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Nardone: Allen Crabbe Quietly Becoming a Really Good Player

Dec. 3, 2015 - ALLEN CRABBE (23) shuffles off a pass. The Portland Trail Blazers hosted the Indiana Pacers at the Moda Center. (Photo by David Blair/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)
David Blair/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

Allen Crabbe was a dynamic scorer when he was playing basketball for no pay with the University of California. In a three-year span, he averaged 16 points and left a slew of 20-plus-point games in his wake. It’s what made many scouts find him so appealing when he entered the 2013 NBA Draft.

There were questions, though. Many were concerned if his scoring would transfer over to a land where all the basketball players were really good. It’s part of the reason why Crabbe dropped to the second round, providing Portland the opportunity to select him with the 31st overall pick.

Other concerns were evident, as well. Mainly, Crabbe was entering the NBA as a one-dimensional, undersized small forward or not athletic enough 2-guard. This seemed like an issue at the time because he’s 6’6″, supposedly not suited to play the 2 in long stretches because he is quick but not explosive, but is by no means a good enough rebounder to be a good small forward. Really, the only thing Crabbe was going to be able to provide any NBA franchise was his scoring, and that wasn’t a guarantee — as scoring is the least transferable trait players have going from college to the pros:

So, when Crabbe joined Portland there were no guarantees. Heck, because he was a second-round pick, he wasn’t even guaranteed a large amount of his paycheck or a roster spot. Simply because he was excellent when he was in college didn’t mean he was going to do anything of importance in the NBA.

Injuries, lack of playing time and an adjustment period halted the start of Crabbe’s NBA career. In his first two seasons he only played in 66 games, and he rarely saw time on the court when he was fit to play. He played under seven minutes per game as a rookie and a mere 13 per game in his second season. To make thinks look even less exciting, Crabbe shot under 40 percent over the course of his first two years in the league. His strength, his stroke, was seemingly not translating.

A lot of that can be attributed to his injuries, that lack of time to get in a rhythm on the court, and many other things that we can apply to any young player if we choose to like them, but ignore if we want to declare their careers as player of consequence over before more proof fills that cup of pudding.

That was then, however. In a nutshell, sure, everything looked as if Crabbe was never going to be more than a guy fondly remembered as a dynamic bucket-maker in college, but sometimes all it takes is an opportunity to shine — and, um, the team a guy is playing on to blow up their roster and force about that chance to showcase skills.

To be fair, they aren't tanking in a yucky way. But this gif was too good to pass up using.

To be fair, they aren’t tanking in a yucky way. But this gif was too good to pass up using.

With Portland not very good, yet not an abomination to the senses, Crabbe has been given more time on the hardwood to hurl attempts at the bucket without fear of being hooked for another guy on the team. Really, it isn’t only because Crabbe should be bursting with offensive confidence, but because it’s not as if his coach has a plethora of better options at his disposal.

Crabbe has taken full advantage of this. In an increased role on the floor, now playing 25 minutes per game, he’s shooting over 46 percent from the floor and 36 percent from distance, resulting in 10 points per game. To put that in some more perspective, his per-36 numbers read in a way which better highlights his scoring abilities, as he’s averaging over 15 points per 36 minutes.

His ability to get mad-buckets, or whatever the cool kids say, was never more evident than on Saturday, when Crabbe scored 26 points in a win against the Cleveland Cavaliers. A large reason for Crabbe’s success in this game was not only the time he was allotted on the court, but the fact that he got to play the shooting-guard position more often. Meaning, while many wanted to project him as a smaller, whatever type of 3 or as a limited 2, Crabbe is best fitted as position-less.

The best part of all of that, honestly, is the fact that “positions” in the NBA continue to have less and less meaning. Especially with the league going smaller, a player like Crabbe — who otherwise might be considered “too whatever” to be either a 2 or a 3 — can simply be another wing player who can shoot the rock.

Furthermore, Crabbe hasn’t been all that special from distance since entering the league, but considering he has a quality jumper, it only seems like a matter of time before he’s shooting over 40 percent from distance on the regular — which would make him a borderline deadly player.

Hopefully not this deadly, though.

Hopefully not this deadly, though.

I’m not going to say Crabbe is going to be some superstar or any sort of craziness like that. However, his ability to get buckets was real in college and is beginning to become more and more tangible as he gets lengthier runs on the hardwood in the NBA. If Portland handles him with care, allowing him to develop on the court to continue to build confidence and form his game, he can very well be a humorously productive guy off the bench for a good team or a solid 15 points per game starter for a solid franchise. Either one, really, is beginning to seem like worst-case scenarios.

Best case? Your kid will be emulating him in the backyard while Marky Mark Jackson is talking about how Allen Crabbe is ruining the game of basketball.

Okay, fine…I kid. He won’t be that good, but he’s talented. More importantly, he’s now getting the chance to show it.

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