"Trouble is like a cancer, you got to get it early. You don't get it early, it gets too big, then it kills you. You got to cut it out. Capice?" -- Sonny, A Bronx Tale
The Washington Wizards' move to trade Jordan Crawford to the Boston Celtics is, from a basketball perspective, about as simple as it gets. The team traded one guy who doesn't play for one who can't and another who shouldn't. Despite trading their perfectly healthy third leading scorer, the Washington Wizards of next week are going to be exactly as good as the Washington Wizards as last week.
The problem with dealing Crawford for scraps isn't so much that he's worth more than what Washington got, it's that Washington allowed him to be devalued to the point where the gruesome twosome of Jason Collins and Leandro Barbosa was the best the front office could do. As he so famously reminded the world a few weeks ago, Crawford averaged 19 points, five rebounds and six assists for the month of December. Regardless of his efficiency or lack thereof, there aren't too many players on their rookie deals that are capable of producing at that level.
Crawford is a rarity in that he's either very good or very bad at almost everything. Crawford is a terrible defender by almost any metric, one of the worst shooters in the NBA from above the break on the left side of the floor, horribly inefficient and overly prone to turnovers. He's also an excellent finisher for a shooting guard (62 percent shooting at the rim), one of the NBA's best midrange shooters (48 percent shooting from 10 to 15 feet), a sniper from behind the arc on the right side of the court, uses a ton of possessions, is one of the better assist men at his position and is the league's 10th-most effective scorer in isolations according to MySynergySports.com.
A player with as many NBA-caliber skills as Crawford would typically have a very bright future. All he needs to do in order to become a legitimate starting shooting guard or decent sixth man is round out the rough edges in his game. He's not like Jan Vesely in that the coaching staff needs to teach him how to shoot, dribble and rebound; he just needs to stop taking horrible shots and show some effort on defense. That the organization was unable to get him to make these simple changes to his game and return to the bench role that he was brought to the team to fill is troubling. How can fans have any faith in the Ten Point Plan if the team is unable to develop young talent?
That's not to say that it was a bad decision to cut bait once the damage had been done. Despite all of the obstacles thrown in the team's way this year, Randy Wittman has the Wizards buying in to his system and committed to team-oriented basketball. It can take one bad apple to spoil a bunch, and Crawford seemed to be becoming dangerously close to a problem. Getting rid of him will likely keep the team's effort level, discipline and professionalism at their currently high levels. No one, and I mean no one, wants a return to the days of Andray Blatche screaming at teammates at Shadow Room and Javale McGee attempting to dunk from the free throw line. If Crawford can get away with taking 30 footers off the dribble, there's no way that the coaching staff can maintain any kind of credibility, especially when dealing with a player like John Wall who actually does have the necessary clout to get away with that stuff if he really wants to.
Trading Crawford was understandable in the moment, even if the players the team acquired were the wrong ones. Fab Melo or a draft pick would have been nice and at least something of value.
It would be even nicer, though, if Washington could find a way to reach problem players instead of having to trade them for pennies on the dollar.