Last season Jae Crowder provided serviceable depth for an NBA Finals-contending Phoenix Suns team. Fast forward to the start of the 2022-23 season and the 10-year veteran has yet to take the floor.
And one anonymous NBA executive provided some possible clarity for why this may be the case.
After spending two years with the Suns, Crowder is contractually set to earn over $10 million in the final year of his agreement. Yet, with Crowder questionably disgruntled with playing time, both sides mutually came to an agreement — one which sidelines him until a trade partner for the Suns is found.
“He said he’s not playing unless he gets a contract extension that he wants,” an anonymous NBA general manager said, according to Heavy Sports. “I think a lot of teams are turned off by that in and of itself. Like, ‘What? You don’t want to play for one of the best teams in the NBA and prove that you’re worth it so you can get a contract next year? Like, you’re not that good, bro.'”
Bold, yet entirely in bounds.
Crowder, an aging bench piece at best, has little to no leeway here. Pulling an ultimatum card from Crowder’s end is laughable. He’s replaceable, and for a team — like the Suns — with a window to compete, dumping him is more of a plus than keeping him around. Especially with a team whose chemistry is up for debate after Monty Williams and DeAndre Ayton went at it on the bench recently.
From the sounds of it, Crowder is looking to apply a level of special treatment that an athlete of his caliber shouldn’t even think to. Instead, he’s as effective as a team allows him to be, especially on a playoff contender. Crowder is a proven 3-and D-guy who can uplift a bench for a multi-minute stretch. But where does that leave him on a non-playoff contender? The second coming of the Evan Turner-Portland Trailblazers contract that fizzles his career out the door?
As the executive noted, Crowder isn’t a Durant.
“It’s a weird dynamic,” the general manager said. “It’s one thing if Kevin Durant’s holding out because he’s not getting paid enough, but Jae Crowder? Seriously?
“I like him a lot, but I don’t think he’s helping himself here.”
With the Suns, Crowder has averaged 9.7 points, five rebounds and two assists in 127 games. During the playoffs, those numbers are slightly boosted. Playing in two of the last three NBA Finals series, Crowder showed some ability to elevate his game. In Game 3 of the 2021 Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, he dropped 18 points on 6-of-17 shooting from the field.
In 2023, Crowder will become an unrestricted free agent — the ultimate market test.