In a season where the losses mount nightly, it’s been interesting to watch which players use the opportunity of increased playing time to make a positive impact. Some players, such as Trevor Booker and Mo Evans, have taken advantage of it. They know what their strengths are and play within them. Others, like Yi Jianlian, fail to grab those opportunities. Jordan Crawford has impressed most of all.
Crawford has had a huge impact on the team as his playing time has increased, particularly in his last 14 games (starting 11 of them). In those games, Crawford is averaging 21 points, 4.5 assists, 1.6 steals and is shooting 41 percent, and in the eight games that Crawford has played at least 40 minutes, the team is 4-4. With Young and Blatche having missed time with injuries, Crawford is the only player not named John Wall with the ability to create his own shot. The downside of Crawford’s aggressive gunning style is that when he hits a cold streak, it can get ugly, as shown by his recent five game string where he shot 33 percent from the field while averaging 21 shots per game. While efficiency is not one of his strengths, he is still young, so there is certainly room for improvement. Some of that inefficiency can also be attributed to Crawford trying to take the scoring load upon himself. It’s up to Flip Saunders and the coaching staff to teach Crawford to do a better job of picking and choosing his spots.
Crawford’s breakthrough game was Wednesday night against the Heat when he scored 39 points and nearly kept the team in the game singlehandedly (with support from Mo Evans and Othyus Jeffers) after John Wall was ejected. Wall was ejected after retaliating against two pretty flagrant elbows from Zydrunas Ilgauskas. That is, of course, unless you are ESPN “personality” Colin Cowherd, who has apparently added another Amendment to the Constitution when he proclaimed that NBA players have a “right to their personal space.” His vendetta against Wall is sort of odd considering that Wall isn’t a controversial player. I used up my allotment of outrage for the season on Buzz Bissinger, but needless to say, when big news breaks in the NBA, you don’t often hear people say “quick we need to find out what Colin Cowherd thinks about this.” John Wall being the class act that he is immediately apologized after the game for losing his temper. You never want to see your star player get ejected, but it was good to see that Wall has that fire in his belly.
Crawford’s game against the Heat pushed the Wizards highlights from their usual spot in the last five minutes of SportsCenter (after the Top Ten plays), to the first 10 minutes. If nothing else, it meant the Wizards got attention for something positive. Crawford is in some pretty good company with his performance against the Heat. In the last 10 years, the only 22-and-under rookie guards who scored at least 39 points in a game are Steph Curry, Eric Gordon, Brandon Jennings and Jason Richardson, and none of them had a triple-double in the same season, as Crawford did Friday night.
Crawford has a long way to go. He still needs to make better decisions when he’s handling the ball, improve his shot selection, and work on this defense. But he has a good chance to join John Wall, Trevor Booker and JaVale McGee as another building block for the team.