When Jae Crowder was traded to Utah from Cleveland, the hope was Jae Crowder would find the old Boston magic that made him such an integral part of Boston’s success last year. In Cleveland, Jae Crowder played his worst season since his days in Dallas. Jae Crowder looked like a round peg in a square hole in the Cavaliers’ offense.
While in Utah, the results had looked like a continuation of his Cleveland days. In Cleveland, Crowder was averaging 8.6 points on 41% shooting from the field and 32.8% from three with 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists a game. How’s the results been in Utah? Well ... on the surface it might not look like an improvement. It actually looks like a regression. Jae Crowder might be scoring more points a game (13.5) but he’s doing so shooting 5 more shots a game than in Cleveland while shooting a worse percentage from the field (39.4%). So this whole thing is a trainwreck and we should move on from it right? Wrong.
The reason that Crowder has had an increase in shot attempts is the bench unit needs someone to take those shots. If he doesn’t take them then who does? The other reason for the spike is he’s being asked to take more 3 pointers. He’s also hitting a higher percentage of those threes in Utah (34.3%).
In addition to seeing an improvement from distance, Crowder is benefitting from playing on a team built around his defensive identity. When Jae Crowder is on the court the Jazz team has a +/- of +7.1 versus when he’s off the court Utah has a +/- of +5.1. The team plays better when he’s on the court despite the basics statistics saying Crowder is playing worse in Utah than in Cleveland.
When looking at lineup data, Jae Crowder’s inclusion into the lineup has provided Utah with the league’s top lineup post All Star break. The lineup of Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Jae Crowder, and Rudy Gobert has a net rating of 31.2 with the league’s best defensive rating at 84.7. Surprisingly it also yields the league’s 4th best offensive rating post All Star break at 115.9. This isn’t small sample size either. That lineup has played 7 games together with a collective 71 minutes played. In other words, it looks like it could have the makings of a very sustainable defensive lineup. This provides Utah with two great defensive lineups when going big or countering a small lineup.
What should be frightening to the Western Conference is it appears Jae Crowder is improving and quickly. The past two games, Jae Crowder is really finding his place in the rotation. He’s shooting 56% from the field and 47% from the 3 point line. In those games, Crowder has scored 22 points and 16 points. It appears that Crowder is starting to feel comfortable in the Jazz’s offense and find his place.
One thing that probably won’t continue to be so high is his shot attempts. With the return of Dante Exum being any game now, Crowder is sure to see a decrease in shot attempts when the young guard returns to the lineup. If Crowder continues to increase his efficiency this will only provide Utah with more options off the bench and hopefully provide their starting unit some additional rest.
Like a new shoe, the Utah Jazz had to spend some time breaking Jae Crowder into the lineup. Now that they’ve had some time, it’s looking like Jae Crowder is the perfect fit for the Utah Jazz.