Knicks 2007 Report Card (A to Z): Jamal Crawford

KnickerBlogger: In November of 2004, I wrote this about Jamal Crawford:

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.

Three years later, and Crawford is still the same poor shot maker he was when he first arrived in New York. Last year Larry Brown seemed to recognize this and curtailed some of Crawford’s wildness. Under Brown, Crawford attempted the fewest shots per minute and had the highest TS% of his career. However under Isiah Thomas, Crawford reverted to his old self, making 2006 an aberration instead of a breakthrough. Last year among Knick guards, Crawford finished behind Marbury, Robinson, and Francis in both eFG% & TS%. He only edged out Mardy Collins, who has no jumpshot whatsoever. Despite his lack of efficiency on offense, Crawford led the Knicks with 16.1 FGA/40min.

On the positive side, Crawford’s familiarity with Curry allows him to feed the big guy in the post better than any of the other Knick guards. Crawford has the best handle and passing ability of the Knick guards. And he is fearless when it comes to taking shots.

On the negative side, Crawford hasn’t developed in the years you’d expect a player to realize his potential. Except for his age, everything I wrote about him three years ago still applies today. In just about every major category, except for free throws, Jamal Crawford has either stayed about the same or gotten worse since his last season in Chicago.

Per Minute eFG pts ast reb stl blk to fta
2004 0.449 19.7 5.8 4 1.6 0.4 2.7 3.4
2005 0.483 18.5 4.5 3 1.4 0.3 2.2 3.2
2006 0.474 17.7 4.7 3.9 1.4 0.2 2.7 5.6
2007 0.458 18.9 4.7 3.4 1 0.1 2.9 4.9

Crawford doesn’t earn a strong grade from my perspective because of the lack of game to game consistency from him. In consecutive games after his 52 point outburst, he only managed to make 9 of 24 shots and 5 of 15 shots. Prior to that 52 point game, he had a streak from January 5th through the 19th of 6 straight games where he connected on a pitiful 33% or less of his attempts.

The human mind is an interesting thing. We tend to remember strongly the very positive events (50 point games, game winning shots, flashy moves) or the very negative events (fights, Charles Smith). But we are poor at remembering the events that fall in between those two extremes. In other words humans are naturally bad at calculating probabilities (gambling, sports averages, lotto). Some may be shocked at my poor evaluation of Crawford, because he’s had his fair share of game winning shots, crossovers, and scoring outbursts. But the truth is he’s an inconsistent shooter who hurts his team more nights than he helps them.

KnickerBlogger’s Grade: C-

2008 Outlook: A scorpion wishes to cross a river, but is unable to swim. He sees a frog in the water and asks the frog for help. The frog is hesitant, since the scorpion’s sting would kill the frog. The scorpion pleads with the frog and tells the frog not to worry, that if he stung the frog, both of them would drown. With that logic in mind, the frog agrees and lets the scorpion climb onto his back. Half way across the river, the scorpion stings the frog. When the frog asks why he doomed both of them, the scorpion replies “I can’t help it, I’m a scorpion.”

Since the Knicks acquired Crawford, I’ve wondered when he would become a smarter shooter. At this point I’m ready to conclude that like the scorpion, Crawford is either unable or unwilling to change who he is. Since he’s so inefficient, the Knicks would be smart to reduce either the amount of shots he takes or his playing time. He’s probably best suited coming off the bench, like he began 2007. But more than likely he’ll enter the 2008 in the Knicks’ starting rotation.

Michael Zannettis: Not only does the human brain cling onto extreme experiences, but even in the face of a damning criticism it holds onto whatever slight glimmer of hope it can imagine. I agree with Crawford’s report card, especially the grim outlook for his remaining Knick career. That being said, to say that Crawford is the best post-feeding guard on the entire Knicks’ roster is true…because someone has to be. The fact that Crawford “can” pass is made completely insignificant for the simple matter that he “won’t” pass.

