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What Jordan Crawford means to Celtics

Celtics [1] president Danny Ainge could’ve gone two ways at the NBA trade deadline — completely rebuilding or fortifying the current roster with precious few pieces to deal in return — and he appears to have chosen the latter.

In trading Jason Collins [2], his 8.1 personal fouls per 36 minutes and the injured Leandro Barbosa [3]‘s expiring veteran minimum contract to the Wizards in exchange for Jordan Crawford, Ainge got the backcourt support he was looking for, partly at the expense of the team’s frontcourt depth.

In acquiring Crawford, the Celtics save a few hundred thousand dollars in salary and open another roster spot this season. They owe the 24-year-old shooting guard $2.1 million next year before he becomes a restricted free agent in 2014-15 — nothing too steep for a fourth guard option behind Avery Bradley [4], Courtney Lee [5] and Jason Terry [6]. Meanwhile, they hold on to The Fab Melo Project and inch closer to getting under the luxury tax line.

Considered a below average defender with poor shot selection, decent ball-handling skills and a knack for scoring in transition, Crawford is a poor man’s Barbosa, and since Ainge recently admitted players of Barbosa’s caliber aren’t available, he appears to be the best available option. The C’s weren’t going to get J.J. Redick at this price.

Crawford’s 36-minute averages of 18.1 points, 5.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds are surprisingly good, but the 16.2 field goal attempts and 3.1 turnovers per 36 minutes that come along with those numbers are just as bad. And his defense against spot-up shooters — one of his primary responsibilities on that end — ranks 301st in the NBA, per Synergy Sports. That means there are an average of 10 players on each team that defend shooters better than Crawford.

Still, he’s capable of putting up big numbers, like the 22 points and six assists he dropped in 31 minutes during an upset of the Heat in early December. And he’s capable of terrible nights, like his five points and six turnovers in 35 minutes against Miami less than two weeks later. Crawford doesn’t make the C’s a contender any more than Terrence Williams did, but he could get hot and help win a playoff game. In other words, he’s hit and miss. He’s Barbosa, only worse, except one has a torn ACL and the other doesn’t.

The loss of Collins’ 1.2 points, 1.6 rebounds and 2.3 fouls in 10.3 minutes a night over 32 games is not an insignificant one. He was the only true center on the roster, since the C’s constantly remind us of Melo’s deficiencies, and his absence leaves Chris Wilcox [7] as the only legitimate big off the bench. Celtics coach Doc Rivers [8] wanted to run, and now he has no other choice.