially being out there as a free agent, something could work out… I would be honored to play there, but things obviously have to take its course and I kind of got to sit back, but who wouldn’t want to play there?”
On the city and team:
“I like their city. I like how into it they are about basketball. I like their knowledge of basketball, how passionate they are. I’ve always loved coach Brett Brown. I’ve been on record. I’ve been a fan of his for years. He just needed talent, and now he has that. He added Ben Simmons, I love his game. I love JoJo. They’re both among my favorite players in the league to watch. Markelle is like a little brother to me. Obviously, he went to the University of Washington, and we talk every other day. J.J. Redick is like a brother to me, we’ve been through wars together, so there’s so many things to love about Philadelphia for sure.”
The Markelle portion of the quote sticks out to me. In what will be an important bounce-back year for the former #1 overall pick, having another veteran presence in the locker room could be paramount to his success. This nugget would indicate a level of trust between the two players that transcends the typical vet/young player relationship.
Crawford’s leadership on and off the court, especially for Markelle Fultz, would be huge. His ability as a playmaker and a shot creator cannot be understated. The financial implications of a one year deal are minimal at best, and the intangibles he brings far outweigh any veteran minimum contract they would hand out. Let’s not forget the man was voted by his peers as the 2017-18 NBA Teammate of the Year. Does he address the Sixers’ glaring weakness at defending on the wings? Of course not. But his shot creation addresses what was arguably the Sixers biggest weakness exposed in the Celtics series.
Sign the man.