I have two major problems in life, and unfortunately they interact with one another to considerably shake up my life as I know it. The primary problem is that I am unemployed, except for my semi-famous gig as a Tennis Guru (shameless plug). Months ago when the rejection letters started piling up, I fantasized that my economy-induced employment difficulties (it’s not my grades/experience…shameless plug, once again) would send me into a Jordan-esque doubter-prover-wronger craze during which I would write blog-post after blog-post about Barkley-Shaq duels on TNT sets, Ricky Davis sightings, and most importantly, the 2011-12 NBA season (the new greatest season ever). But therein lies the second problem(s): In addition to not knowing Ricky Davis’ whereabouts, the greatest season ever is going to have to wait. Maybe it’s for the best, that the NBA delays its season. Maybe my greatest season ever (i.e. not the unemployed one that’s approaching fast) should coincide with the NBA’s greatest season in a year that I can look to as the pinnacle of existence!
Without a job, I will have to turn my attentions toward the real-world (i.e. not the non-existent NBA…maybe like politics or the environment) without yet having entered the real-world.* But, being the NBA fiend that I am, my mind has naturally wandered toward “Wizard Wonderment.” I’m a curious man, and I can’t help but ponder over every possible Wizards-related scenario. Some of my thoughts are impossibly far-fetched…I started wondering last night if Rashard Lewis could build a time-machine for himself and learn to shoot again. But then I realized one would have to go to college to learn to build one of those. Without an existing time-machine that Rashard could use to go back in time, attend college, and build one for himself (my original dream), we are stuck in the current world of over-the-hill and over-paid Rashard.**
Back to my “Wizards Wonderment,” I have rekindled the late-season debate of Nick Young vs. Jordan Crawford. With the only 5-on-5 these days coming courtesy of ESPN analysis and my local rec park, I was inspired to compare and contrast the shot-happy guards myself in the context of the Wizards’ future.
Nick Young vs. Jordan Crawford for the 2010-2011 Wizards–some stats:
The first thing that should be mentioned is that Crawford just finished his first season at age 22 while Young just finished his fourth at age 25. The second thing that should be mentioned is that neither player was particularly productive, according to the stats at least (highlights of both Crawford and Young may lead you to believe otherwise). Both posted a below average PER for the Wiz this past season (average is 15). Let us break down their strengths and weaknesses and place them in the context of the Wizards now and in the future.
Nick Young: Swaggy P is a low-turnover guard who is a decent scorer with a silky smooth stroke. He can put the ball in the hoop in a variety of ways and he spreads the floor for the Wizards. He also doesn’t pass or turn it over. This means he’s reliable, in a sense…you can, uh, count on the fact that he will shoot if he gets the ball. He moves the ball, but he doesn’t make plays for others. His defense isn’t great, but given the right system and culture, I could imagine him playing good defense…he actually had a better PER than his SG counterparts this season. His athleticism is overstated, as his on-court product lacks explosiveness. Maybe this lack of explosiveness contributes to his controlled and mistake-free style of play, but it would be nice to see him get to the hoop more. I mean, 90% of Young’s FGs were jumpers. He does shoot 4 foul shots per 36min, which is average, and as Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie likes to say, “average ain’t bad.” With some increased/improved three-point shooting and basket-attacking, his scoring should continue to improve. Wiz fans would like to see his offense emulate that of James Harden, Jason Terry, or even Kevin Martin. Maybe that is premature, but then again, this is “Wizard Wonderment,” okay?! To be honest, improved scoring and floor-spreading with some defense sprinkled is all I ask for, because other than chemistry and reliability from the big men, that is all the Wizards need as a team. Young understands his role, and while he needs to improve at that role, that understanding can breed chemistry, culture, identity, and winning. Nick just needs to play his role to perfection. We know Nick can’t pass and that he’s soft; leave the passing to Wall and the rebounding to the big men (yeeeesh), and hopefully he’ll continue to protect the ball and put the ball in the hole. The Wiz have no other shooters (sorry Rashard) and need defense from every position. And if Young doesn’t bring the D? Chris Singleton will bring it for him and Young will find the pine.
