14 players in a new system: Javaris Crittenton

Also see: An introduction to the series | Mike James | Javaris Crittenton player evaluation

Javaris Crittenton is Ernie Grunfeld's latest prospect crush.  The 21-year old point guard was acquired in midseason in a trade that also saw the Wizards swap Antonio Daniels for Mike James.  The fact that Ernie added salary to acquire Crittenton despite the Wizards being up against the luxury tax should give you an idea of Ernie's feelings about the guy. 

Crittenton came along really slowly as he languished in Ed Tapscott's dungeon of bad play, but a good attitude and several injuries eventually led to more playing time by the end of the year.  While Crittenton's play only improved in the sense that he got more minutes, he did display some flashes of being an effective NBA player.  He still lacks a jumper and committed way too many turnovers, but he did display aggressiveness going to the basket and some pesky defense.  One thing you could always say about Crittenton is that he is actively trying to make plays.  That fearlessness is a good thing for a point guard if properly harnessed.

The question is, will Crittenton get a chance to harness that energy under Flip Saunders?  Jump with me to discuss.

Why he might: Much like with Mike James, the backup point guard minutes are there for the taking.  Crittenton ran Flip Saunders' offense in Summer League and the Wizards really struggled to play within the system when he was off the floor.  The one game Crittenton missed was against Denver, and the Wizards responded with 19 turnovers and a disorganized offensive attack in a seven-point loss.  During Summer League, Crittenton was very under control and wasn't making the type of kamikaze drives to the basket that he made during the season.  

Why he might not: Crittenton's inability to shoot will really hurt him under Flip.  Flip has always preferred lead guards who carried with them the threat to stroke a jumper (Terrell Brandon, Sam Cassell, Chauncey Billups).  Crittenton doesn't have that and didn't show much improvement in Summer League.  He also still struggles with out-of-control drives, and he may break too many plays to be trusted in Flip's system that provides a lot of freedom to the point guard.

My best guess: I'm going to go out on a limb and say Crittenton will play more minutes than anyone expects this year.  Why?  One reason is because I think Flip is going to want to rest Gilbert Arenas a lot more than the previous regime did, and I suspect the coaching staff will soon discover that Randy Foye is better cut out to be playing off the ball.  Another is that I suspect the coaching staff will come to love Crittenton's work ethic and capacity to learn, if they don't already.  Finally, Crittenton has a leg up on other backup point guard options like Foye and James because he has the experience of running Flip's sets in Summer League.  On a team where everyone is going to be learning something new, that experience will be very valuable in vaulting him up on the depth chart.

Now, "more minutes than anyone expects" is probably 10-15 minutes tops, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him get that amount of time, even with the Wizards' backcourt depth.

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