On paper, this just might be the most talented Los Angeles Clippers team in franchise history. Their starting lineup of Chris Paul, J.J Redick, Wes Johnson, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan should be superb, and their bench unit consists of big names like Paul Pierce, Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson.
But where does that leave former Sixth Man of the Year, Jamal Crawford?
It leaves him pretty expendable, possibly on the outside looking in.
To his defense, Doc Rivers somewhat shut down the notion of Crawford being dealt back in September in a radio interview with The Beast 980’s Fred Roggin:
“I’ve heard all the rumors about Jamal going other places,” Rivers said. “Jamal’s a Clipper and I would be very surprised if he’s not a Clipper by the season’s end.”
To be clear, Roggins asked him again: “You’re planning on keeping him right now?”
“Yeah,” Rivers responded. “Yeah. Absolutely.”
The operative words in that exchange are “right now” though, and while it’s only preseason, Crawford and Stephenson haven’t looked that good at all:
**NOTE: These are their totals through their first four games**
The issue is that Crawford and Stephenson are both ball-dominant playmakers, but there’s only one ball to go around. When either of them handle the ball, the offense becomes incredibly stagnant. Compounding the issue is the fact that not only do neither of them thrive as spot-up shooters, there’s also Paul Pierce who needs the ball, and Austin Rivers who also needs the ball — assuming he beats out Pablo Prigioni for the backup point-guard spot.
This bench is talented, but the fit is questionable at best. The “easy” solution would be to move a perimeter player, but it’s not like Stephenson, Rivers or Prigioni have much trade value. From that perspective, Crawford is once again the odd man out.
I have a few ideas if the Clippers eventually decide to move Crawford.
TRADE IDEA #1:
If Stephenson is going to be your primary ball-handler off the bench, it’s best to surround him with players who don’t need the ball to be effective, and that pretty much requires them to be able to shoot.
Randy Foye can shoot.
In fact, over the last three years, not too many players have spread the floor as effectively as him with his volume of shots:
In that time frame, over 83 percent of Foye’s threes, and roughly 64 percent of his overall shots were assisted on. However, Foye can still make plays off the bounce or in pick-and-roll situations. He produced 0.85 points per possession as the P&R ball-handler last year in Denver.
Nick Johnson is an intriguing combo guard who showed some flashes for the Rockets last year. He’d be a throw-in who’d likely be waived. However, if the Clippers are high on him, they could always waive Chuck Hayes, or look to move C.J Wilcox elsewhere in order to open up the necessary roster spot to keep him.
How Crawford would fit in Denver ultimately depends on if they’d work on a contract buyout or not. If Crawford is set on playing for a playoff team or contender, which is well within his right, I couldn’t imagine Denver refusing to oblige him. If Crawford were to stay, he could serve as a high-minute sixth man while Denver allows Gary Harris to spread his wings as the starting shooting guard alongside rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay.
TRADE IDEA #2:
A (protected) pick or two would probably have to be sent to Memphis for two reasons:
1. There’s really no denying the Clippers-Grizzlies rivalry that’s blown up over the last four years. Trades between two contending teams in the same conference are rare enough, and adding bad blood between the two could make things more difficult.
2. Jordan Adams might be ready to break into the rotation. If Adams can’t do anything else, he can get buckets. Bringing in Jamal Crawford, even as an expiring deal, could stunt Adams’s development.
Regardless, Crawford can definitely get his own shot. Memphis needs shot creators and floor spacers, and Crawford could fit both molds as a one-year rental.
Adding Courtney Lee gives the Clippers a player who can shoot from three and mid-range (38.5 percent from three and 42.7 percent from 15-22 feet for his career), doesn’t pound the rock into the ground, and is good and versatile enough defensively to log minutes at the 3 if needed. If the Clippers believe in improved rim protection and overall defense from Jordan and Griffin in a more conservative defensive scheme, the Clippers could afford to go smallish and start Lee at the 3, which would bring Johnson back to the bench as the 3 for the second unit.
TRADE IDEA #3:
I actually saw this trade suggested by Twitter user @PJSinatra_ during a Martin discussion spearheaded by Wolves blogger Patrick Fenelon:
For Minnesota, their reasoning for taking on Crawford would be similar to Denver’s in their deal. Crawford could serve as a sixth man and veteran presence behind Zach LaVine, which works because the two already have a relationship off the court. If Crawford doesn’t want to be a part of a rebuild, the Wolves and Crawford could always agree to a contract buyout.
On the Clippers’ side, Martin could take them to the next level. A potential concern could be Martin not being receptive to a bench role, similar to the situation in Oklahoma City. Martin did seem cool with Sam Mitchell’s decision to start LaVine, though, so it may not be too big of a deal:
For now, Martin said he understands Mitchell’s commitment to youth.
“I know what it is, that’s what we’re going through,” Martin said. “I’m taking the young fella under my wing and teaching him how to be a quality ‘2’ guard in this league … At the end of the day, it’s a team game and that’s how everyone is going to look at this group, at how well the team evolves over the next six, seven months.
Overall, the Clippers would get an elite shooter and one heck of a scorer who could log minutes at either wing spot. Last season, Martin scored 20 points per game while shooting over 39 percent from three. The Clippers could run floppy sets for Martin similar to the ones they already run for Redick and abuse second units. Adding that type of firepower would simply be unfair.
Let’s assume for a moment that Crawford is dealt to a team like Denver or Minnesota and he gets bought out in hopes of joining a playoff team. Who could use him?
Crawford could certainly work wonders for the Chicago Bulls’ bench unit as a combo guard, especially if there are injuries in the backcourt. The New Orleans Pelicans could use any type of guard insurance behind the talented-but-oft-injured duo of Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon.
The Toronto Raptors declined to offer a contract to last year’s Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, but could replace him on the cheap with Crawford if he hit the market. Crawford to the Washington Wizards as a backup or insurance behind Bradley Beal would be a solid fit as well, especially if the Wizards plan on upping their pace this year.
Make no mistake about it; Crawford still has value as a spark plug off the bench. The Clippers just may not be the team for him to showcase that ability anymore with the roster moves they made this summer.