Jamal Crawford is a guard who has no trouble scoring and the Blazers could use another scoring threat at guard. I agree with that poorly written sentence.
Signing Jamal Crawford to a two-year, $10 million contract was a good move for the Blazers. I’m skeptical of that one.
The alignment between what Crawford can do and what Portland needs makes this union seem like a good fit. The Blazers lack a guard off the bench who can score. Crawford was a guard off the bench who could score for the last two seasons with the Hawks. In fact, during the 2009-10 season he performed this role so well that he was recognized with the Sixth Man of the Year award. That is enough to say that this move could very well work out for the Blazers.
With a closer look some doubts emerge. To be clear, I don’t think that Crawford is too old to contribute; he is only thirty-one. I don’t think he requires an up-tempo system to succeed; he succeeded with an Atlanta team that was 27th in pace both seasons that he was there. I’m not even alarmed at his low efficiency (41% career field goal percentage), well maybe a little bit.
Mostly I’m worried about usage. Usage is the percentage of team plays used by that player while he is on the floor. (Word to Basketball-Reference.com.) To illustrate how Crawford’s usage has related to his production over his career take a look at the chart below. The red line represents Crawford’s usage over his career. The blue line represents his PER, which measures per minute production and is standardized so that a score of 15 is considered average.
For Crawford, PER and usage follow a similar pattern. Generally, when one has been up so has the other, and when one has been down so has the other. Crawford’s career usage rate is 23.4. In seven of his eleven seasons his average usage rate has been less than his career mark. In four seasons his usage has been above his career mark. In the seven seasons he has spent below his career usage average, Crawford’s average PER is 13.07. In the four seasons Crawford has been above his career average usage his PER is 16.2.
The takeaway is simple: Give Crawford a lot of touches and he has a good chance at producing at above average levels. If he doesn’t get enough touches, don’t count on it. Over his career Crawford has not produced at even average levels when his usage rate is not high. This is a source of concern as he joins the Blazers. Below is a chart showing usage levels of the Blazers last season, with shooting guards highlighted in red.
It is not clear that Crawford will have the usage he needs to be effective with the Blazers. The offense may change somewhat this season, but will still rightly revolve around LaMarcus Aldridge for around thirty-eight minutes per game. Crawford is not likely to see the amount of touches commanded by Brandon Roy. He will be a player off the bench and off the ball that will usually be the second scoring option.
Crawford will have phenomenal nights either way. He will dazzle with his flashy moves. But if he produces at levels as low as these figures suggest he might, he will have hardly been worth the two-year, $10 million contract.