Los Angeles Clippers: Can Lance Stephenson and Jamal Crawford co-exist?


Nov 9, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Wesley Johnson (11) guards Charlotte Hornets guard Lance Stephenson (1) in the first half of the game at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Jamal Crawford is still very much a member of the Los Angeles Clippers. However, the questions surrounding whether or not he suits the new, deeper roster, or whether he may be traded to the New York Knicks or Cleveland Cavaliers are still persistent. With the addition of Lance Stephenson, the Clippers have a new key shooting guard to take a lot of the second unit backcourt minutes. So, how can he work alongside Crawford?

Well, according to Lance himself, he thinks that playing together with Crawford won’t be a problem.

Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times has reported some of Stephenson’s comments about the situation, and his positive attitude is certainly encouraging. Not just because it may help resolve the issue on the court, but because it shows how willing Stephenson is to do whatever he can to help the Clippers win.

Lance also added the following:

If Crawford doesn’t leave, it will take some time for him to create a role among the Clippers’ revamped second unit. It’s not surprising that some of his tweets over the offseason have indicated he’s unhappy with the situation, though, because he probably doesn’t feel like he’s being valued as a player. And with Stephenson likely coming in as the primary ball handler and playmaker off the bench (probably playing around 22-25 minutes per game), Crawford’s chances to cross-up opponents and bury a few threes will be far less frequent.

So, is it possible for them to coexist with the Clippers?

The key factor that may enable them to work together effectively, as Stephenson has said, is that he attacks the basket far more than Crawford does. Not only can he finish at the rim through contact, but he can also kick the ball back out to teammates and create new opportunities. Crawford, on the other hand, largely relies on his ability to use his lightning quick ball handling to create space for jump shots.

On top of that, Stephenson can also be used as a small forward, especially after spending 23 percent of his playing time at that position this season.

The following extract is from one of my columns from a few weeks ago, highlighting Stephenson’s ability to attack the paint (you can read the full piece here). If he continues to do so with the Clippers, and pursues winning above personal performance and statistics as he’s been suggesting, it may leave Crawford with a better chance of playing his own game from the perimeter:

"Over the course of his five year career, 34.9 percent of Stephenson’s field goal attempts have come from within three feet of the basket. In comparison to the Clippers’ two other primary shooting guards (J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford) Stephenson’s percentage of shot attempts from within that distance is at least 20 percent higher than both of them.So, if Stephenson continues to take more than twice as many shots as Redick and Crawford at the rim, the Clippers have a new athletic, interior weapon to unleash off the bench.Stephenson doesn’t just attack the rim at high frequency, though. He’s efficient as well. He uses his strong, 6’5″, 210 lbs frame to force his way past smaller guards whilst having the quickness and handles to take slower defenders off the dribble when driving into the paint. As a result, he’s made 65.6 percent of his shots within three feet over his career."

The next short extract is from one of my columns discussing whether or not the Clippers will suffer if Crawford leaves, also detailing his lack of efficiency last season, which has decreased his value in this deeper second unit even further (you can read the rest of the article here):

"This season, Crawford made only 39.6 percent of his field goal attempts (his second lowest mark since 2004-5) and shot just 32.7 percent from beyond the arc (the fourth worst mark of his 15 year career). Of course he still has the ability to heat up in an instant, that’s why he’s one of the league’s best heat-check guys. And whilst his role will be reduced slightly with the arrival of Lance Stephenson, Crawford’s efficiency can’t hover around the low thirties in big games.Quick flashes of his instant offense can still make a real difference, but with a host of new players who can all contribute off the bench, it’s hard to rate Crawford’s value to the Clippers as highly now."

In short, the inside driving and playmaking of Stephenson, next to the perimeter ball handling and shooting of Crawford, may mean that the two can coexist with the Clippers. They both control the ball a lot when on the floor, though, which leaves the issue of them putting aside their egos in order to run the second unit offense with quick, fluid passes, rather than too many iso plays. For a while (to begin with at least) playing together won’t be easy for them.

Although, when either Chris Paul or Blake Griffin are on the floor, they can take control of the offense with their ability to facilitate, as they both did to such an elite level last season. Thankfully for Doc Rivers, he has two, interchangeable All-Stars to run the bulk of his offense. That can only help lead the new bench as they adapt to playing together.

Dec 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford (11) during the game against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 109-106. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

It’s by no means certain that the Clippers’ former Sixth Man of the Year will be staying in Los Angeles. A recent report from Frank Isola of the New York Daily Times has revealed that the New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat are interested in trading for Crawford. With three teams keen on acquiring his services, the chance of him departing L.A. seems to be increasing.

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So, if he leaves, the issue of finding chemistry among the Clippers’ core of wing players such as Stephenson, J.J. RedickAustin Rivers, Paul Pierce, Josh Smith and Wesley Johnson will disappear.

However, if Crawford stays, a lot of his potential success with Stephenson will come down to their mindset. Ideally, their combination of an inside game and perimeter game may compliment each other. If not, Crawford is going to be left near the bottom of the rotation, struggling to find a way to contribute among so many new players.

Hopefully for Crawford’s sake he’ll adopt Stephenson’s positive approach and they can find a way to coexist on the Clippers’ deeper and more talented roster. If not, Crawford may have to endure the woes of playing with the Knicks, while his former team races off towards the Conference Finals.

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