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The Jazz Renaissance of Jae Crowder

The Utah Jazz traded for Jae Crowder in the hopes they would receive this version of the wingman.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

When the Utah Jazz traded for swingman Jae Crowder last year, they were hoping to add to their depth and provide Utah an additional option for when teams went small. Their initial hope was that Jae’s down year in Cleveland was an anomaly due to the stress of moving to a new town shortly after the life altering even of losing his mother. While last year the individual stats of Jae Crowder didn’t quite show a return to his Boston’s production, the lineups that Jae was featured heavily outperformed the lineups in which he was not. Fast forward to this season and the the Crowder of Boston yesteryear is back.

Jae Crowder this season has not just been a cog in the Jazz’s offensive machine, but a key contributor. He has scored 18 points or more in one third of all the Jazz’s games this year. He is averaging 35% from three and 46% from the field, both of which are the second highest of his career.

Jae is coming off one of the best games of his Utah Jazz career. Against Boston, he tallied 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists against his former team. That might give Boston fans some pause about the time they chanted the now under-performing Gordon Hayward’s name before he was even a Celtic, a memory that Jae Crowder will use as motivation for the rest of his career.

Last year, the prototypical Jae Crowder game was when he shot 4 of 11 from the field, ended the game with a number of hustle plays, and somehow despite what would seem to be a below average game, the lineup that featured him would have a net rating of +/- of +15. His mere presence on the floor instead of Derrick Favors forced opponents to think twice about packing the paint.

That trend is continuing this year as the Jazz’s best lineup—and most played lineup—of Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Jae Crowder, and Rudy Gobert has a net rating of +17.5. That lineup has allowed Rudy Gobert to have another offensive surge as Utah has the desired spacing to throw a relentless amount of lobs toward Rudy Gobert. If teams overplay the lob, Utah has Ingles in one corner and Crowder in another to punish that opposing team.

Jae Crowder isn’t even shooting above 31% from the corner three. He’s been doing the real damage on above the break threes as a bit of a trailer on a fast break or on a quick kick out. He’s shooting 38% on above the break threes. That number is sure to fall a bit, but his shooting percentage on corner threes is sure to rise well above a 31%. Which is to say, the Jazz are getting the player they thought they were getting.

With the type of numbers that Jae Crowder is putting up right now—14.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.8apg—off the bench, he is sure to get Sixth Man of the Year consideration if he continues that phenomenal play off the bench. But here’s the thing, he probably isn’t going to stay on the bench for much longer.

At least ... it wouldn’t seem.

Ben Dowsett of The Athletic tweeted out these numbers this morning of how Rudy Gobert makes players better when he’s on the floor with him. Everyone but Derrick Favors improved. Another stat point showing that Derrick Favors needs less minutes at the 4 with Gobert and more at the backup 5. Utah had anticipated that his role could be diminished, hence why they opened up the coffers for him to placate him when he might not be a part of the starting lineup.

This isn’t a Derrick Favors isn’t good, Jae Crowder is analysis. They’re both really good. Derrick Favors play at the 5 against Boston—getting offensive rebounds, putbacks, giving Gobert valuable rest—were vital for the win. But now Utah finally has the personnel to get their players in the best position to succeed.

Jae Crowder is going to get some attention for Sixth Man of the Year, but if he continues his excellent play, he’s going to be in the starting rotation. The Utah Jazz once again may have found an underappreciated player and gave him the tools to shine with Jae Crowder. Boston’s mistake is Utah’s gift. Just ask Jae if he thinks Boston made a mistake trading him away.

“They know,” Crowder said. “I’ll leave it at that.”