Dave Crockett: I can’t help but agree with KB’s evaluation. Although I enjoy watching Crawford, whose game has a certain elegance, an aesthetic quality that can be a real pleasure, he is one of the most frustrating players on the roster. The gap between his dizzying array of skills and spotty production is as wide as anyone’s on the team. What is frustrating is that the kid is not uncoachable. The only year he got good coaching, under Brown, he seemed to take to Brown’s vision of turning him into more of a Rip Hamilton-style guard: more curls, fewer isolations and 3pt shots. Indeed his aberrant good-shooting year under Brown was, as I recall, due almost entirely to taking fewer 3pt attempts.

Thomas’ failure to build on what Larry Brown began with Crawford is to my mind his biggest player development failure–and I tend to think player development is one of his strengths. But Thomas legitimately blew it with Crawford this year by explicitly repudiated Brown’s vision for him, encouraging him to return to his 18-crossover, freelancing ways. (This is ironic considering that Thomas eventually wised up and basically embraced Brown’s vision for a more disciplined Stephon Marbury.) So, although I agree with the grade I have to give part of it to Thomas.

One matter I will quibble with a bit is Michael’s assertion that Crawford won’t pass. His career assist rate is 20.5. This past season’s 18.2 was a career low for him. He’s not a gifted passer but he’s certainly no Ben Gordon. His passing isn’t a liability. The bigger issues are that his usage rate is too high and he’s turnover prone. I think we can all agree though that with Crawford less would be more in 07-08.

Brian Cronin – I differ from KB in the sense that I think Crawford HAS changed from three years ago, if only because of his one season with Brown. Had that season never existed, then sure, I’d definitely agree that Crawford will never learn – but since we saw that he actually CAN play the “right” way, I think that is a nice sign for his future progress. He will most likely never capitalize upon it, but the option is there, and I do not know if I ever thought it WAS there before Brown came to the Knicks.

I also am looking forward to Crawford in 2007-08 because I am foolish enough to think that having seen the Knicks play for a season, Thomas will realize how to best use Crawford.

Anyhow, I think Crawford was basically a little better than the median NBA player last season (even though his PER dipped below “league average” for the first time since his rookie season), so I’d give him a slightly higher grade – I’d view him as a C+.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

30 thoughts to “Knicks 2007 Report Card (A to Z): Jamal Crawford”

  1. All of the analysis above is very perceptive, but how does it square with Crawford’s apparently outsized value to the team? After he went down, the season was irreparably lost.

  2. The problem with Crawford is that we have too many players like him. We have way too many shoot first players and I think that hurts guys like Crawford. I feel he is a lot like Starks, not as good and does not play D, but in the same mold. During the Starks era, there was not any players comparable to him playing his position. If Starks had a bad night, they would continually jam it into Ewing and make him be the main focal point. But, if Starks was on, BOMBS AWAY! God I miss that. Anyway, with having the likes of Francis, Nate, and Marbury (not as evident after January) playing with Crawford, it hurts b/c they basically compete with each other for their padding stats. If Q could just stay healthy for a while, he would compliment Crawford as much as he would compliment Q. They are two different types of players that can be effective playing 20-24 mins a game. Crawford is not a 40 min/game guy. IT needs to realize this. Crawford likes to take the big shot and he more often than usual he will hit it, but he is very erratic. He should not be in the game if he is cold b/c he is a huge liability on D. But with the Starks analogy, let him go off if he is hot, but IT should not be afraid to pull him if he is throwing up wild shots. Personally, I do not think Crawford can play in a structured O b/c he is just too damn wild. The sad thing is that he could probably have a game like Rip Hamilton, but I think he is not disciplined enough to pull it off. Therefore, I agree with Knickerblogger’s assessment b/c he does have tremendous upside to improve, he just never will and he will always be a feast or famine player like Starks, but not nearly as good holistically.

  3. Marc, I think the loss of David Lee was a wee bit more important than the loss of Crawford. With the way he was playing this year, its very easy to make the argument that him going down should have helped the knicks.

    Excellent posts guys. I wholeheartedly agree with your evaluation. The basic conundrum here, as you say, is how the player who takes the most shots on the team also can have the lowest TS% amongst the starters. That doesn’t make any sense.

