What Should The L.A. Clippers Do With Jamal Crawford?


For the Los Angeles Clippers, the playoffs ended in gut wrenching fashion to the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semi-finals. With a 3-1 series lead, they somehow squandered the chance to make their first ever Conference finals, and they did so in heartbreaking fashion.

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While collapses like that predominantly rest on the shoulders of the star players and starting five on any given team, everybody in the organization has to take some of the blame.

One guy who may be in for more of a hard time than the others, however, is guard Jamal Crawford. The 35 year old veteran did not have a good postseason, and some fans see this as being a trait that has gone on for a number of seasons now. As a two time winner of the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award (2010, 2014), his contribution off the bench has always been vitally important for this team. But is it now expendable in order to upgrade the bench and bring this roster forward?

Jan 31, 2015; San Antonio, TX, USA; Los Angeles Clippers shooting guard Jamal Crawford (11) shoots the ball as San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Danny Green (14) defends during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Before pressing on here, it’s worth noting that star players Chris Paul and Blake Griffin take up a considerable portion of the financial pie on a yearly basis. Add to that the fact that DeAndre Jordan (who had his best season as a pro) is an unrestricted free agent and apparently looking for max money (which the Clippers should probably give him) and it’s clear that the rest of the Clippers’ roster needs to be constructed with financial implications in mind.

With money and roster spots at a premium for what was a below average bench last year, surely nobody’s place is untouchable. While Crawford came off the bench many times during the regular season and heated up in a hurry, those performances were nowhere to be seen in the playoffs. Crawford possesses top 10 handles in this league and can get hot in an instant. So where were these tools when the Clippers needed him most against a one dimensional offensive Rockets team?

The Clippers’ bench ranked 22nd in efficiency during the regular season, and that was with the regular contributions from Crawford. Although benches see less action when the postseason begins, they are still important for keeping the game ticking over for their starters. L.A. got little to no use out of their role players.

Here’s where it gets worse for Crawford, though. He actually saw nearly one minute more action when the playoffs began (27.1 mpg compared to 26.6 during the regular season) yet his scoring output was noticeably less (15.8 ppg during regular season, 12.7 during the playoffs). Now, Paul had the ball in his hands a lot, and guys like Griffin, Jordan, J.J. Redick and even Austin Rivers needed their touches as well. All of these guys did their best to help the team.

But Crawford began to take away from the team dynamic on the court once out there. The ball stuck to his hands a little too much, and certainly more than the regular season where he was capable of some nice isolation plays when hot, but also scored the basketball within the offensive framework of the team. He’s essentially a non-factor on defense, but to be fair that’s not why he’s on the court anyway.

But with no defensive input, as well as scoring the ball less, he was a real drag on his team at times out there. Crawford also has another weapon that is as important now as it’s ever been in the league, a consistent three point stroke. For his career in the regular season, he is a 35% three point shooter. That number could be better, but his ability from downtown has served him well in years gone by.

His career three point average in the playoffs however is 31%, an uglier number to look at. However, when you consider that defenses usually step it up, you can understand that somewhat. Also aiding his case is the fact he played in the playoffs with some decent, but not spectacular, Atlanta Hawks teams, as well as the Clippers in earlier, less dominant forms. Coming off the bench as he does, he is also usually the primary scorer for second units.

All well and good, but then you take a look and see he averaged 24% from three point range throughout the playoffs this season, an unforgivable number. When his team needed him most, he was a non-factor, and that’s not good enough at that time of the year. Which begs the question, should he be on this team next season?

It’s great being consistent during the regular season, much like the Clippers as a whole have been for three years now. But should his roster spot go to another, more impactful, player?

He’s got two years left on his contract, and will make just over $5.5 million for both seasons. When you factor in the upcoming increase in salary cap as a result of the new television deal, his deal is a steal and can be factored into almost any team in the league. Obviously he would work best on a contending team, but that’s exactly what the Clippers are and he’s let them down when they’ve needed him most.

If I’m Los Angeles, I’m definitely shopping him if any teams are interested. A couple of second rounders, even a younger, more capable shooter. All worth looking into. If these playoffs taught us anything, it’s that this Clippers team has the core talent to go all the way to the championship round.

All it needs to do is make the right roster moves around those guys in order to get over the top. Sadly for Crawford, he’s had his time with the team, and he was not up to the challenge when the stakes were at their highest. It’s now time for another offensive savant to have a go at being their scoring punch off the bench.

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