Jordan Crawford: Sixth Man, Footnote Or Something More?

Mar 12, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; Washington Wizards guard Jordan Crawford (15) drives around San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (right) during the second half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-US PRESSWIRE

Since coming to the Wizards in a 2011 trade with the Atlanta Hawks, shooting guard Jordan Crawford has definitely put up numbers. Despite spending the first half of his rookie year languishing on the Hawks' bench, Crawford's career averages of 13.5 points, 2.9 assists, and 2.5 rebounds in only 26.9 minutes of playing time per game are very solid. Crawford's ability to create offense off of the dribble is an extremely valuable skill, and despite his reputation as a gunner, he's also a good enough passer to create shots for his less-skilled teammates.

But despite what appear to be solid statistics, Crawford is still a highly flawed player. The 13.5 points per game is a nice number, but it takes Crawford an average of 13 shots to get them. At the same time, he's been a poor defensive player, especially against shooting guards, and lacks the court vision and willingness to distribute necessary for him to play point guard on a regular basis.

Crawford has been very valuable to the Wizards over the last two seasons, primarily due to his ability to create shots for the team's numerous raw youngsters, but with the continued growth and development of the team's young nucleus as well as the acquisition of skilled veterans like Nene and Emeka Okafor, that playmaking ability becomes less vital.

Is there a role for Crawford on the new-look Wizards? If so, how prominent should it be? Read on for more.

Volume shooting sixth men can be very valuable, especially if the players around them can't score. The ability to create low percentage shots at will can help a team with a poor offense since, even if the player in question has an offensive rating that's lower than the team's as a whole, his ability to draw defenses' attention and make the correct pass is necessary for most role players to get the high percentage shots that are their bread and butter. Crawford fits this mold to a tee, but as the Wizards' develop or acquire more talented offensive players, making open shots becomes far more valuable than creating bad ones.

Although a dunk made him famous, Crawford is essentially a jump shooter, and not a particularly good one. However, he could greatly improve his overall efficiency by simply increasing his three point percentage of 28 percent. Last year Crawford made 40 percent of his shots between 20 and 24 feet, and this ability to hit long two point shots at a relatively young age is a good sign that he'll eventually develop legitimate three point range. While he shot a respectable 39 percent from the corners on three pointers, he hit a ghastly 26 percent of his above the break threes. Due to the number of shots he took from this area -- 212 in 61 games last year -- getting his percentage up to a league average level would do wonders for his efficiency, as making 35 percent of these shots last year would have added almost an entire point to his per game scoring average and boosted his true shooting percentage to a much more respectable 52 percent.

Even if Crawford successfully grows into a solid three-point shooter, it still might not be worth it for Washington to keep him around. Bradley Beal, at the very least, will likely play a great deal of minutes next to John Wall. Crawford was at his most effective last year when sharing the floor with Wall, as he shot better at the rim (albeit in fewer attempts) and from distance with Wall on the court.

Jordan Crawford Shooting, John Wall On/Off the Court

FGM

FGA

FG%

%FGA

Restricted Area

On

84

148

56.8%

22.4%

Off

28

58

48.3%

27.6%

Paint (Non-RA)

On

23

63

36.5%

9.5%

Off

10

24

41.7%

11.4%

Mid-Range

On

100

231

43.3%

34.9%

Off

25

75

33.3%

35.7%

Corner 3

On

22

50

44.0%

7.6%

Off

1

9

11.1%

4.3%

Above the Break 3

On

47

170

27.6%

25.7%

Off

8

42

19.0%

20.0%


The addition of Beal to the rotation should mean fewer minutes next to Wall for Crawford. While he's shown the ability to create some offense for other players, that playmaking might not be enough to make up for all of the bricks he'll launch if he's not playing next to another ball-handler.

Crawford's defense is also problematic. As per 82Games, he was much more effective at shooting guard than at the point, with a 14.6 PER while playing shooting guard versus a 9.6 PER while playing point guard. However, he defended point guards much better than shooting guards last year (16.6 opponent PER against point guards versus 12.6 when guarding shooting guards). He'd be well-served by playing next to a big point guard who can switch with him on defense. Unfortunately, pass-first guys who can defend shooting guards are the exception, not the rule, making the Wizards' search for an ideal backup point guard far more difficult than it needs to be.

Even if Crawford is afforded a favorable match up on defense, it's still not a guarantee that he'll play the kind of competent defense that a winning team would want from a third guard. Last year he was the 302nd best defensive player in the NBA according to MySynergySports.com, and with sub-optimal size, length, and athleticism, defense will always be an uphill battle for him, especially if he's forced to check wings.

Essentially, Jordan Crawford is well on his way to a career as a volume shooting off-guard who doesn't play much defense, can only guard point guards and who needs a strong playmaker in order to get good looks. Washington needs to decide whether or not he'll grow into a role as a bench scorer and playmaker or if he's just a flash in the pan, someone who was useful when the team was terrible but who wouldn't be able to contribute to a good team.

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