    The Wages of Wins data, which i even more fond of lately, backs up your analysis. Jamal Crawford was a .019 this year, where .100 is average. So not good. Steph was a .059 by contrast. But Craw has shown he can be productive. He was at a .109 last year, or slightly better than average, which is actually pretty good for an NBA guard not named Nash, Paul, Bryant, Wade, Ginobili, or Kidd. Tony Parker this year was a .147. Deron Williams was a .122. So at least some data shows that he can play pretty well.

    The preponderance of evidence does show though that Crawford isn’t likely to ever be a great player, but if Isaiah can swallow his pride and use him as Brown did, there may be value to salvage there.

    BTW, its just killing me that R comes before U in the alphabet, I can’t wait for next week…

  4. Jamal is a 1000 times better player than Starks TALENT wise. His propensity for making the big shot at the end of games shows that he even has a similar mental toughness. He’s also a composed, intelligent person who is receptive to coaching. SO WHAT IS HIS PROBLEM?

    If you watch him play instead of looking at his numbers, you see a gifted and very exciting player. His numbers, however, tell a very different story. This is what frustrates his fans.

    Starks and Crawford should have no business being in the same conversation except as opposites– Starks made the most out of very little, gutting out a great career that he had no business having; Crawford has the most athletic physical makeup of any knick, yet he realistically can’t break the starting lineup of a team that loses 50 games regularly…

    What hurts most about Jamal is that all throughout the Riley/Van Gundy era the Knicks needed one athletic player who could create his own shot at the end of games. That player would have put them over the top that they hovered just below.

    Now we have that player, and all we can do is think about what could have been, and what still fails to be…

  5. Crawford is one of those guys who does a lot of stuff on the court, scores, assists some boards, some steals. You watch the game thinking he must be good, but once you look at other players, his contributions don’t really stand out.

    If he had a signature skill, defense, court vision, outside shooting his value would improve. While the Mardy Collins discussion agrued about learning outside shooting – I think for Jamal we can assume he wont. He’s 26, has played 7 years and almost 14,000 minutes. He is what he is. The real question with Jamal is that if he losses half a step – when will his game totally disappear.

  6. The thing with Jamal Crawford is he does have the ability to average 25 points a game, and when his outside shot isn’t falling he can take it to the hole and get free throws. Think of Jamal as the 3rd guard, behind Marbury and a shooting guard they have to acquire (Kobe, Rudy Fernandez from the draft, Morris Almond, etc…), he could be an excellent option and score a solid 15 points in 25 minutes a night a la Leandro Barbosa or Manu Ginobili this season.

  7. Hudson – What do you mean he has the ability to average 25 points per game? I mean almost any shooting guard in the league could average 25 if he took enough shots.

    I would never mention Crawford in the same breath as Barbosa or especially Ginobili, who is one of the best and most underrated players in the league, probably the best 2 guard in the league actually. I would rather have him than Kobe. Barbosa had a ts% of 59.5 this year, more that eight percent higher than Crawford. Ginobili was at 60.9. Both much much better than Crawford, who had a career high of just 54.4 last year in that dept.

    anyway, fwiw…

  8. By the ability to score 25 points per game I meant do it consitently over an 82 game season; guys like Fred Hoiberg, Kareem Rush, Veshaun Lenard, Howard Eisley (No idea why those names came to mind) or basically majority of the league, cannot do that. He could be a scorer similar to Jalen Rose early in his career, Rashard Lewis, John Starks, Reggie Miller, Cuttino Mobley. While his ts% isn’t as good as it can or should be he still has room to grow, whether he does is another question.

    Ginobili is a great player who I respect very much for his game, except his flopping. I CAN’T stand floppers like him, its just dirty and not ethical. Mentioning him and Kobe in the same breath makes no sense at all, not that he isn’t an all-star just Kobe is able to score the ball like few in history and is at least as good a defender.

