When it comes to some players, there is no way to discuss them rationally. With the staff of Mavs Moneyball, that player is Jae Crowder. He's either a player who has yet to reach his potential or a brick laying minute vacuum, who hurts more than he helps.
Crowder is a second year player, drafted 34th over all by the Mavericks in the 2012 draft. In his rookie season he played a little over 17 minutes per game while averaging five points and a hair under two rebounds a game. His numbers grossly misrepresent his role with the 2012-2013 Mavericks. Due to injuries, he was thrown into the fire early, getting minutes immediately and along with the occasional start.
It's hard to decide if his rookie campaign was successful. On the one hand, he got consistent minutes, playing in 78 of 82 games along with 16 starts. On the other hand, he shot an atrocious 38% from the field, rebounded very poorly, and generally got lit on fire by an opposing team's small forward. His numbers aren't terrible, but they aren't very good either. He neither hurt nor helped Dallas. He mainly existed. I can't figure out if that's a good sign or a bad one.
Crowder's per game stats (scroll for more)
Crowders per 36 minutes stats (scroll for more)
So what can we expect from Crowder? Ideally, he becomes a classic "three and D" type player, which is to say he becomes a glue guy for Dallas. He has the body type to defend the high scoring forwards of the league. Though he only played a few summer league games, I came away very impressed by his footwork and his effort. He's not as tall as his listed 6'6", but he's got a strong frame and has excellent anticipation. He got eaten up as a rookie, but the small forward position is perhaps the most talented position in the league.
Where the "three and D" player type becomes a problem is in the shooting department. Crowder was nothing short of atrocious last season, particularly from deep. Though he hit a fairly average 33% from beyond the arc, it is where those shots were coming from that causes concern. Take a look:
He loves the "above the break" three, which is a longer shot. He's also terrible at them, hitting 28.2% while taking 145 of them over the season. Crowder is much better at the corner three; he hit 52% but the sample size is much smaller since he only took 45 shots from those areas last year. He was also terrible from just about everywhere else, but I expect those midrange shots will be few and far between this season.
His play at Summer League didn't assuage the shooting fears either. While he played spectacular defense, he shot 3 for 19 from deep before hurting his ankle. Though he's much better than a 16% three point shooter, it's hard to say what sort of shooting ceiling he has. Many of his shots last season where terrible, either because of his form or his decision making, often taking pull up threes off of the dribble. The length of the NBA three seemed to bother him, but there's usually an adjustment period for any college player. How he shoots, when he shoots and where he shoots it from are the biggest questions marks for Crowder as he enters his second season.
Though he mainly spent time at small forward last year, necessity forced him to play some shooting guard and a little bit of power forward, depending on the situation. With the glut of guards on the current roster, he should see virtually all of his minutes at the back up small forward spot, relieving Shawn Marion for 15-20 minutes a game. Crowder must defend and also rebound; the latter area being a particular weakness for someone with such an imposing frame.
Hit open shots, defend hard, and make smart basketball decisions. A simple check list that will be hard to complete. Crowder isn't a key player for Dallas in 2013-14, but steady play from him will help Dallas make a push for the playoffs. He's technically in the final year of his contract, as the Mavericks have a team option they can green light next off-season. This season is key for his development and in order to make an impact on a restructured front office. Jae Crowder has all the tools to become a consistent part of an NBA rotation. It's up to him to take advantage of the situation presented to him this season.