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.
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+.