The Case For Jordan Crawford

On Friday, the Wizards picked up Jordan Crawford’s fourth-year rookie option. A relatively routine decision and announcement caught my eye as one Twitter user suggested it was incoherently dumb to bring a guy back who shot 40% and had the 11th worst win shares per 48 minutes in the league — which is still better than a player that Wizards fans complain about not getting in the 2011 draft, MarShon Brooks. This got me wondering… Does Jordan deserve a spot on this team? Surely he does, especially at two million dollars per year, but I’m going to make a case for him and his future. I’ve been quite harsh on the Wizard guards, but now I will take another stance.

Crawford might as well be an NRA spokesperson because shooting is his favorite pastime. In particular, he likes shooting from really far away. I’ve documented his dreadful shooting as a whole before, but that’s only part of the story. As you may know, Crawford clanks a lot of his attempts from long distance (shooting just 27.9% from three-point range for his career.) There have been 526 seasons in which a player shot more than four three’s a game at a clip of one every six minutes or faster. Of those seasons, Crawford’s 28.9% hit rate last year was good (or bad) for the fourth worst of all time. Although Crawford was 85th in the league in minutes and he was 24th in three-pointers attempted. You might call it an addiction. He needs rehab.

There are a few obvious options here. Either Crawford must improves his three-point percentage and continues launching shots or he stops shooting from deep entirely. The middle ground that likely makes the most sense is the LeBron James 2012 model, whereby LeBron dropped his attempted three’s by almost half and subsequently posted the best True Shooting Percentage of his career.

On the complete flip side of his long distance ineptitude is his effectiveness from 16-23 feet. Considering my enduring 2012 memory of Jordan isn’t actually a single instance, but an amalgamation of memories which my brain perceives as one, indistinguishable long two clanking off the back iron, this might blow your mind. Last year, Jordan Crawford shot as well from mid-range as Kobe Bryant. It actually gets better than that, because, as you can imagine, Kobe just so happens to be a decent jump shooter. Of the 125 guys who shot 100 or more long two-point field goals, Crawford and Kobe tied for 44th, putting them both in the 65th percentile from that distance — and for those wondering, John Wall was in the 6th percentile.

While the long two might be the worst shot in basketball, it is also increasingly becoming the easiest to get. As Zach Lowe at Grantland recently detailed, teams are running defenders off the three point line and clogging the lane by design. Theoretically, a strong mid-range shooting team should thrive, although that has not yet been the case. For all the love Rajon Rondo gets for his virtuoso point guard performances, he led his squad to the same points-per-100-possessions as the Wizards in 2012, mostly because the Celtics were built to hit the long two. Should a coach ever design this type of offense to perfection, Crawford would see an increase in his value.

All of this volume shooting information points toward an offensive player who chucks with no signs of self-or-game-awareness. Fortunately for Crawford and Wizard fans everywhere, this is not always a bad thing and there is room in the league for someone who can come off the bench and catch fire. The blueprint exists in players like J.R. Smith, Jamal Crawford, Jason Terry, and Lou Williams have carved out roles as high volume, relatively inefficient scorers who can knock down preposterous shots but also enjoy taking those very same preposterous shots.

To compare their second seasons is an interesting endeavor. Jordan was asked to do more with less than all but Jason Terry in 2001. Jordan posted the worst TS%, as he took the most threes but couldn’t knock any down while the others were and are sharp shooters. Jordan scored more than all of them on a per-36-minutes basis but shot better than only J.R. Smith. Jordan posted the lowest PER but was still a functional player. By the time all of these guys were 23, like Crawford was in 2012, they were at least part-time starters. It should be no surprise that almost all of their teams struggled. In 2012, the four non-Wizards combined to start eight games as coaches have figured out where this type of player best fits.

The bench was made for guys like this, but maturity level and experience is key. Even Jason Terry didn’t play on a winning team or shoot over 44% until he was 27. Based on the above case for Jordan Crawford, it seems like the best we can hope for is a microwaveable bench scorer.

None of these conclusions are revelations, but the information is interesting. Jordan Crawford is clearly a talented, albeit misguided, player who isn’t so different from other young trigger happy two-guards. We hope Jordan becomes Jason Terry, although he is currently closer to J.R. Smith. We’ll learn a lot in 2013, and at a cost of $2 million in 2014, it’s worth it to learn a bit more and see what he becomes.