Jordan Crawford: The rookie brought several things to the table as a youngin’ that veteran Nick didn’t provide–namely ball-handling, passing, and creative playmaking abilities that permitted him combo-guard duties. His assist rate is high and he knows how to dribble and run the pick-and-roll. With the ball in his hands, however, he overstepped his role at times. He made iffy decisions and took ill-advised shots leading to horrendous shooting percentages and turnovers. He settled for fewer jumpers than Young (82% of FGs), but he actually took more shots per minute as a PG than as an SG. Crawford’s offensive energy level was higher than Young’s, but much of that energy was wasted in needless isolation plays and unnecessarily difficult shots. This could factor into why Young defended opposing guards better than Crawford did. Despite stealing the ball at a rate twice as high as Young (2.1 vs 1.1 STL%), Crawford had a tougher time defending SGs, as indicated by allowing a PER of 16 for opposing SGs. (Young held them to a PER of 10, on average). Then again, rookies typically improve their defense, so there is reason for hope given his on-court effort level. My hope for Crawford is that he learns to shoot, first and foremost–if he improves that a little his production can approach the likes of Jerryd Bayless or the underrated Lou Williams. If he starts draining jumpers? He could be a better Delonte West or a worse Stephen Curry or Eric Gordon. Those are mighty big “ifs,” but it can’t be said enough, he was a rookie on the dysfunctional Wizards!
Big Picture: Before I broke down each player, I noted that neither was particularly productive this past season. But I should add that both are young (no pun intended) and have the talent and athleticism to improve. While both are bad rebounders and subpar defenders, they could actually learn from each other’s offensive skill-sets. Young could use some of Crawford’s play-making and aggression. Crawford could use some of Young’s calm and control and take a shooting lesson or two.
Going Forward: Young is a free-agent and re-signing him would be nice, but only for the right price. He’s already 25, which isn’t old, but older than is ideal for rebuilding around 20-year-old John Wall. In envisioning a competitive Wizards team in the future, Young seems to fill the void for scoring and floor-spreading, without the pains of turnovers or ball-hogging. There aren’t too many scorers who can shoot and shooters that can score while playing within their role, so for that alone he’s worth a small price. If he defends and rounds out his game, he’s worth a higher price. Crawford’s future is secure for now but slightly more complicated. He’s young with tough-to-teach creativity and has correctable problems. He overlaps with rookie Shelvin Mack as a scoring combo-guard, but Mack hasn’t played an NBA minute. If Crawford finds a more stable role (which would be aided by a more stable season), then I trust him to improve his decision-making and polish his game. Above all the Wizards would like Crawford to add the shooting, defense, and controlled pace that Young provides while keeping the spark that allowed him to create so much for himself and others.
Which player would you prefer to have going forward? How much is Swaggy P’s hair worth to the team morale? Comment on the article or e-mail AGRBasketball (at) gmail (dot) com. Don’t forget to follow @AGRBasketball on Twitter.
*Which one is the “real-world?” Certainly not the fantasy world that TV and stadiums transport us to for a few hours, 82 times a year. But perhaps it is not the full-time job and immersion in society that makes up “realness,” either. Maybe it is the commitment-free rawness of the unemployed life of a recent graduate that constitutes realness. Maybe it is the spontaneous, passionate writing about my “real” investment in those which aren’t real–the NBA and the narrative of “real-life.” Or maybe it is only serious struggle and joy (e.g. disease and true love) that is real, not my literary whims. As soon as I am aware that this emotional (read: real) investment is wrapped up in distractions, does that make this emotional response naive? Phony? Hyperreal? Human? Cyborg? I’ll let you answer these questions for yourselves, stop with the philosophical nonsense there, and go back to writing about basketball.
**Sorry, Rashard! That’s what you get for stealing Jan Vesely’s future playing time! Your career has been impressive for a second-rounder out of HS. Respect.
Comment on the article or e-mail us at AGRbasketball (at) gmail (dot) com. Don’t forget to follow @AGRbasketball on Twitter and to like us on Facebook.