Ever since the Kyrie Irving trade broke out on Tuesday, much focus has been on the principals involved: Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas. But in case you forgot, there were two names and one draft pick involved in this deal.
Aside from Thomas, the Cavaliers also received forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets’ unprotected 2018 first round pick in the Kyrie Irving trade. One on one, Boston may have won the Kyrie vs Isaiah trade. But overall, these additional players could make Cleveland the real winner here.
Zizic could turn out to be a gem for the Cavs as the 7-0, 240 pounder is a hot prospect from the Adriatic Basketball Association. We also know that Brooklyn’s pick in 2017 won the draft lottery and got the Celtics Jayson Tatum plus a another future first round pick. So that pick could also become a plus for the Cavs. But while Zizic and the Nets’ pick are still a contingent, Jae Crowder is a sure bonus for the Cavs at this point of his career.
Not only does Crowder have a friendly contract, he has also developed into a valuable three-and-D whom Cleveland might just need to win another title.
But then this isn’t about Jae Crowder vs Andre Iguodala. It’s about Cleveland getting the best defensive wing they’ve ever had in any LeBron James era. What this does is it relieves LeBron the burden of trying to stop Kevin Durant while leading the offensive charge.
The Celtics and Warriors split their games last season. But Crowder and Durant never played against each other. Crowder didn’t play in the Celtics’ 104-88 loss to the Warriors on November 18, 2016. Durant was out when Crowder and the Celtics beat the Warriors 99-86 on March 8, 2017. But here’s what we know.
Generally, opponents shoot 3.6% worse against Crowder than any other defender. More importantly, Crowder makes offensive players shoot 6.4% less from the three point distance and less than 6.0% from beyond 15 feet. He also ranked 19th among forwards last season in contested three pointers at 3.6 per game. These aren’t numbers against Durant or the Warriors. But this is how Crowder plays defense and it could help the Cavs against Durant and the Warriors.
That’s good news for the Cavs, really. But then again, that’s just Crowder’s impact on one side of the court. While defense has been his meal ticket to the NBA, it cannot be denied that Crowder’s offensive game has blossomed during his stint at Boston. After failing to average in double digits in scoring during his first four NBA seasons, Crowder has averaged 14.2 and 13.9 points per game in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Crowder’s scoring average in Boston is three times more than his scoring average when he was with Dallas. More notably, Crowder’s three point shooting ( 39.8% ), two point shooting ( 54.0% ) and EFG% ( 57.2% ) in 2016-17 were all career highs. Boston’s offensive rating last season was 108.6 points per 100 possessions. With Crowder, that numbers ballooned to 112. 3. This means that Crowder won’t only be a problem for opponents on defense but on offense as well.
Three Point Shooting
Crowder’s improved offense is great but his three point shooting should be the key here. Last season, his 2.2 three point makes per game was second best in the Celtics’ roster. And guess what, only Isaiah Thomas was better at 3.2 three pointers made per game. So Cleveland didn’t just get Boston’s top three point shooter. They also got the Celtics’ second best shooter from downtown. That’s not it.
The corner three was a favorite for the Cavs last season with the likes of J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, Kevin Love, Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson making a living there. Cleveland shot a record 353 corner threes last season. That was a result of their league leading 850 corner three attempts. Their 41.5% accuracy from corner threes ranked fourth in the NBA.
The shoe fits for Jae Crowder. Last season, 22.8% of Crowder’s three pointers were corner threes and he hit those corner threes at a remarkable 47.8% accuracy. Last season, LeBron James led the NBA in corner three assists with 162. You bet Jae Crowder will be waiting for that pass when the season begins.
Three And D
As for where Crowder fits in the Cavs line-up, he can either be LeBron’s back-up at small forward or he can be the small forward when they choose to move LeBron to the four spot to match-up with small ball teams like the Warriors. That said, the versatility that he brings to the Cavaliers is something LeBron has never before.
Crowder won’t be an All-Star in February nor will he have some trophy on NBA Awards Night because that’s not his job. But he provides Cleveland with a very good three-and-D player who can make a positive impact on both ends of the floor. When the playoffs come, his defense is an asset every contender needs, especially against offensive juggernauts like the Warriors and Rockets.
When Andre Iguodala pretends he doesn’t know who Jae Crowder is, what he actually means is the opposite. A true defensive ace knows his kind and Iggy for sure knows what stuff Crowder is made of.
Crowder ranked 13th among small forwards in DRPM, an estimate of a player’s overall impact on a team’s defensive performance. Jae’s +1.69 was two spots higher than Iggy’s 1.52. Not only did Crowder average more rebounds per 36 minutes than Iguodala last season, Jae also had the more superior hustle stats than Iggy.
Who?— Andre Iguodala (@andre) August 23, 2017
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