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2020 Free Agency: Would a Jae Crowder homecoming work?

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Do you think the wing deserves another shot in Dallas?

2020 NBA Finals - Game Three Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After starting his career in Dallas, Jae Crowder is coming off one of his best seasons in years. After an incredible stretch of deep shooting and versatile defense, Crowder was undoubtedly valuable to a Miami Heat team that just competed in the NBA Finals. Now, an unrestricted free agent, Crowder has the freedom to sign where he chooses. Could it be Dallas?

The Basics

Crowder just had a really strong end-of-season stretch after being traded to the Heat. In just 20 games in Miami, he averaged 11.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game, all on 44.5 percent shooting from deep and 48.2 percent shooting overall. It was undoubtedly a small sample size, but Crowder really looked like the impactful role player he once was for the Utah Jazz.

The forward is also coming off the highest salary he’s earned since being in the league — $7,815,533. The Mavericks have the mid-level exception to use at $9.3 million. Is that enough for a guy in Crowder who’s looking for what could be his largest payday?

Strengths

Crowder is one of the most versatile wing defenders in the league. At 6-foot-6, Crowder’s strength allows him to defend the perimeter and the post. He’s never really been a guy to provide an impact on the defensive end through the box score, averaging just 1.3 STOCKs (steals + blocks) per game through his career. Despite the lack of numbers, he has still proven himself to be an effective defender by affecting shots.

All data derived from NBA.com/Stats matchup tool

Crowder also does a lot for offense. For a wing, he has shown flashes of being a very good pick-and-roll ball handler. When he played in Memphis last season, he averaged 0.98 points per possession running the pick-and-roll, placing him in the league’s 82.6 percentile of that play type. It was a small sample size at just 50 pick-and-rolls ran over 45 games, but it’s perhaps a glimpse of another tool he could use more often.

Weaknesses

Crowder has always struggled to produce on offense consistently. Some nights he shows up and produces as advertised, some nights he does more, and some nights he disappears. Volatility is a normal part of basketball, but it’s an especially apparent hurdle for Crowder, who had more games below his scoring average (10.2 PPG) than above it last season.

The deep shot is also hit or miss for Crowder. He shot 44.5 percent on 128 three-pointers attempted during his time in Miami, but hasn’t shot above 35 percent over a whole season since 2016-17. It’s bad news when the shot isn’t falling for a guy who relies on deep shots and the paint for practically all of his scoring.

Fit with the Mavericks

The Mavericks need wings, that should be an observation of universal agreement. Should Crowder be the priority to fill that need? Probably not.

Crowder’s well-documented inconsistencies make me worried about using a contact on him. Sure, he has a number of good games a season where he’s making shots and defending star players. But other nights he seemingly becomes invisible, and the Mavericks can’t afford another player who struggles to produce.

Usually I’m of the mindset that putting a player like this next to Luka Doncic would solve a lot of issues. But Crowder averaged only 8.6 points per game playing alongside LeBron James in 2016-17, the fewest he had averaged since he was a Maverick. This is a dice roll where the risk far outweighs the reward.