Celtics Player Preview: Jae Crowder
|09.17.16 at 2:21 pm ET|
With Celtics training camp set to begin on Sept. 26, WEEI.com presents a player-by-player breakdown of the roster. The Celtics have 20 players under contract but will have to cut the roster to 15 by the start of the season.
73 games with Celtics: 31.6 minutes, 14.2 points, 44.2% FG, 5.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.7 steals
After signing a five-year, $35 million deal in the summer of 2015, Crowder proved he was worth every penny. He emerged as one of the better small forwards in the Eastern Conference — a two-way wing-defender who could knock down jump shots on the other end of the floor. Crowder finished the regular season shooting 33 percent from deep, but from inside the arc — his sweet spot — Crowder shot 41.6 percent. He also was a leader in the locker room and a catalyst who helped pushed the Celtics to a 48-34 regular-season record. For his production, Crowder is a bargain.
Projected role in 2016-17
As the Celtics’ most versatile defender, Crowder will continue to be a defensive anchor in the front court and should get more touches on the offensive end. With Al Horford’s inside presence, Crowder will get more open looks — which should help him improve on his 44.2 percent field goal percentage from last season. But more importantly, he’s proven he can guard some of the league’s best players — All-Stars like LeBron James, Paul George and Jimmy Butler. Crowder’s defensive assignments against some of the best teams in the Eastern Conference will give the Celtics a fighting chance to reach the upper echelon of the conference. He also will continue his leadership role in the locker room and show his understudy — rookie small forward Jaylen Brown — the ropes.
What makes Crowder so valuable is his ability to defend the opposing team’s best scorer. He finished with 47 total votes for the NBA All-Defensive Team, including three first-team votes — nearly tying Paul George (48) for a spot on the second team. Crowder is being recognized as one of the better one-on-one defenders in the league — it’s his most important role for this team.
Scoring off the dribble
The only thing preventing Crowder from becoming a 20-point scorer is his inability to score off the dribble. He’s definitely a scorer — one of the Celtics’ best — but Crowder scores in one of two ways: catch-and-shoot or drive to the rim. He’ll occasionally take one dribble before a shot but isn’t an isolation scorer. Not yet, at least. However, Crowder hasn’t reached his ceiling. At age 26, he’s only entering his fifth NBA season and still has room to add depth to his offense.
Likelihood of making final 15
As the team’s second-best defender, Crowder should return to the starting lineup. He’s a vital piece for the Celtics as they look to blossom into one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
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