I was looking through Wikipedia today, and I came across an interesting tidbit: in the 28-year history of the NBA Most Improved
Player Award, there has never been a player who has won the award while wearing Celtics green.
Think it’s about time we got someone on that list.
When this season started, most of us Boston Celtics fans were pretty sure the team was going to duke it out for one of the worst records in the NBA, with the flip side being that the Celts would have a legitimate shot at drafting within the top three of the 2014 NBA Draft. One look at Boston’s roster was enough to validate such pessimism, as the Celtics boast three rookies, a banged-up player who owns what could officially be the worst contract in the NBA (Gerald Wallace, in case you’re curious), and a player who the Washington Wizards wanted so badly to get rid of that they closed their eyes and just randomly picked two players off of the Celtics’ roster last season. (I’m kidding . . . I think.)
The last player I just described, as I am sure most of you know, is Jordan Crawford, and the number of you who were excited to see him on the Boston Celtics’ roster this year probably number in the low teens. Keep in mind, the Celtics were desperate to unload Crawford last summer, and could not find any takers. That’s because, in the 27 games he played for Boston last season, he averaged 9 points per game, while logging over 21 minutes per evening. His PER (Player Efficiency Rating) for the Celtics was 12.0 (the league average is 15) and his Offensive Win Share rating was zero. That’s right: Jordan Crawford was a scorer who contributed exactly zero wins to the Boston Celtics due to his contributions on offense last season.
Fast forward to now, and it is literally like we’re talking about a completely different Jordan Crawford so far this season. A quick look at his stats for this season will show you that Crawford has improved in almost every single category. Points per game. Field goal percentage. Free throw percentage. Rebounds per game. Assists per game. He’s improved in every one of those categories, even boasting career best numbers in field goal percentage, 3-point shooting percentage, and assists per game. Better still, his PER so far is 18.9, the highest it’s ever been. Effective field goal percentage? Best of his career. Same with his assist percentage, as he is dishing the rock to the tune of 30.5% of the times his team scores while he is on the hardwood. His offensive win share and total win share ratings are 1.5 and 2.0, respectively, both up 1.5 from last season. And if you look at the Hollinger numbers, you’ll find Crawford listed 30th in the NBA in both VA (Value Added) and EWA (Estimated Wins Added) – the best of any player on the Boston Celtics so far this year.
As a matter of fact, there isn’t a player on the Celtics’ roster listed in the top 50 of either of those categories.
Of course, these numbers would be meaningless, in my eyes, if Crawford’s improved play on the court was not matched – make that exceeded – by his attitude and willingness to work off of the court. To hear Brad Stevens tell it, Crawford has been nothing but a “consummate teammate” and “very easy to coach.” Meanwhile, Crawford has been outspoken about being grateful for the opportunity the Celtics have given him, and that in particular he would like to “repay” coach Stevens for having such faith in him.
We’re 25% of the way through the regular season, so any talk about end-of-the-year awards is pure speculation. There’s a lot that can change, but this much I know: if Jordan Crawford continues to play at the level that he has played over the course of the first 21 games, there could be a bit of new history being made in Beantown. It may not be the history we want – number 18, anyone? – but it will be a nice step in that direction.