The Minnesota Timberwolves’ season is over, which means it’s time to start assessing how each player on the roster performed this year. So far in this series, we looked at Aaron Brooks, Marcus Georges-Hunt, Nemanja Bjelica, Gorgui Dieng, and Cole Aldrich’s performances. Up next is Jamal Crawford.
During the 2016-17 season, the Timberwolves were dead last in the league in bench production. The reserves scored an average of just 22.8 points per game. To be fair, this was partially because they were also dead last in minutes per game with just 13.9.
Crawford was signed in a desperate attempt to make the bench less of a liability. In addition to providing veteran leadership and an excellent work ethic, he was to provide an offensive spark in the second unit.
The Timberwolves were still last in bench scoring this year. They did improve to 26 points per game. This is in even fewer minutes than last year, with just 13.5 per game.
He produced much of the second unit’s offense, averaging 10.3 points and 2.3 assists per game. He fulfilled his purpose of preventing the bench from going scoreless. It wasn’t perfect. Crawford’s efficiency was certainly lacking and his defense was downright atrocious at times.
When Crawford gets rolling, there are few players in the league that are more fun to watch and even fewer that can stop him. This is due to the fact that he has incredible handles as well as the ability to hit seemingly impossible shots when he’s in the zone.
These hot streaks were massive momentum changers. Not only did he add points, he also galvanized his teammates to play with energy.
Jamal Crawford made this, because of course he did. pic.twitter.com/zddFQEDUFh— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) March 24, 2018
Perhaps the best single-game example of this was on March 30 in a crucial game against the Dallas Mavericks. Crawford had 24 points on 11 of 18 shooting, including a game-sealing shot with 11 seconds left on the clock.
Jamal Crawford in his damn office. Another dagger at age 70. pic.twitter.com/ZGeH4AGbmQ— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) March 31, 2018
This was during the time Jimmy Butler was out with a torn meniscus, so the Wolves were lacking their leader. If the Wolves hadn’t won that game, they would not have made the playoffs. Crawford stepped up when his team’s season was on the line and led Minnesota to victory.
The two major problems that Crawford created this year were inefficiency and a complete lack of defense. For his entire career, Crawford has been known as a streaky shooter. When he’s hot, he shoots. When he’s cold, he still shoots.
While this fearlessness is something his teammate Karl-Anthony Towns could have used, Crawford takes far too many mid-rangers for this to be an effective strategy. In fact, he takes 52 percent of his shots from mid-range, per Cleaning the Glass. This puts him in the 100th percentile among other guards. That’s not a place you want to be in the modern NBA.
To make matters worse, he shoots just 53 percent around the rim, which is incredibly poor. His 3-point percentage isn’t as terrible, at 34 percent, but that’s still below average for a guard.
On the other end, Crawford’s defense is a liability. Of course, one must note that it’s not as though he isn’t trying. He plays with energy every second he’s on the court. He also attempts to play with energy when he’s not on the court.
Quality bench defense by Jamal Crawford pic.twitter.com/ltBJSS12Kx— Reggie Comma Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) April 12, 2018
However, when attempting to guard a player or fit into a defensive scheme, he frequently gets lost. This usually leads to him either allowing an easy bucket or fouling to prevent said easy bucket.
Though Crawford signed a two-year contract with the Wolves this summer, he recently chose to opt out. This means he’ll enter free agency this summer. There’s no doubt a team will pick up the only three-time Sixth Man of the Year, but that team may not be Minnesota. It’s likely that Crawford is dissatisfied with how little playing time Tom Thibodeau was willing to give him this year, considering it’s the fewest minutes per game since his rookie season.
Jimmy Butler has stressed to management that he wants Crawford to remain in Minnesota, sources say. https://t.co/Z9ziqbFSTf— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) May 2, 2018
However, Butler’s word carries a lot of weight in a Thibodeau run system, so don’t be surprised if Crawford is still on the team in the fall.