The Washington Wizards are winning now, but one man that hasn't benefited yet individually is Jordan Crawford. As the Wizards have succeeded, Crawford's minutes have dwindled to the point that he's no longer even in the regular rotation.
So, what should the Wizards do with him? Should they give him his rotation spot back once they elevate Bradley Beal back into the starting lineup, or is Garrett Temple the better person to keep on the floor? In an email chain earlier today, several of the editors of Bullets Forever discussed this question. Here is a transcript of the exchange:
Amin Vafa: OK, BF brains assemble. I want to start some debate.
Garrett Temple is in the starting lineup. Beal is healthy again and will probably soon overtake his role. Adam McGinnis says JCraw should be the 2nd SG off the bench behind Beal, and that Temple should be relegated to 3rd.
I kind of like this Thabo [Sefolosha]-like role for Temple. He's playing like 15-20 minutes max, and he's basically only in the lineup to establish a defensive presence. Beal comes in, plays most of the minutes, finishes the game with the starters, scores in bunches, and is clearly a better player.
Question: do you want Beal to start again? Do you want Temple to play behind Beal, or do you want JCraw to play behind Beal? Or extra wrinkle: do you want Temple to play behind Wall, relegating Price to 3rd?
BRING THE DEBATE
Jake Whitacre: Easy solution: showcase Crawford until the deadline.
Jeff Newman: I personally like Temple as a swing guard backing up both spots until Crawford gets onboard with how Wittman and the team are trying to play.
Mike Prada: First of all, I definitely think Beal needs to start again. His chemistry with John Wall is just too important to this team's long-term development, and having him play fewer minutes with Wall is not something I want.
However, I am not opposed to keeping Temple in the rotation over Crawford. While Crawford's scoring ability matters, the Wizards have been successful recently because of their ability to be long and quick on the defensive end. With Temple playing on the wing, the Wizards can do far more things with their defensive coverages than with Crawford, who has rated as the team's worst defender in spot-up situations according to their internal metrics. It's nice that Crawford can get buckets, but he also can't defend his position and he takes the Wizards out of their sets. I honestly think the Wizards are better-served with Temple's defense in the rotation at this point
Then again, I also acknowledge that an A.J. Price/Temple/Trevor Ariza perimeter trio is abysmal offensively. Long-term, I think this illustrates the Wizards' need for a combo guard that can run point, hit an open shot and defend at a passable level. Most of the players available this summer are offense-first, which is unfortunate.
But I'll admit to being kind of intrigued by someone like Devin Harris at a reasonable price.
Jake: I agree with Mike that Beal needs to go back into the starting lineup. While I think there's still something to be said for giving Beal some opportunities to play without Wall to broaden his game, it's still vital to get lots of data points on how Wall and Beal work together.
That said, I'm going to diverge from what appears to be the consensus and argue that Jordan Crawford should be getting MORE minutes right now. It's becoming more and more clear that Jordan Crawford doesn't fit into the Wizards' long-term plans, even if you don't add Garrett Temple into the equation. Use these last two games before the trade deadline to give Crawford a chance to get into a quick rhythm and see if you can get anyone interested in making a deal.
After that, then I'm open to the idea of moving Temple into a Sefolosha-esque role off the bench, but Crawford still needs to have some opportunities to boost his value heading into the summer.
JKhan15: Even with Crawford putting up career best shooting numbers, he still doesn't bring enough on offense to offset his other limitations; he's not exactly The Microwave out there. Wall and Nene are doing a nice job facilitating the offense and Beal and Webster are finishing the plays from the perimeter. That means Crawford's scoring and basic facilitation skills aren't as big a need as they were earlier in the season. And seeing as how the team is built on defense, Temple should get the nod over Crawford.
Backup points who do all the things Mike noted are kinda hard to come by. Brooklyn's C.J. Watson has a player option going into next season and could be a cheap option if he opts out.
Mike: Wow, no love for Crawford. Anyone want to argue in Steez's favor?
Jkhan15: Counterpoint: How much god damn defense does the team need? Put Crawford back in.
Mike: A further counterpoint to myself: a Price/Temple/Ariza second unit would be dreadful offensively. Temple with John Wall and Martell Webster at least provides some balance. Temple with Price and Ariza could be horrifying to watch. At least Crawford can sometimes hit difficult shots when spacing breaks down.
Plus, maybe an extended benching convinces Crawford to give more effort defensively. If so, part of the downside to benching him goes away.
Amin: Mike you can't counterpoint yourself. Is that legal? That seems illegal.
I think Crawford's best usage situation would be at the end of a close game, where every possession breaks down into an ISO-situation. Have him bring the ball up, control the clock, get into position, and charge to the basket or take a jumper. He could even find a shooter, especially since his assist numbers were great when Wall was out. The only drawback to this scenario is evidence: the one game where he did this was the double OT game against Brooklyn, and as I wrote then, it went horribly wrong.
So I don't know what to do, really. He's the best ISO scorer on the team, but it's a team that never/shouldn't go ISO. I mean let's be honest, wouldn't we all rather him go ISO than A.J. Price or Trevor Ariza? I guess if the team figures out some alternate sets that focus Crawford, he could be more of an asset. But based on the way the team is playing now and how it appears to be playing going forward, I can't see him fit into the primary rotation.
