What’s Going on with Jae Crowder?

Feb 29, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) passes the ball against the Utah Jazz during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 29, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) passes the ball against the Utah Jazz during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Celtics are still waiting for Jae Crowder to take another step

Shipped to the Boston Celtics back in December of 2014 as a piece of the Rajon Rondo trade, Jae Crowder showed us all that he was much more than the bench warming role player he had become in Dallas. He had a very productive season after the trade as he earned himself a five year contract with the Celtics.

The 2015-16 season was Crowder’s first in a starting role. The forward averaged a career high 14.2 points along with 5.1 rebounds, while shooting a career best 34% from three. Crowder also received votes for the NBA’s All Defensive teams, as well as almost making it to the all star game after Butler’s injury last February. It is safe to say that last season was Crowder’s breakout campaign for him to build off of in years to come.

So far this season, however, Crowder has not made the leap from where he was last year. An early season ankle sprain did not help, as it could be the reason for his decrease in production. But Crowder is now averaging 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists to start the year. It doesn’t seem bad when you look at the numbers, but if Crowder plateaus, we should expect some change coming in the near future.

The main improvement we have seen with Crowder is his shooting. Last season, Crowder shot on average 5 three pointers per game hitting 34% of them. He is now making 38% of his threes while still attempting 5 per game. This is the type of improvement all Celtics fans were hoping to see from their starting small forward.

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So what’s the problem? Why haven’t Crowder’s numbers improved from last year? Coming out of college, Leonard and Crowder were similar players. Even though Leonard was much better initially, his scoring has increased every season since transforming into a good three point shooter. So why has Crowder not experienced that increase? I think it is due to the fact that Crowder is trending away from what he did on offense before his shot came together.

Last season, Crowder averaged 3.3 free throw attempts per game. That isn’t a great number, but it is substantially larger than his 1.5 attempts per game this season. Leonard’s free throw attempts per game have only gone up since entering the league. So there lies the problem. Crowder is making more threes this year, but that’s really all he’s doing. He’s too much of a perimeter player right now.

It is an easy fix if you ask me. Crowder was primarily a slasher in the early part of his Celtics career and for all of his time in Dallas. I remember loving how aggressive he was going to the basket with that 6’6 230 pound frame. All he needed was to improve his jump shot and the Celtics would have a fringe all star on their hands.

This season, Crowder has just been sitting outside in three point land and rarely takes the ball to the basket anymore. With this style of play, it makes Crowder useless to the offense if he isn’t knocking down threes. Especially on this Celtics team that struggles to get free throws besides Isaiah Thomas, Crowder absolutely needs to drive to the basket more. Driving lanes should be more open than they ever have been thanks to the addition of Al Horford and Avery Bradley‘s increased production.

Driving more and getting to the free throw line will help Crowder’s all around game immensely. Defenders who close out hard on him to prevent threes will be easy to get by and into paint. Defenders who dare to sag off on him will give Crowder the perfect opportunity to show off that increased stroke of his. Add all of that together and you’ll get the improvement we all hoped for before the season began, and we can realistically talk about a deep playoff run here.

If he fails to improve however, I don’t see Danny Ainge being very patient as his desires for a superstar player must be increasing by the day. Crowder has been rumored in a lot of deals involving the Celtics acquiring the player that will push them over the edge into title contention. I and many fans have been reluctant to want to give him up, but if he continues this type of play the Celtics should most certainly ship him off for an upgrade.

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I don’t want that to happen though. I love Crowder and the edge he brings to this team. He’s on a team friendly contract until the summer of 2020, and has been a good influence on the ever important Jaylen Brown. So let’s just hope he gets things together because it wold be in Boston’s best interest if Crowder can be the player we all want him to be.

So Crowder, please, drive to the basket.