For the season Jamal Crawford is averaging 17.3 points per game and shooting a career high 44.9% from the field. Those numbers translate to being the leading candidate for NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award and one of the big reasons the Hawks have improved yet again this season.
A look at the advanced stats tell virtually the same tale. Jamal Crawford has a PER of 18.76 which is a 2.oo improvement over any previous season in his career. All the while his usage rate is only slightly higher than it has been in the last five seasons at 24.92. Essentially bringing Jamal off of the bench and cutting his minutes back have made him a much more effective player. His explosive scoring ability has made it nearly impossible for an opposing team to slide the defense over to Joe Johnson late in games or for himself to receive the brunt of the defensive attention. Jamal has also displayed the ability to penetrate the defense and either create for a teammate or take the ball to the basket. While he might not be the best finisher at the rim, he does get to the free throw line at a pretty good rate.
The bad in Jamal’s game is not as easy to determine with numbers. To my naked eye I cringe at his shot selection. People tend to not notice shot selection when the shots are going in but after watching this game a few years I try to notice such things. Jamal’s shot selection is dismal sometimes to say the least. I personally saw strides in his defensive game early in the season and can at times do a decent job of staying in front of his man, he does lack in team defensive concepts like providing any kind of help defense. Not being a very stat detailed person the only stat that I could find that really details this is in the plus/minus. When looking at the Hawks top six players (Johnson, Smith, Horford, Bibby, Williams, and Crawford) Jamal comes out dead last with a 2.2 plus rating which is by far the lowest of the top six.
Some of the Hawks biggest issues in losses lately have been largely due to an unwillingness to throw the ball inside and questionable shot selection. We as fans know what we have in Joe Johnson. We know that he is going to over dribble at times and take some long contested jump shots. When you also factor Jamal’s gunner mentality into the equation then the Hawks efficiency takes another hit. Particularly facing a zone defense, which has been a nemesis lately for the Hawks, Jamal has chucked up long jump shot after long jump shot with little regard for ball movement. While I think it is great that Jamal is now the all time leader for four point plays converted in NBA history with 25 I would question how many of those 25 he actually should have attempted in the first place? My idea of a good shot is not one that is beyond the NBA three point line with a man in my face close enough to foul me. Granted a few of those were probably on slow rotations where the defender came rushing out of control and collided with Crawford after the shot went up. However, some have been dribble pull ups with a man draped all over him. Sure I love them when they go in, but have to question them when they do not.
Jamal Crawford is a streaky player and anything else is an understatement. When he is on then he is an explosive a scorer as anyone in the NBA. The challenge comes in handling him through the times when he isn’t on. He is banged up a little and that is playing a part in his struggles at the moment. The Hawks are on to something with Jamal though. He is in the only role that he can be in with a contending team and be productive. By putting him in the reserve role the Hawks can manage him through his minutes much easier than if he were a starter. On nights when he is rolling he can play for plus and on nights when he is struggling he can play less than thirty. That is the only role available for a player that doesn’t bring anything other than scoring to the table. Which is primarily a reason that this season will be his first time playing in the playoffs.
Now if only Woodson would actually manage him. During the breakdowns at the end of games he along with Joe Johnson have been the chief culprit of going one and one and putting a freeze on the ball movement. I get it that players like Jamal have a hero complex, and that he feels he can make any shot at any time. He has to learn to do so in context of the team without losing his aggressiveness.
I’m not sure what the off season will bring. I fully anticipate Joe Johnson still being here next season and doubt that the Hawks at this point even have a back up plan. No such plan should be deemed acceptable if it involves Jamal moving into the starting lineup. Sixth man scorer is the only way that he can be successful on a winning team. Jamal as a starter would be nothing more than a band aid for this franchise.
Note – All stats used in this article were obtained from Hoop Data.