Jae Crowder: More than Three and D


Jae Crowder is more than just a guy who can shoot the three and play defense, he has become an integral part of this Celtics team, and will play a big role in their postseason success.

When the Boston Celtics shipped Rajon Rondo to the Mavericks back in 2014, Jae Crowder was considered a throw-in. The prize that Boston was getting in return was Brandan Wright. However, after two-plus seasons with the Celtics, it’s clear that all Crowder needed was an opportunity to show what he can do.

Since becoming a Celtic, Crowder’s minute totals have almost doubled, compared to his time with Dallas, and his production has followed suit. This season, like many of his teammates, has been the best of Crowder’s career. With most of the attention this year having been on Isaiah Thomas — and rightfully so — it feels as though Crowder’s contributions have been taken for granted.

He’s in the midst of his best season as a pro. His shooting percentages are all currently career-bests, including a three-point percentage hovering near 40 percent. That’s an increase of seven percentage points from last year, no small feat. He currently ranks fifth among small forwards in three-point percentage, and sixth in three-point makes.

In addition to his shooting percentages, Crowder is on pace to post career-highs in rebounds and assists. On a team that struggles at times to rebound, Crowder has turned into one of Boston’s top rebounders. With no dominant rebounder on the roster, Brad Stevens has routinely challenged the team to rebound better, collectively. A challenge that Crowder has accepted.

Boston Celtics
Boston Celtics /

Boston Celtics

Pre All-Star break, Crowder was averaging just over five rebounds a game. Avery Bradley was Boston’s top rebounder, but injuries began limiting his playing time. In his absence, Crowder stepped up and filled that void.

Since the All-Star break, Crowder — and the team as a whole — has been noticeably better rebounding the basketball. In 17 games since the break, Crowder has been Boston’s top defensive rebounder, averaging 6.8 per game. His 7.5 total rebounds per game, is second only to Al Horford‘s 7.7. Horford and Crowder have far and away been Boston’s top rebounders since early February.

In 47 games before the break, Crowder posted 10 or more rebounds just twice. However, in the 17 games since, he’s done so seven times. With the size that Boston is likely to encounter in the postseason, having a guy like Crowder to chip in on the boards will be important.

Anybody who watches the Celtics knows what Crowder brings defensively. His physical, in-your-face, aggressive style helps set the tone for Boston. He never gives up on the play, so even if you think you have a step on him, you probably don’t. He has great hands, evidenced by his ability to strip the ball from opposing players on drives to the basket.

It feels as if Crowder is mistakenly labeled a “three and d” player. While Crowder has become a reliable three-point shooter, and one of Boston’s top defenders, that label doesn’t quite capture everything that he brings to this team. That label almost puts a limit on Crowder’s abilities.

Sure, he’s one of Boston’s top three-point threats. Yes, he’s a tough, hard-nosed defender. Yet, he can do much more. He can rebound. Crowder can also put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim, just ask the Nets. He plays with the kind of fire and passion that can ignite a crowd, and his teammates.

Next: Boston Celtics Not Afraid of Miami Heat

On a championship-winning team, I’ve always viewed Crowder as playing the role that James Posey played in 2007-08 with Boston. However, he is proving himself to be a bit more versatile than that.