    Also, I didn’t mean he is as good as Ginobili or Barbosa I just meant that scoreing guard role. A better example would be Eddie House from two years ago on the Suns. With limited minutes and fewer expectations he could score in bunches then as soon as he misses two in a row he gets a seat on the bench (just like Starks as somebody mentioned earlier).

  9. “While the Mardy Collins discussion agrued about learning outside shooting – I think for Jamal we can assume he won’t. He?s 26, has played 7 years and almost 14,000 minutes. He is what he is. The real question with Jamal is that if he losses half a step – when will his game totally disappear.” -Kevin

    Is it impossible that Crawford’s physical decline could lead to a better basketball player? I can see Crawford as a player who has been so naturally gifted for so long that he depends on his natural skills because he can (to an extent). If he did lose half a step he could conceivably be forced to hone one aspect of his game. He has a very sweet shot that is sadly inconsistent. I feel he could really help the Knicks if he played a game similar to Jeff Hornacek– reliable with the shot, but not relied upon to create every time down.

    There are players who have improved as they lost their athletic ability. Sprewell comes to mind as a guy who learned to play basketball after his explosiveness began to wane. Crawford seems to be a candidate for such a career path.

    There’s hope yet, right?…

  10. “In other words humans are naturally bad at calculating probabilities (gambling, sports averages, lotto).”

    Humans are not naturally bad at calculating probabilities, some are just inherently poor at arriving at a reasonable conclusion as to what action to take or opinion to arrive at when faced with balancing a probability they know is poor versus the potential thrill which is a consequence of their action or opinion.

  11. Z – excellent point. I think the Hornacek comparison is off Hornacek came into the league with that skill set and was more consistent as a shooter, but the Spree example is a better match.

  12. Sprewell might be a good comparison, but that’s a bad thing, because contrary to popular belief, he was never a particularly productive basketball player.

    Just look at this FG% and TS% numbers throughout this career:

    He had exactly one good year, when he was 26 and averaged 24ppg.

    It’s actually a rather gruesome reference card when you look through it. The highest TS% he posted as a Knick was 51.5%

  13. I am with you on Sprewell Michael. One of the most overrated players ever to suit up in the garden.

  14. Spree’s intangibles like his fearsome demeanor were a big part of his value in NY. He also made the T-wolves much more competitive for one year before his ego blew up his common sense. Still, his game had glaring weaknesses in NY(left hand dribble anyone?).

    Likewise, Crawford has talent but also glaring weaknesses: shot selection, consistancy, one-on-one defense.

    In regards to the Knicks’ past season hinging on Crawford’s injury: the Knicks record without him for that stretch says less about Jamal’s talent than the sorry state of the Knick’s half court offense. Crawford is talented, but the Knicks can do better. I fear Isiah will overpay, though, for any talent outside of the draft.

  15. Productivity and statistics are one thing, but I don’t judge Sprewell (or Starks) by their TS% but on the fact that both of them led vastly deficient teams to the finals. I prefer to remember players and not just numbers…

    I’m not sure Sprewell was overrated either. He was traded for Keith Van Horn after all. That pretty much established his worth.

    My initial comparison of Crawford and Sprewell was not a literal one, but a possible look into Jamal’s future. The high TS% Sprewell of 1996 was for a team that stank (like the current Knicks) despite having a lot of talented players (like the current Knicks). Sprewell came to the Knicks and became a winner, without his personal stats showing it.

    Since Crawford is under contract for a long time and trading him is a possibility, but certainly not a sure thing, I am holding out hope that Crawford can BECOME Sprewell in this regard, which could happen when his god-given abilities begin to fade (as Kevin presented earlier).

  16. i’m hoping that isiah can find the right buttons to push with jamal.

    but, although i think (and seen it to be) that it’s possible on jamal’s part to adapt, i don’t really believe that will happen.

    don’t confuse player development with increased playing time.

  17. “don?t confuse player development with increased playing time”

    A point which is doubly true of Curry. But that’s something for next monday. God I can’t wait, it’s almost unholy how much I am looking forward to it.

  18. no one mentions the heart jamal showed playing through a broken leg. he’s a great teamate and his stats aren’t bad. i give him a generous B- or a solid C+. i think C- is way too harsh.

