2008/09 Player Evaluation: Javaris Crittenton

Previously: Oleksiy Pecherov, Juan DIxon, Etan Thomas.

STATS (Wiz only)

Per-game: 20.2 minutes, 5.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.4 turnovers

Per-36 minutes: 9.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 2.5 turnovers

Percentages: 45.9 FG%, 59.3 FT%, 46.3 eFG%, 48.8 TS%

Advanced (explanations): 10.3 PER, 8.4 REB%, 19.7 AST%, 20.5 TO%, 15.5 UsgR, 97 ORtg, 115 DRtg, 0 WSAA (win score above average).

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Mike Prada: The good news about Javaris Crittenton is that he is resilient, coachable and hyper-aggressive in creating plays. In other words, despite being only 21 years old, you never have to question his effort. Unfortunately, his on-court production still leaves a lot to be desired. There’s hope, sure, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that Crittenton secured a long-term rotation spot and hence became a significant asset.

That’s not to say there isn’t anything to like about Crittenton. I for one was very impressed by his on-court aggressiveness. He was very good driving to the basket and trying to make plays for other people. He drew fouls on 12.1 percent of his used possessions while with the Wizards, a percentage topped only by Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and Dominic McGuire. He also did a great job of pushing the ball in transition, which is key for a second unit that will be entrusted with changing the tempo of the game next season, assuming everyone returns. His defensive energy was also very solid, as he did a very good job pressuring point guards as they brought the ball up the floor.

Those are all qualities of a good backup point guard, particularly one who must spell one of the team’s best players. Anyone playing behind a healthy Gilbert Arenas won’t be getting starters minutes, but with Arenas’ injured knee a concern, it is important to rest him more than usual next year.  Crittenton at least showed that he has the potential to change the tempo of the game in the 10-15 minutes he’ll need to play.

There are also plenty of problems, though. Most of the criticism I’ve read is centered around Crittenton’s awful perimeter shooting. That criticism is well-deserved in some respects—his effective field goal percentage on jumpers was a dreadful 23.9 percent. I’m less concerned about this than most, however, because there are plenty of backup point guards in the NBA that can’t shoot. The Wizards employed one in Antonio Daniels for several years and were plenty successful with him playing a key role.

The far greater problem is Crittenton’s ball-handling. It’s nice that he pushes the ball, but he needs to do a much better job staying in control. He turned it over on 20.5 percent of his used possessions, which is horrendous for any player, much less a point guard. I don’t really mind that he doesn’t score much or shoot well, but I do mind that he’s giving away key possessions. Backup point guards can survive without a shot; they can’t survive if they are turnover machines.

This is not a problem that improved with playing time either. In February, before Crittenton was getting starter minutes, Ed Tapscott said: "The best thing about Javaris is that he has an impact on the game, and sometimes the worst thing about Javaris is that he has an impact on the game." It was typical Tascottese, but the point was pretty clear: slow down, Javaris. I’ve killed Tapscott for a lot this year, but he pinpointed Javaris’ problem perfectly and did a lot of work in trying to fix it. Yet as Kevin Broom pointed out in early April, Crittenton’s turnover problems actually got worse as the season progressed.

"His turnovers went from 2.1 per 40 in January to 3.2 in February to 2.7 in March. His assist/turnover ratio — a key number for any player, but especially PGs — went from 2.7 in January to 1.9 in February to 1.7 in March. Wrong direction."

That’s why, even in Michael Lee’s mostly positive (Kevin would say overly positive) feature on Crittenton, Tapscott still "stressed the importance of Crittenton playing at various speeds rather than just one."

Still, lest you think this is overly negative, there is some historical precedence that shows one can dramatically improve their ball-handling. During his rookie season in 1997/98, Antonio Daniels, then a member with the Grizzlies, turned the ball over on 20.8 percent of his possessions. He feuded with coach Brian Hill and was a major disappointment, in large part because of his inability to control tempo and the ball. Now, he’s known as one of the NBA’s sure-handed ball-handlers, even though he handles it a lot and makes many mad dashes to the rim. Daniels also has never really developed a jumper, getting by because he handles the ball extremely well and plays under control.

For Crittenton to survive in this league, he needs to cut his turnovers way down. Let’s hope he follows Daniels’ path to success.

JakeTheSnake: Javaris Crittenton has some things that are going for him.  He's a good rebounder for his size, he's fairly effective scoring in the paint, he's got gobs of athleticism, and he seems to know what he's doing defensively.  All of this would be great if he was about 5 inches taller.  As it stands, all of those qualities are nice extras, but he still needs some work on the skills that will help him survive in this league playing point guard.

Since he arrived in the trade, he's been called the team's purest point guard.  That may be true, but I think it says more about Crittenton's shot-selection than it does about his passing ability.  He only averaged 2/10ths of an assist more per 36 minutes than Mike James and he averaged 4/10ths of a turnover more than James did this season.  He created some nice scoring opportunities running the fast break this season, but he also squandered other opportunities by trying to do too much in transition.

His shooting could also use plenty of work.  An eFG% of .239 on jumpers isn't going to cut it in this league, especially for a point guard.  I'd even go so far as to say that it's more important for Crittenton to develop a jump shot this off-season than Dominic McGuire, because the longer that he goes without developing one, the more opposing teams can play off of him and keep him from penetrating, which limits his ability to score and create opportunities for others.

The good news is that Crittenton is still young and he can still work on all of the issues that I just listed.  I, for one, am going to be very interested in seeing how he's used next season as a backup point guard and in tandem with Gilbert Arenas at times.  I think he'll be ready for the challenge.

