Blazers Sign Jamal Crawford

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One of the last remaining big-name free agents of this truncated offseason period has signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Portland Trail Blazers. Jamal Crawford has been linked to Portland for months, with LaMarcus Aldridge initiating a full-on recruitment mission for the Atlanta guard before the lockout even ended. In recent days, he turned down a two-year offer from the Indiana Pacers and narrowed his possible destinations down to three: Portland, Sacramento, and New York (who didn’t stay in the running for long, for financial reasons). If the NBA Twitter community can serve as an accurate barometer, the pursuit of the 2010 Sixth Man of the Year played out like something of a reverse The Decision, with Blazers and Kings fans alike hoping against hope he picked the other one.

Why?

Let’s break this down:

  • The Kings’ pursuit of Crawford made no sense. He’s primarily known as a volume shooter, something Sacramento has no shortage of on their roster: not just Tyreke Evans, but John Salmons (acquired in a draft-day trade), Marcus Thornton (signed to a four-year, $33 million contract a week ago), and rookie sensation Jimmer Fredette. Adding Crawford would have brought Geoff Petrie dangerously close to being the David Kahn of undersized scoring guards.
  • It seemed that the primary impetus for the Blazers’ interest in Crawford was Aldridge’s lobbying. And one need only look at the LeBron-era Cavaliers and present-day Magic as cautionary tales of what happens when you let your star player make too many of your personnel decisions.
  • With Marcus Camby not getting any younger, Greg Oden still in rehab limbo, and Aldridge set to take on a huge workload in a compressed season, Portland’s limited free-agent dollars should be going towards signing more frontcourt depth, not more streaky, one-dimensional wings. Especially not streaky, one-dimensional wings over 30.
  • Wesley Matthews’ playing time was already in flux last year with Brandon Roy’s injuries and Portland’s midseason trade for Gerald Wallace. Signing another two-guard who will command significant minutes doesn’t bode well for anyone hoping Matthews would have a more defined role this season.
  • Crawford doesn’t play defense. That’s a big one.

But now that he’s a Blazer, I’m actually okay with it.

Consider:

  • Crawford’s two-year deal has a player option, and multiple reports are that he wants to test the market next summer, when there will be more money to go around. He’s a one-year stopgap for Portland, not a permanent solution, and nobody has any delusions otherwise.
  • Crawford is from Seattle, has a good relationship with Nate McMillan, and is close friends with Roy, whom Portland had to use its amnesty clause on to sign him.
  • Crawford has said he’s okay with coming off the bench. In fact, he thrived in that role in Atlanta. This likely won’t interfere with Matthews’ development as a starter too much.
  • Look at the rest of the Blazers’ second unit: either Armon Johnson or Nolan Smith at point guard, Nicolas Batum at small forward, Kurt Thomas at power forward, and Chris Johnson at center. Who out of that group can be counted on to score points consistently? I’m still as high on Batum’s potential as anybody on the planet, but his confidence comes and goes and he has yet to prove himself as a steady offensive force. Crawford fills a glaring need in this lineup, to say the least.

This signing doesn’t make the Blazers a title contender, and it doesn’t give them any clarity on a long-term direction. But for one year, as the team and their fans come to terms with the end of the Brandon Roy era, things could be a lot worse.

Sean Highkin

Sean Highkin is a staff writer at Hardwood Paroxysm and a writer for the ESPN TrueHoop blogs Portland Roundball Society and Magic Basketball. He has also written for The Classical, among other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @shighkinNBA. He can be reached by email at highkin (dot) sean (at) gmail.