The offseason is coming.
The dialogue here on Moneyball has increasingly become one of future plans and assets, especially since the season ending loss to the Lakers last week. We've already done a roundtable on Wright, our most tantalizing asset, and said quite a bit about Mayo (with more still to come), but we have yet to really talk about Carlisle's favorite rookie. Jae Crowder has been both a source of hope and real hair pulling frustration this season, really as polarizing a player as rookies get. Here's some thoughts on Crowder from the writing staff.
What's Crowder's role on the team right now? Is it a good or bad one?
Andy: Ovinton J'aenthony Crowder. Well, well, well, what can we say about him? Crowder and Bernard James were probably the first Mavs' draft picks in a decade who were picked with the right draft picks. The fact that a lot was expected of Crowder has everything to do with how little this team has in the way of young talent, and nothing to do with what should be expected from an early 2nd round pick.
That being said, the thing that made Crowder's case unique was that he was the first rookie that Coach Carlisle has ever given significant minutes, as near as I can tell, and the only player besides Mike James that Carlisle has played consistently despite a supreme lack of results. Which is crazy, because if you ignore the fact that Crowder is a rook, he has been a complete offensive disaster. Sub 40% shooting. 2.4 boards, 1.2 assists. 5.3 points per game in nearly 18 minutes a game. And despite the narratives of progress which start to show up around this point in the year, he hasn't really gotten more productive. In March he averaged 21 minutes, 41% shooting and 5.1 points a game.
Kirk: His role has adapted to fit the team's situation. When Marion is available, Crowder's main role is to steal minutes at the two guard and small forward position, play defense on the opposing team's best scorer, move the ball on offense, and hit open shots. When Marion's not available, Crowder's minutes sky rocket and he's forced to both play defense and take on a bit more of a scoring role. I'm not sure how I feel about his role because I'm still not sure what he's good at on a basketball court. He can't guard bigger players yet, he doesn't like to attack the rim, and, until recently, has settled on long jumpers far too much.
Hal: I think it's interesting that Crowder is one of the Mavs' only real "role players." Other than Marion and maybe Brand -- to the extent that Brand is a defensive specialist -- we don't really have anyone else who we expect to only do a limited selection of things. I think the reason that I like Crowder as much as I do is that he's fully aware of his role: three-point specialist, perimeter defensive guru (and I don't use the word guru lightly, but I swear, he's the only one on the squad who rotates the right way when Brand isn't in), and occasional cutter.
What's his value, both now and going forward?
Andy: It's really hard to say. Crowder is a good three-point shooter, and presumably he'll get better at that, but if he doesn't board, score inside, or play elite defense, the Mavs might as well get somebody like Anthony Morrow out there who is REALLY good at shooting the three. But, let's assume Carlisle is smarter than I am about basketball (and he certainly is), and let's assume Crowder has already mastered things like defensive positioning and awareness. They will be great building blocks for him if he rebounds better and diversifies his offensive game.
Hal: I think Crowder's value lies almost entirely in his awareness of his role on the team. He knows that he's on the team entirely to put in 15-25 minutes of spot up threes, ragged defense, and enough cuts to keep defenses wary. That type of awareness is pretty rare even in a lot of veteran players, let alone a rookie. The fact that his three point shooting is as bad as it is for a "three-point specialist" is troubling, but his shot and shot selection will certainly get better with time, and it's hard to teach Crowder's level of role awareness. Not to mention the value of the spacing he creates on both sides of the court that the Mavs always seem to need pretty desperately.
Kirk: He's a fringe rotation player, so when we combine that with his inexpensive contract, he's more valuable to the Mavericks than he is to other teams. Long term, his value depends on his development. If he can guard small forwards along with two guards I think his value is that of a top eight rotation player and fringe starter. If Dallas wants him, they should be able to keep him for a relatively good deal.
How do you see Crowder developing over the next few years?
Kirk: His current strengths are shooting corner threes, playing defense on smaller or equal sized players, and moving the ball on offense. Given his body type, I think he can improve both offensively and defensively. Offensively, he needs to spend the summer doing two things: One, watching tape of Shawn Marion moving without the ball on offensive and two, attacking the rim. Crowder does an ungodly amount of standing along the perimeter because he has too much confidence in his jump shot. Given how strong he is, I'd love to see him cut in the lane and take it to the rim much more often. Defensively, he needs to figure out how to guard larger players. Early in the season, Carlisle matched Crowder up against some of the league's best small forwards, and Crowder got eaten alive. I think he can learn what it takes to guard larger players, because his defensive footwork and instincts are already there.
Tim: Considering that Crowder makes 34% of his three pointers with a shot release that's entirely too flat, I feel pretty confident that a summer with shooting coaches will result in an improved jump shot moving forward. The Mavericks could use a guy who can drill from the corners, and surprisingly, that might be more about mentality than execution. Via NBA.com, Crowder has hit 52% from each corner this year, but has only 12.5% of his overall shots come from the short porch. 40% of his shots are non-corner three pointers, but he only hits 29% from there. Basically, Crowder doesn't take enough shots he can hit at a high clip (corner 3's and drives) while taking too many shots that are low percentage for him. He's a smart player and he'll figure all that out sooner than later.
Andy: Well, probably longer hair, a few more pounds of muscle. Beyond that, his shot selection is like a drunk, evil Darwin on the basketball court. The question is whether trying to teach him shot selection is going to ruin his life, like it did Roddy's, or transform him into a solid contributor. We'll see.
Do you think that he's worth keeping and developing under the Mavs, or is our interest primarily as a trade asset at this point?
Hal: I actually think Crowder is worth keeping even more than Wright, or Mayo, or anyone like that. I doubt too many people would argue with me if I said that Marion is probably the Mavs' second most valuable asset behind Dirk, and I really see Crowder developing a Marion-like value as he improves on both sides of the ball. Crowder's perimeter defense has already been better than Marion's at times this season, and if he could turn into a real 3-point threat he'd be downright dangerous with a squad like this years'.
Kirk: Yes, he's definitely worth keeping. He's maddened both me and Andy a lot this year, but finding a rotation player in the second round is the whole point of having a second round. Most picks are gambles past about pick 15, and in the case of Crowder, this is the very first time in years that a pick for Dallas can actually play basketball. His contract is too small for it to be used as anything other than trade filler right now, making him more valuable to Dallas than anyone else. They have to keep him and develop him. Once he's resigned to a larger contract after next season, then we can talk about whether he's worth keeping, because at that point he should be a rotation player with a reasonable deal.
Tim: The Mavericks don't have to be the Spurs, but it'd be hella nice to actually properly develop a late draft pick. Jae Crowder has all the tools duplicate the success San Antonio had with Danny Green and DeJuan Blair (he's regressed but still a good bench player). Really, I'd argue that all he needs is a slightly different offensive mindset and, when you throw in his full year of experience, he'll be able to be a role player that the Mavericks rely on.
Andy: One of the things Mavs fans really need to get a grip on is that crappy players for us make crappy trade chips. This has been somewhat forgotten (note the number number of "Roddy and Wright for DeMarcus Cousins" plans we read around the trade deadline). If he's not worth keeping and developing, he's not worth anything as a trade asset. This is also known as "you gotta spend money to make money", in other fields. Might as well see if he can make strides next year, and if not, shoot him into space or whatever. The Mavs are going to need young contributors and if they can't be magicked into being, they might as well be found among what the Mavericks have, if they can be found at all.