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NBA Free Agency 2023: Jae Crowder is more of an idea than an answer

The Mavericks need the player that Crowder used to be.

2023 NBA Playoffs Game Three - Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat Photo by Eric Espada/NBAE via Getty Images

For years, every NBA team has been on the hunt for the elusive 3-and-D wing. Every team needs them, and needs as many as they can get. For a long time, Jae Crowder fit that description. He couldn’t score off the dribble or create his own offense, but he could defend well, switch easily, and could get hot from behind the arc.

The Dallas Mavericks are well aware of his game, having obtained him in a draft day deal in 2012. Crowder was later shipped to the Boston Celtics in the Dwight Powell trade (Rajon Rondo was thrown in as a sweetener) and for the better part of a decade was a perennial character in the playoffs. Crowder has appeared in 111 playoff games since 2014 with the Mavericks, Celtics, Jazz, Bucks, and Suns.

But Crowder, in his second stint with the Bucks this postseason, barely saw the floor. That’s a stunning indictment on Crowder’s ability to play minutes for a contender because a) the Bucks needed all the help they could get in their first round loss to the Heat and b) they traded roughly a million 2nd round picks to acquire him from the Suns. So maybe keep that in mind when considering him as a free agent acquisition for the Mavericks.

The Basics

Crowder is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Conventional wisdom says the Bucks try to bring him back on a very cheap contract, maybe even a veteran’s minimum, considering they did unload a half-decade’s worth of 2nd round picks for him. But they also couldn’t get him on the court when their season was on the line, so maybe they just cut their losses and move on.


Crowder is a big, strong, and crafty defender, even though he’s not what he was in his prime. It’ll be a gamble, but if the Mavericks’ scouting department feels like Crowder was just rusty from his extended time off, it might be worth it to have a veteran wing with some size on the floor for Dallas.

Crowder can also shoot—sometimes. He shot 44 percent from behind the arc last season, albeit in a small sample of just 18 games. The season before, he hit 35 percent of his threes, around league average, and in 2020-21, when the Suns made the Finals, Crowder shot 39 percent from deep. But he’s also got some years in Utah when he only hit 31 percent of his 3-pointers. His shot comes and goes, and if the Mavericks signed him, they would just have to hope his threes fall at the right time.


As mentioned above, Crowder’s shot is streaky, or at times, downright nonexistent. And if his shot isn’t falling, there’s not much else he does that generates offense. He’s a decent passer, but doesn’t have kind of vision that can overcome an inability to hit shots.

There’s also concerns about Crowder’s health. He’s 32, and played almost a season and a half worth of playoff games. Can he stay healthy for an entire season plus a postseason run? Is his defense slipping as his body wears down from numerous playoff battles? It’s possible, and something the Mavericks have to consider.

Fit with the Mavericks

If Dallas gets the 2021-22 version of Crowder, the fit is perfect. They don’t even need him to hit 3-pointers at a high percentage, just league average, so that defenders respect him on the perimeter. And if he can provide wing defense for 15-20 minutes per game along with handing out veteran wisdom to a relatively inexperienced team, Crowder would be the perfect fit. The only question is whether that player is still inside him somewhere. Recent play says no, but the Mavericks might need to take that risk, especially if Crowder can be brought on with a minimum contract.