Jordan Crawford Brings Immediate Lineup Help, Little Long-Term Improvement to Celtics

Jordan CrawfordIf nothing else, Jordan Crawford adds another healthy player with worthwhile skills to the Celtics’ backcourt. Since Leandro Barbosa went down with a season-ending knee injury, Boston had been running with a total of three guards and biting their lips every time Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee or Jason Terry got in the least bit of foul trouble.

Crawford eases that worry a little, and he is more ready to contribute than Terrence Williams, whom the Celtics added this week on a 10-day contract. He is a “shooter,” as far as that description goes, in that he is willing to shoot. Aside from providing a healthy body and a hearty helping of ill-advised shots, however, do not expect Crawford to be the game-changing trade deadline pickup teams dream about.

The Celtics needed to do something on Thursday. That much was not subject to debate. Since Barbosa followed Jared Sullinger and Rajon Rondo to the shelf, the Celtics have been running with very little depth in their patchwork rotation. Whether Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge did something drastic like trade Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce, or something minor like adding a live body or two, he could not afford to stand pat.

Given that position, Ainge pulled off a remarkable deal by reportedly convincing the Wizards to give up Crawford for nothing more than Barbosa and Jason Collins. Barbosa probably will never play in Washington and Collins will battle for minutes in a front line that already has Nene and Emeka Okafor, but that was not the point for Washington. The Wizards managed to rid themselves of an irrepressible young shooter who had played his way out of the rotation for two expiring contracts. This deal was a win-win, more or less, for both sides.

Crawford will provide immediate help or be an immediate drain on the Celtics, depending on how one judges basketball proficiency. Just 24 years old, Crawford has never averaged less than 11.7 points per game in his three NBA seasons and averages 18.4 points per 36 minutes in his career. But it takes him nearly 13 shots per game to get his average, and while he takes around four 3-pointers per game, he traditionally hits less than 30 percent of them. (He has stepped up his accuracy to 34.5 percent from downtown this season, but his previous career best beyond the arc is 28.9 percent.)

There were indications that Crawford clashed at times with John Wall and Bradley Beal, which was not the wisest move since the Wizards consider those two their backcourt of the future. Per-minute statistics can be revealing in some cases, but in Crawford’s case those numbers are misleading. There was a reason he played less than six minutes and went scoreless in his final game as a Wizard. Otherwise, the Wizards would not have sent him away for two players who will play for them either rarely or not at all.

As with his on-court skills, Crawford’s contract is either a boon or a bane. His relatively affordable rookie contract runs through the end of next season, when he becomes a restricted free agent. But he does add $2.2 million to a Celtics payroll that was already threatening the estimated luxury tax number for 2013-14, and all of it is guaranteed. The Celtics could have signed two players at the veteran’s minimum for less than that amount, since the league would have paid a portion of their salaries. With the collective bargaining agreements new “repeater penalties” set to go into effect in 2015, being over the luxury tax line two straight seasons could be bad news for Boston.

Let us be clear, adding Crawford was far from a negative move for the Celtics. They added a useful piece for basically nothing, since Barbosa was finished for the year and Collins was chipping in no more than a few minutes and a handful of fouls here and there. In addition, the Celtics did manage to clear another roster spot, giving them three openings to add a low-cost free agent if they so desire.

On a relatively slow trade deadline day, this was no coup. Deadline-day deals seldom are. The Celtics managed to address a need without “blowing it up” or screwing themselves royally from a financial standpoint in the long-term, so in those respects, they can count this as a victory.

Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame or send it here.

Photo via Facebook/Jordan Crawford

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