A person who really had the NBA scouts in a dilemma a few years ago was Kevin Love. He had amazing stats coming out of college but all of the scouts and GMs in the draft were worried about one main thing, the “Ceiling”. Most projected Kevin Love’s ceiling to be a Brad Miller type big man, which by no means is a bad comparison, but was it worth a high lottery pick? One of the same dilemmas that is plaguing the GMs this year is the “Curious Case of Jae Crowder.”
These two players find a lot of common ground between themselves; both are just stupid good at playing the game, have shown great production across the board, have high motors and are fundamentally sound. However, the most common thing that unites these two players are that both are undersized big men. Love played the Centre in spite of being only 6’9″ while Crowder played the PF position in spite of of being only 6’6″. Both couldn’t play the position they played in college because of their dimensional limitation, and thus came into question how smooth their their positional transitions would be in the NBA. The transition for Crowder may be even harder to gauge, as he would be required to move from being a Big Man playing the 4 to a perimeter guy. However, in his last year at Marquette, he showed his ability to score from various areas of the floor and that too with great efficiency!
Kevin Love came into the NBA as a big man with great skills, a very high Basketball IQ, and highly efficient production, leading his UCLA bruins to a final four berth in the NCAA tournament. But his biggest red flag was his limited athleticism. Crowder doesn’t suffer from a lack of athletic abilities but is undersized even for a modern day NBA 3 (He measured in at less than 6’6″ in the draft combine measurements).
Other wings in the draft such as Austin Rivers, Quincy Miller, Dion Waiters, Jeremy Lamb, Terrence Ross etc are slated to be late lottery to mid 1st round picks. In terms of both basic as well as advanced stats (FG%, 3FG%, EFG%, PER, WS40, turnovers/40 minutes pace adjusted, blocks+steals+rebounds/40 minutes pace adjusted), Crowder comes out on top of almost every one of them but his red flags have been big enough concerns to not even consider him as a first round pick.
Kevin Love, in his short career, has shown that size and length isn’t that big of a factor for him and has dominated match ups with much taller (viz. La Marcus Aldrige) as well as more athletic (viz. Blake Griffin) PFs this season. His indomitable nature of getting better every season is hard to be mirrored and Crowder is not as skilled as the Minnesota star forward, but under-appreciation of their talents is a common theme between the two.
Crowder’s talents of hitting a lot of shots and all other things on a basketball court at an unbelievably good rate (60.2 2pfg%, 59.8 True Shooting %), doing a heck of a lot of stuff off the ball, while being no slouch at the defensive end is really for all to see. Crowder is a 3 who played a lot of 4 in college for me. The steals, assists, size, and lack of turnovers relative to his usage leads me to believe as such.
Kevin Love was traded on draft night by the Memphis Grizzlies to the Minnesota Timberwolves in an 8 man trade which saw Love, along with Brian Cardinal, Jason Collins and Mike Miller traded to Minnesota in exchange for Greg Buckner, Marko Jaric, Antoine Walker and the draft rights to O. J. Mayo. Memphis Grizzlies must be ruing that decision of picking a player based on flair and upside rather than the productive Love who has now surpassed all expectations, and is now a 2-time all-star.
Crowder may never become an all-star but that’s what they said about Love too, so who knows. What I will put my neck on the line for is that Crowder guarantees you a high pedigree guy who does most stuff you ask of him on court and with great efficiency. He is not a blue collar top tier wing but his talents are greatly undervalued. He is a low risk, high value sort of guy. He is a gem in this year’s draft, waiting to be plucked by any GM who wants to see his talents in the light it in which it should be seen. He can make one GM appear a true genius while making others look like fools.