One Play Counts: Jamal Crawford

This play is from the Boston game on November 18th, and as soon as it happened I had wanted to talk about it. Unfortunately by the time I got the video/screen shots together Jamal had already been traded. So with the Warriors coming into town on Sunday, I’ve decided to publish it.

Knicks at Boston, 1:15 2nd quarter 11/18/2008

On this play Jamal Crawford (denoted by “J”) is guarding Ray Allen (denoted by the brown circle). Behind him in the post is Wilson Chandler (denoted by “W”) on Leon Powe. Powe comes around to set a pick on Crawford.

Powe sets the pick & Crawford gets swallowed by it. Chandler is forced to switch and guard Allen. At the free throw line is Zach Randolph who sees the switch and makes the decision to move back to cover Powe. Zach Randolph’s current assignment is Big Baby Davis who is at the top of the key.

With Zach Randolph dropping back to cover Powe, Jamal Crawford is left guarding nobody. He tries to get back to his man Ray Allen, but Crawford has a lot of ground to makeup. However due to Randolph’s switch Big Baby is free to set a pick on Chandler. Look at him in this photo, he looks like an offensive lineman dropping back for pass coverage.

Chandler is unable to get around Big Baby and Allen is free. What should Crawford do in this situation? He should head under the screen and across the court to the free throw line to cut off Allen from having a wide open look at the basket. (Crawford’s suggested route is shown by the arrow.)

Notice that none of the other Knicks are in a position to help. Chandler is stuck with Big Baby, and if any of the other Knicks on the strong side help, the Celtics are either going to have an easy bucket in the paint or a wide open three.

So what does Crawford do?

He stays on the weak side and lazily heads to the baseline. It’s not as obvious in the photos, but if you watch the video, he just gives up on the play. It’s like there’s an invisible barrier that prevents him from crossing over the paint to the strong side. Allen drains a wide open jumper at the free throw line for an easy 2 points.

Look at a comparison between where Crawford should have gone & where he actually went.

Who is he attempting to guard? Powe is the closest person & he’s taken by Randolph. Does Crawford expect to guard Powe 4 feet from the hoop? And if so Randolph is the furthest from the ball at this time in the play.

Looking back at the play it all begins with Crawford’s inability to deal with the pick by Powe. He neither goes over or under it, but instead runs into it. If I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt I could say that perhaps Chandler didn’t call it out & Crawford was unaware. Earlier this year the Knicks Blog was keeping track of which guards go over/under screens. Of the 40 picks that were set on Crawford, he managed to go over only on 4 of them. Compare to Duhon (52 of 59) and Robinson (8 of 42), and it’s clear that the pick & roll is a major weakness with Crawford. Additionally this is something Knick fans, myself included, have noticed for years.

But failing to defend the pick & roll isn’t Crawford’s only folly. He makes things worse by just giving up on the play. Jamal makes no attempt to challenge Allen after Chandler gets picked. He just leaves Ray Allen wide open for an easy jumper. It’s Crawford’s lack of effort in multiple areas that has made him a poor defender over the course of his career.

[BTW I’d like to give mad props to Gian of SevenSecondsOrMess. I can’t tell how time consuming this activity was, and I didn’t even do a full video with cool graphics and a voice over.]

Knicks 96, Pistons 110 (Thoughts On the New Guys)

Tim Thomas: How soon we forget. During yesterday’s game a Piston shot missed off the rim & slowly dribbled to the sideline. Tim Thomas watched the bouncing ball and instead of securing the rebound, he allowed the Pistons to get the ball & keep the possession. The NBA’s version of Cpl. Upham he’ll just cower in the corner and watch as the other team stabs you right in the heart.

Al Harrington: It’s only two games in, and I’m really not impressed. Al Harrington’s shot selection makes Jamal Crawford’s shot selection look like David Lee’s. Al Harrington’s passing ability makes Wilson Chandler look like Chris Duhon. The arc on Al Harrington’s shot makes Steve Francis’ arc look like Nate Robinson’s. Al Harrington’s rebounding ability makes Eddy Curry look like, ok it’s not that bad.

He should be better than this. And I understand that’s he’s rusty, not only adjusting to a new team but adjusting to playing in general (he sat out 8 games on the season). But 38 points on 40 shots? Over his career the ratio is 16 points per 13.8 shots, so it should get better. It was just really tough to watch him take 24 shots against the Pistons, double that of the next teammate (Wilson Chandler took 12 shots that game). Somewhere I was hoping he would develop a conscience.