Truthaboutit: I really like the move Ernie Grunfeld made to get Javaris Crittenton, even if he doesn't pan out.  GM Gruns turned an over-hyped 2002 40th draft pick, who probably would have barely lasted with the Wizards, as he did with the Grizzlies, into a still developing/promising young point guard taken 19th in the '07 draft.*

It's funny, because I think the Wizards need a long distance shooter like Juan Carlos Navarro aka "La Bomba". And JCN did hit just under two treys per game en route to making the '07-08 NBA All-Rookie second team, but got those attempting 5.3 in just under 26 minutes per game. So it's probably good that the Wiz opted out of a gunner who can't really play defense. Not playing D should only be reserved for starters like Arenas, Jamison and Butler.

But back to Crittenton. What I do like about him is his ability to push the ball in transition while remaining relatively under control. The kid has crafty handles when moving fast under pressure, and has the length to finish at the rim. Yes, we all want that 20.5 TOV% to go down, and it will as he gets more comfortable with the ball in his hands. It takes a bit to develop that NBA point guard instinct.

Second thing I like about Javaris is his rebounding out the back-court. He seems to have a nose for the ball, a knack for getting short or long misses and turning on the jets in transition. His 5.1 boards per 36 minutes led all guards (well, tied Arenas' two game per 36 rate), and his 1.7 offensive boards per 36 was a tenth of a point below Darius Songaila and the same amount above Caron Butler. Not sure how Flip Saunders will scheme transition D, and it all depends on situational assignments anyway, but you gotta like when you guard is getting you second chances (just as long as his offensive rebound attempts don't give up more points than they provide).

The downside .... we're all going to talk about Crittenton's jumper. Yep, it needs to improve. And I don't really care that Dave Hopla, the renowned shooting coach, is gone. Getting better is all on Crittenton ... whether he puts in the time, is consistent with his form, and most importantly, has the mental ability to gain confidence via repetition, repetition, and repetition.

On one hand, his FG% improved every month from January to April, going up a total of 4.5%. On the other hand, his eFG% for the entire season on 'Jump Shots' (as defined by 82games.com) was a blasted 23.9% ... ouch. I'd like to see how Crittenton improved on his jumper from month to month, I'm sure that stat is out there in someone's computer.

Methinks Crittenton's ceiling in the league is a decent backup PG. But a lot of guys have made damn good careers playing that role, albeit most all keep teams honest on defense from the perimeter. I've heard that Crittenton is an intelligent guy and a very hard worker. That's great. I'll be excited to see him in the summer league. However, if we go into next season with Javaris and Gilbert (and perhaps Mike James) as the main guys who can play the point, I won't exactly be confident in the team's title contention prospects.

*Grunfeld drafted JC Navarro, but then traded him to Memphis for some obscenely protected first rounder that the Wiz would probably not even seen before the stipulations expired, and then essentially gave that pick back to Memphis for Crittenton as part of the three team deal involving Mike James, Antonio Daniels and the NOLA Hornets.

Rook6980: Javaris Crittenton has a tremendous combination of size, athleticism and playmaking ability. Now he needs to work on putting those tools to good use.

Here's what Javaris Crittenton's evaluation looked like before the 2007 NBA Draft:

Strengths:
Quick first step, Excellent vision and passing skills, Excellent cross over
Terrific ball-handler, Can go left or right
Blazing quickness, Elite level athlete, Excellent body strength and foot speed
Good slashing and scoring ability, Excellent Defensive tools
Great heart, very competitive, Unselfish, Very coachable, Great attitude

Weaknesses:
Needs to improve upon his outside shot, Can be too unselfish at times
Can be too aggressive defensively, Foul prone
Turn over prone, Tends to poor Decision Making
Poor Defensive effort, Gets too flashy and plays out of control

As you can see, very little has changed from 2007. Javaris still has some of the same strengths and weaknesses. His biggest problem is that he does not have a consistent outside jump shot.

The move from Memphis to Washington freed Javaris Crittenton from the "Outhouse of no playing time." As the losses mounted, many of us here at Bullets Forever kept calling for more minutes for Javaris (and McGee, and Young, and .... well, you get the point). Finally in January, Ed Tapscott relented and started doling out some minutes to Crittenton. Once he was able to get consistent, and increasing minutes; he showed real improvement. As his minutes increased, is confidence grew, and his shooting percentages went up each month (Jan=44%, Feb=46%, Mar=47%, Apr=49%). His assists went up as well. He seemed to get better defensively too.  However, he still couldn't be counted on to hit the open jumper and he continued to turn the ball over at a high rate. If Javaris had the ball, there was a real chance of something happening, good or bad.

Crittenton is adept at running the break, seeming to make the right pass at the right time. He's especially good at the alley-oop to JaVale McGee (see above). His quickness helps him get into the lane, where he has shown he can finish at the rim, or pass to an open teammate. In the halfcourt offense, he seems to always be looking for seams in the defense to get to the rim, draw contact or dish off to a teammate.

I'm extremely intrigued by Crittenton's defensive abilities. At times last year he showed the ability to shut down his opponent. He has great lateral quickness, and his size makes him hard to shoot over.  Unlike in college, he seemed to put forth real effort on defense.

I am much less worried about the decision making and the turnovers, than I am the lack of a jump shot. As young players mature, they normally become less turnover prone. As they become more comfortable playing in the league, and with their teammates, the decision making gets better, and the turnovers decline. (As happened with Nick Young last year). The real problem is that Javaris has had 2-years in the League to work on that terrible jumper (24% efg% for Jump shots in 2008).  It's still a work in progress. Two years, and he's still trying to find that consistent form.

In short, Javaris Crittenton has the physical tools to be a very good point; and he still has a tremendous amount of upside. Get working on that jump shot Javaris!

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