  19. “no one mentions the heart jamal showed playing through a broken leg. he?s a great teamate and his stats aren?t bad. i give him a generous B- or a solid C+. i think C- is way too harsh.”

    Thats the enigma with this guy; he does nearly everything that you would want out of a guy to completely hate him. Yeh, he cant play D and he has terrible shot selection, but as soon as you are completely sold on him, he makes a big play or hits a game winning shot. He seems to be a competitor and will bleed orange and blue, but then he contradicts that thought after throwing up a stupid circus shot instead of passing to open Q in the corner. I just do not get this guy, kind of like I did for Starks. Everything was feast or famine, but now that I look back at watching him throughout my childhood, I wish we had more guys with heart and courage like he had. And if we trade Craw for a safe player say like a Desmond Mason type player who is a consistent scorer, but the ceiling of potential is not as high and last minutes heroics are not on his resume, I might have the same feeling for Craw like I do now with Starks. That is why the guy is such a risk to keep or get rid of. Just can not tell ya.

  20. I think that pretty much sums up how I feel too– very frustrated by JC, but with reason enough to be optimistic, despite three years of the same…

  21. I’d agree that Sprewell’s rep was overinflated by being in NY during that fluke run to the finals, but he was no Crawford – he was an all-NBA defensive player in his early career, and solid until the end. That made a big difference in the impact he had on a game.

    On another note, how much better would the Knicks be if they just gave all of Crawford’s minutes to Nate Robinson? You’d get a TS of 55% (vs. 51% for JC), 39% on 3-pointers instead of 34%, fewer assists but only a slightly worse A/To ratio, and much better rebounder. Not much D either way, but if you account for Nate’s lack of experience, there’s more hope for him to improve -he’s plenty strong and quick.

    We tend to think of Nate as a PG because of his size, but he’s a straight-up shooting guard, doing basically the same things as Crawford, but better. Not to mention he’s four years younger at 1/8 the salary.

    Like Channing Frye, JC is expendable and might have some trade value… for example, offering both those guys and the #23 pick for Rasheed Wallace (or anyone else in the $10-12 million salary range).

  22. Does Detroit want Crawford? They have Rip. Would they replace Billups with Crawford at the point? That would make them a vastly different (and worse) team. As the Knicks, I would certainly make the trade, if for no other reason to replace Jamal’s contract with Wallace’s one that expires in ’09. It would help the short and the long term Knicks.

    It seems Crawford has more value in Seattle, where he is a local hero (along with Nate). But again, Crawford has a long term deal which nets him more than his apparent on-court value would dictate. Adding Frye would off-set Crawford’s negatives, but I’m not sure if Detroit is reralistic (unless Rasheed is such a head case that they are despeate to unload him, in which case, do the Knicks really want him?…).

    As for the statistical wash between Nate and Jamal, I suppose you make a good point; however, I feel safer with Crawford in the game than Robinson. Both are erratic and flawed. Crawford seems to be a more intellectual person and his games SEEMS to have a bit more savvy, so I find it easier to root for him, so I guess I’d just rather have him on the court.

    In discussing trade value though, Nate may as well be mentioned here too, because although their productivity is pretty even, Nate is a circus act on the court, and fans love a circus act. To trade him for superior talent is easier to justify to another teams fan’s because of his highlight-style play.

    His contracts doesn’t match up as well with the superior talent that’s available though, making for a very complex trading season…

  23. I agree that Nate has limited value right now… but he already deserves more burn than he’s getting, he’s so young that his overall game is likely to improve. Given that he costs almost nothing, I’d hang onto him unless it’s part of a great deal.

    re: Detroit, I don’t see Crawford replacing Billups or Hamilton – he’d be replacing Carlos Delfino and Lindsey Hunter as the 3rd guard. Frye and the pick would give them two young guys with potential. Detroit has about 6 solid frontcourt guys (McDyess, Webber and Mohammed and Joe D. has ordered more playing time for Maxiell, plus Amir Johnson who was burning up the D-league)…. so they could afford to give up Rasheed. It’d be a calculated risk – he’s getting on people’s nerves, and getting older, but still a very good player.