Former BF editor and email chain lurker Sean Fagan: Crawford is one of the few fungible efforts they have and one of the few sweeteners they can add if they want to rid themselves of Okafor or Ariza. My argument would be to give Crawford his 15 minutes of burn to remind coaches of what he is capable of and then see what you can get by dangling him and ridding yourself of one of your burdensome contracts. There has to be a coach out there like Karl who thinks that under his guidance Crawford could turn in Jamal 3.0. As it is, you are basically giving a ton of minutes to a guy (Temple) who won't even be here next year.
Sorry, point is, no one is going to be banging down the door for Seraphin, Booker or Vesely. So you need Crawford to make the salary dump work. His value atrophies if he rides pine.
Jake: Since you're all scared to say it, I'm just going to throw it out there: Wall-Crawford-Beal-Temple-
Run that unit 48 minutes a night and watch the wins pile up like snow at a snow factory.
Sean: Nightmare 3 guard lineup. Needs more Hinrich.
Jeff: His 28-point performance against the Bucks is as much proof as you need that Beal should be reinserted into the starting lineup alongside Wall. Not only is that the development of that pairing crucial for the Wizards' future, as Mike noted, but it also gives them the best chance to win games in the short-term.
In terms of what to do with Crawford, I think he's earned his spot on the bench through a mind-boggling refusal to fit into what Randy Wittman and the rest of the team is trying to do offensively. Crawford's freelancing, ISO-heavy game made more sense earlier this season when Wall and Nene weren't there to make plays. But even after Wall returned and the offense began to flourish (relatively speaking) behind better ball-movement and improved outside shooting, Crawford stuck to his ISO-guns, and the offense immediately screeched to a halt whenever he entered the game. Coupled with his abhorrent perimeter defense, Steez became near unbearable to watch. I'd prefer bringing Temple off the bench as a swing-guard backing up Wall and Beal (A.J. Price technically has an excellent 3.6/1 AST/TO ratio, but you can basically count every ill-advised 3-pointer he jacks up as an extra turnover). Temple plays within the offense (and himself) and, like Trevor Ariza, gives the team excellent defensive versatility when he's on the floor. However, he's a limited offensive player, so it would be best to ensure he's always playing alongside Beal, Martell Webster or both, so that the team has at least some perimeter shooting on the floor at all times.
This isn't to say that Crawford doesn't have a future on this team. I think he does, assuming he chooses to buy in at some point. We've all seen Crawford score in ways that mirror Beal's game against the Bucks. Let Crawford watch from the bench for some time before playing him in limited minutes to see if the proverbial lights have come on, sort or like what Wittman did with Chris Singleton. If so, the team has regained a valuable bench scorer (but significant defensive liability). If not, best to cut ties before his value plummets any further.
Bullet Nation in Exile: I'm against the idea that Crawford needs to be showcased. NBA GMs know what JCraw can do. Increased playing time a few days before the deadline is a patently obvious ploy to pump up his trade value, especially when he's fallen out of the rotation.
I like Temple in the Sefolosha role. Beal needs to start eventually, but that doesn't have to happen tomorrow. Ted and Co. are playing the long game and I don't see them jeopardizing the team's recent chemistry for a long-shot, small yield trade gambit.
GMs are always looking to score the miscast player, the odd man out and EG can handle those deals. I see Craw's role for now as a situational scorer. The second unit will need his punch, but not at the cost of compromising the identity this team is carving out for itself.
Mike: Alright then. Any final thoughts? Let's close with quick thoughts on this: what does Crawford have to do to get back into the rotation?
Jeff: Buy in. #analysis.
JKhan15: Wait for Beal or Webster to cool off.
Sean: Shop him now, take a contract off you hands.
BNIE: The standard for playing time on the Wizards increases commensurate to the team's winning percentage. Defensive commitment and a willingness on the coaching staff's part to allow him to gamble for steals are probably what it will take add Steez has been more disciplined-ish on the offensive end.
Thomas Pruitt: Quit breaking the offense. Those above-the-break threes are fine when Emeka Okafor is your second option, less so when Wall or Nene are. It's unrealistic to expect Crawford to fundamentally alter his game, so just seeing more hustle on both ends of the floor should be enough to get him back in the palace of good play.
Amin: Crawford has to do the same thing Singleton and Vesely did: find a role and commit to it.
Sean: Is Vesely's role the victory cigar?
Amin: He's two cigars. To the Simpsons quote!
Super [to Patty & Selma]: Ladies, please don't tell me you're smoking in a government building. Because that is precisely the kind of infraction that can cost a couple of sisters their promotion. [they gasp, and stammer]
Homer: [chuckles to himself] [sees Marge looking unhappy] [sighs] I'll never forgive myself for this. [grabs both cigarettes, drags]
Super: Wait a minute! Those are yours, sir?
Homer: [monotone] Yes. [coughs] I am in flavor country.
Super: [skeptical] Both of them?
Homer: [hacks] It's a big country.
Super: Ladies, I apologize. And you, sir, are worse than Hitler. [she slaps him]
What do you think should be done about Jordan Crawford?