Boy I can’t wait until these guys get some practice under their belt…


A few Knicks-related things (and non-Knicks-related things) to be thankful for this holiday season:

1. Hope – at this moment I would put the probability of signing LeBron James in 2010 at just under 50%. So much can happen between now and then. Even if Bron Bron never signs with the Knicks, sound fiscal decision-making is an unambiguous good. If the prospect of getting him inspires this franchise to do the right thing then thanks LeBron.

2. Ill Will – The last of Zeke’s draft picks has shown substantial promise alongside some significant flaws. What I’m thankful for is that in a season that for all practical purposes is lost, Chandler’s development provides a reason to watch.

3. The KB staff – I might have completely lost interest in the Knicks by now were it not for you guys. The level of discourse and the quality of insight here is still fantastic. In a similar vein I should highlight Metsblog and Field Gulls for helping me to maintain my sanity in a maddeningly disappointing sports year. (Hat tip to a recent discovery Rock M Nation for bringing first rate analysis of my Alma mater. Go Tigers! Beat Kansas–and whoever the hell comes out of the Big 12 South!)

4. The KB readers – You guys are the best.

5. Leon Lett – Lett’s turkey day foible is as much a part of Thanksgiving as these guys.

J C Ya

Ahhh Jamal Crawford we knew ye well. Crawford came to New York in a sign & trade with Chicago in 2004. It was one Isiah’s early moves, and I didn’t say much at the time of the trade:

In Crawford, New York gets insurance for Allan Houston, and I’m guessing will be his eventual replacement. (Or else why would the Knicks sign him for so long?) Crawford isn’t nearly the shooter that Houston is, but is able to play the point as well.

Back in 2004 New York’s options at shooting guard were an injured Allan Houston, Shandon Anderson, and Penny Hardaway. So there was a need to stabilize the position. Crawford had a good amount of promise to the naked eye. He had just come off his first starting season for the Bulls at the age of 23. He was a combo guard that could score and run the point.

But less than a month in a Knick uniform, it was easy to spot Crawford’s flaws:

Thankfully, the primary backup for Marbury is the Knicks’ new acquisition Jamal Crawford (16.1, 21.6, +2.4). He has been good offensively, but his defense is porous. Crawford’s thin frame is ill-suited to fight through picks, and too fragile to slow down a drive once the other team gets a step on him. Jamal has an excellent handle, but there is nothing more frustrating than having Crawford settling for a jumper (which comprise 82% of his shots), after he’s faked his defender with a series of fancy dribbles. Crawford should force the issue towards the basket with his great passing and dribbling skills. In addition, he’d do well getting fouled driving to the hoop, since the guy makes a free throw shot look like a layup (86% FT).

Crawford’s only 24, so I hope the Knicks coaching staff can get Jamal to produce a little more before he becomes set in his ways. For someone that will likely be in New York for the next 7 years, I’d like for him to be able to give us a little more production, either on offense and defense. He has excellent skills to build on: quickness, dribbling, a good shot, and that three point buzzer beater shows his confidence. He just needs to be smarter with his shot, and work on his defensive fundamentals. The Knicks announcers always make me chuckle with the line “he gets his hands on a lot of balls”, and Crawford’s one positive aspect on defense is creating turnovers (2.1 STL per 40 minutes).

Comparing Jamal Crawford’s first year as a Knick and to his last full year shows little development. The only real improvement he made was getting to the free throw line more often. But even that gain was offset by his drops in steals, blocks, and rebounds. And his defense has always been awful.

24 NYK 70 14.7 0.398 6.9 0.361 2.9 0.843 2.7 4 1.2 0.3 2 16.6 15.2 0.521 0.483
27 NYK 80 15.7 0.41 5.6 0.356 4.3 0.864 2.3 4.5 0.9 0.2 2.2 18.6 16 0.528 0.473

Crawford was the kind of player people either loved or hated. His dribble and ability to get open made him look like an All Star at times. His love for the fade away jumper and one dimensional game drove others crazy. Some will always remember Crawford’s time in a Knick uniform by his inability to fight through a pick. Others will think about his 52 point game against the Heat.

It was unlikely that Crawford was going to be a part of the Knicks’ future. His $10M in 2011 was probably more an impediment to getting a superstar in New York than a bonus. Shooting guards that score and don’t defend aren’t too hard to find. Certainly you can get one for under $10M a season. Jamal didn’t fit the mold of a D’Antoni player. He liked to hold the ball, a cardinal sin in the seven second offense. And he wasn’t a great spot-up shooter, another requisite for a D’Antoni guard.

For most of his career he has been the #1 or #2 scoring option on his team, and his career record is 168-375 (31%). Crawford is the NBA’s version of baseball’s innings eater. A player who can provide scoring for a mediocre club, but not someone you’d want to use as a major cog on a championship team.