Some Options For Jamal Crawford

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Jamal Crawford could very well be overpaid when the lockout is over. He scores a lot but not very efficiently, does too much of his work in isolation, and is a minus on defense. He’s 31 years old and, unless you’re a championship contender in need of extra scoring, you should be very careful about giving him big money. The true contenders don’t have much cap room and it’s unclear where he fits in this free agent market. This sucks because he’s such a good guy.

There. The blogosphere consensus is out of the way. Now, because he’s such a good guy (and a great interview) and because I really miss his crossover and his four-point plays, I’d like to assess a few of his options anyway.

First, don’t completely dismiss Atlanta. While it is true that the Hawks aren’t title contenders and need to give more playing time to Jeff Teague, there’s no indication that they’re going into rebuilding mode any time soon. If Crawford walks and they don’t make a major trade, they’re a slightly worse version of last year’s team. The Hawks acquired him because it needed creators not named Joe Johnson and if he walks they’d still be thin there. I wouldn’t bet on Crawford even necessarily wanting to return, but remember that the only time in his career he’s had had the same coach for two full seasons in a row was with Isiah Thomas in New York. For a guy who missed the playoffs in his first nine seasons, some stability and a near-certain playoff berth must mean something. Also, one of the reasons Crawford was so happy to be in Atlanta in the first place was that he could spend more time with his son, Eric, who goes to school there.

Portland is similarly easy for us to dismiss, but I’m not sure we should. It’s not Seattle, so it’s not home, but it’s close to home, he counts Brandon Roy as one of his best friends, and he’d fit in basketball-wise if he was content with remaining in the sixth man role and taking fewer shots. I’m not sure he’d make the Blazers much better or different than they currently are, but they’d have so much firepower. The question, of course, is Portland’s plan… or lack of one. In early October Larry Miller pressed the reset button after a four-month GM search and weeks later a report suggested Paul Allen was preparing to sell the team. It’s widely known that Allen at least used to see the Blazers as a contender. If he’s given up on that, then there’s no chance Crawford ends up there. If the old Paul Allen re-emerges, though, it’s possible — that guy never minded dishing out cash on a potentially superfluous piece if he believed it gave his team an edge.

Chicago might be my favorite destination for Crawford, even if he wouldn’t bring the Bulls the efficiency of someone like Arron Afflalo. I love the idea of him returning to where his career started to try to help them sustain the league’s best record. Crawford’s Bulls teams lost 73 percent of their games over his four years there and, after missing out on the chance to grow up with Jay Williams, as a veteran he’d be able to take some pressure off of Derrick Rose. Phil Jackson was right when he said they need complementary pieces and Crawford would help in this regard. He can act as a second or third option and a floor spacer when Rose is out there and get his isolation buckets when he’s resting. The stumbling block here is money, just as it is with Portland and Atlanta, or even the Heat and Lakers. We don’t know exactly what his market value will be when the lockout ends. We don’t know exactly how restricted over-the-cap and luxury tax-paying teams will be. We just know teams will be restricted and Crawford’s going to be in a tough spot. When J.A. Adande mentioned vets having to choose between a payday and a shot at a ring, Crawford was the kind of guy he was talking about. Of course, players usually follow the money in free agency, but in this context ending up an overpaid gunner is not a foregone conclusion.

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