What the Clippers’ rotation might look like without Jamal Crawford


Jamal Crawford has been the subject of trade rumors most of his career. Currently on his sixth NBA team, the rumors have caught up with him again. This time a familiar team from his past has allegedly inquired about his services.

The New York Knicks are said to have interest in Crawford, which potentially would be his third stint with the once glamorous franchise. However, the Cleveland Cavaliers are also still interested in the high-scoring shooting guard, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:

We can question whether either team has anything the Clippers would be interested in via trade. More importantly, what would the Clippers’ potential rotations look like without Crawford on the roster?

Last season, Crawford only played 26.6 minutes per game, his lowest mark since the 2002-03 season. He also only played 54 percent of the team’s crunch-time minutes, according to 82games. The previous season he played in 72 percent, which illustrates that Doc Rivers is more comfortable giving those minutes to J.J. Redick or even Austin Rivers.

Both players did an admirable job defensively in the playoffs. Redick and Rivers were asked to defend the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and James Harden. Rivers needed reliable defense, choosing consistency over Crawford’s seemingly hit or miss late game heroics.

This season, the roster is deeper than ever and Rivers has a plethora of options to consider off the bench and in late game situations. Furthermore, the addition of Lance Stephenson only limits Crawford’s creation responsibilities off the bench.

So what exactly would the Clippers’ rotations look like if Crawford were traded?

oApr 19, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; The Los Angeles Clippers bench looks on during the fourth quarter against the San Antonio Spurs in game one of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Bench Rotation

A realistic bench rotation with Crawford likely has him playing between 15 and 18 minutes with the reserves and four or five with a majority of the starters.

Subtract Crawford from the rotation and Rivers has countless options to fill his minutes.

The most likely scenario has Austin Rivers at the point, Stephenson at shooting guard, Paul Pierce or Wesley Johnson at small forward, Josh Smith or Pierce at power forward and Smith or Cole Aldrich at center.

Based on Rivers’ previous rotations, it seems likely he will keep either Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan on the floor with the reserves for a two to three-minute stretch in the second and fourth quarters.

Should Rivers stick to that base minute allocation and rotation, the possibilities are vast.

The most logical lineup would be Rivers, Stephenson, Johnson/Pierce (depending on who started) and Smith. Aldrich will likely see some spot minutes (four to six per game), but for the most part the Clippers second unit looks as versatile as any, at least on paper.

Smith’s versatility is key. He can play and defend three positions (center in small-ball lineups), is a good passer and protects the rim. According to Basketball-Reference, DeMarcus Cousins and Smith were the only two players in the league to record an assist percentage greater than 20 and a block percentage over 3.5.

Additionally, without Crawford around, Rivers and Stephenson would share primary ball-handling duties, with Stephenson being the primary creator. This allows him the opportunity to play in a similar role as the one he had with the Indiana Pacers.

The video above is a good example of how Stephenson can be used as a threat to create offense.

The Pacers setup in a staggered horns set (double high post), overloading the weak side of the floor. Stephenson cuts baseline to load one side of the floor with Paul George and Roy Hibbert. George Hill passes to Hibbert and then flares off David West, drawing his defender, Nate Robinson, into the right corner.

Meanwhile, George fakes a screen for Stephenson and cuts across the lane. Stephenson then curls to the top of the key and takes a hand off from Hibbert. The horns set has now turned into a flat screen-and-pop with West.

Stephenson’s creation ability combined with a Hibbert duck-in allows for a free release and an open jumper for West.

Imagine this play being run with Pierce or Griffin as West and Smith or Jordan as Hibbert. Stephenson has just as many options out of this set with the Clippers reserves as he did with the Pacers starters.

Dec 13, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers talks with forward Blake Griffin (32) during the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Milwaukee won 111-106. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Crunch-Time Rotation

There should be no surprise, the biggest benefactor of a Crawford trade would be Stephenson. While he will likely have the opportunity to run the team’s second unit, he also will see a good amount of crunch-time minutes.

Stephenson, Pierce and Redick will rotate between two positions. Pierce seems a lock to close games at small forward, but Redick and Stephenson offer an interesting duo for Rivers to mix-and-match.

Need more creation ability, defense or size? Stephenson is the guy. More floor-spacing and reliable ball-handling? Redick gets the nod.

However, if Redick plays the type of solid man-to-man defense he played on James Harden in the playoffs, Rivers’ decision becomes a bit more complicated.

This clip is a great example of how fundamental defense can frustrate opponents, even if the defender doesn’t have the athleticism or quickness to match.

Redick iced the screen by Clint Capela and then shows off his ability slide and stick with Harden on his attack. Redick maintains great defensive position, forcing Harden’s attack down the outskirts of the paint and into a rotating Jordan.

Additionally, with Stephenson in the lineup, it provides the team with another creator off the bounce and someone who can serve as a secondary ball handler.

This video is a prime example of Stephenson’s versatility and threat to penetrate, allowing the primary action of the set to develop.

With 91 seconds left, Pacers head coach Frank Vogel, calls an excellent play to free up George for a three.

Hill brings the ball up and swings it to Hibbert, allowing Stephenson to come off a dribble hand off. Because this is a primary action the Pacers run for Stephenson to attack, the defenses attention is focused on him turning the corner.

Meanwhile, George sets a cross screen in the paint for a West duck-in and Hibbert rolls down the lane to set a pin-down for George. Stephenson isn’t being pressured by Marco Belinelli and he has a perfect passing lane to hit George for a catch-and-shoot three to extend the lead to seven.

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These are the type of sets you can expect to see from the Clippers in late-game situations with Stephenson in the lineup. Swap Hibbert for Jordan, George for Pierce, West for Griffin and Hill for Paul and sets like this will be even more difficult to defend.

Should Crawford be dealt, the Clippers will be fine, assuming Stephenson plays more like the Indiana version and not the one from last season’s Charlotte Hornets. At some point, the Clippers will miss his instant scoring ability. However, his creation responsibility can be spread between Stephenson, Rivers and Smith.

Overall, the Clippers are deep enough and have enough lineup flexibility to overcome any problems that might arise from dealing Crawford. The only question is will the return for Crawford’s services be worth it for a team with championship aspirations?

All video courtesy of NBA.com.

Next: Breaking down why J.J. Redick is such a nightmare to defend