    That said, it might be a trade that would work for both teams.

  24. bringing Rasheed to a non-title contender is a sure-fire recipe for disaster, we shouldn’t consider that at almost any price.

  25. Caleb–

    If I was the Knicks, I would trade Frye and Crawford for Wallace. I defer to you, as you seem like someone much more in tune with the Piston’s franchise than I. Dumars seems like a competent GM who will only make moves if it benefits his team. That said, I still don’t think they would do it. I think Crawford, if he executes his player’s option (which his agent surely will), has a contract that runs two or three years longer than Rasheeds at pretty much the same price, and at a less productive value. Frye would only further complicate the Piston front court, unless they had another deal lined up.

    As for Robinson, I don’t want to be size-ist, but I don’t see him starting in the league, only because of his size (I know he has a tremendous vertical leap, rebounds better than guards almost a foot taller (i.e. Allan Houston et al…) and has guts and flair and is made of solid rock), but pretty much every player in the modern era under 6 foot has been a back-up point guard or has played on a team that isn’t very good.

    Crawford, if the Knicks keep him, is not only a valid starter (if the Knicks keep him), but he could also start on a winner IF he tweaks his game is some very minor ways.

    I’m affraid the Knick’s goal, as it has been the last 3+ seasons, has been to get into the playoffs and make as much noise as possible once there. They have come up remarkably short each time, and even if next year they succeed, they are still at least 2 years from the finals, pending their moves from here on out. Their salary situation improves a lot in two years. I think any move they make should be geared toward ’09.

    Obviously, the acquisition of Francis, the lack of progress of Crawford, and the ambiguous progression of Curry (see next Monday…) have muddled the Knicks REBUILDING PROCESS. Since those deals are done, all we can do, as fans, is looks ahead to what the future holds.

    The NBA champ next year will likely come from the West. Dallas willl have something to prove. San Antonio will be the same team that dominated the playoffs. Phoenix will have a chip on its shoulder.

    It does appear Detroit can, and probably should, give up Rasheed this summer. But isn’t there anybody else who would put up a better package (Dallas, Miami, Indiana, Orlando, etc…)? If the Knicks were to gut their team for Kobe or Garnett, that would make sense from an economic standpoint (like A-Rod coming to the Yankees, it’s a no-brainer, despite the toll it would take on other facets of the team, such as actually winning ball games…). But Rasheed would simply be a pawn in convincing Knick fans they are committed to winning more games, despite the actual amount of winning they do.

    Basically, I see Crawford (and others) for Lewis happening (pending Lenny W.) before I see Rasheed. Maybe I’d RATHER see Rasheed, but maybe not. Only time will tell. If neither happen. then I’d like to see Crawford start and be great. I know it’s a lot. But, being a Knick fan the past seven years, I prefer to remain optimistic…

  26. I can’t believe the way knick fans act. Jamal saved those gut less mugs so many time. At least crawford wasn’t scared. and he hits alot of those shots. There is alot more then Jamals shot sellection,why they loose. Its those stupid TOs, missing freethrows coming down the stretch, and playing 4 on 5 with sorry Jeffries out there. Steph,Jamal, Lewis ,David,Curry

  27. I thought the initial analysis is off.Its not whether Crawford is in the same place as fas as stats as 3 years ago.Its why the knicks presumably with so many players considered better then him are still reliant on him to take the most shots.Its not that he doesnt pass but why do so many of the knicks run from the ball?

    He played a very controlled style of basketball under Brown and flourished but look at how many of his teammates complained about that same style under which he flourished and which most considered to be good basketball.

    He is erratic at times but its really hard to gauge is it him or the team because nothing is done consistently by anyone on the team to really be able to single out who isnt showing up every night.

    What stands out to me about all of the analysis of Crawford is how so many people question why he has such a large role instead of asking themselves where are the players that they believe should because while Crawford may not show up every game these alternatives never show up at all.

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