Third-Year Wizards and Their Progress, Part I: Jordan Crawford

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Third-year Wizards, from left to right: Jordan Crawford, Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker, John Wall

The Washington Wizards have four rotation players in their third year: John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Kevin Seraphin, and Trevor Booker. Two of them (Crawford and Seraphin) have generally been healthy in the 2012-13 season’s first half while the other two (Wall and Booker) have largely been hurt. As we approach the season’s midpoint, we will evaluate the development of Crawford and Seraphin so far; at season’s end we will evaluate what progress Wall and Booker showed us after regaining their health. Today we start with Jordan Crawford.

February 23rd, 2013 will mark the the two-year anniversary between Jordan Crawford and the Washington Wizards. When he came to the Wizards, he was best known for dunking on LeBron and the ensuing dunkgate. Going into this year with a season and a half of Wizards basketball under his belt, his identity had developed into “comically confident, unconscious gunner.” Personally, I was fearful for his life when he claimed to be better than Michael Jordan. There are some crazy fans out there.

With half of the 2012-13 season in the books, where does JC stand now? While the value of Crawford’s shot-happy ways is a worthy debate, what’s not a debate–and what has gone unnoticed by many–is his steady improvement each year as a Wizard. In this post we’ll take a look at both traditional and advanced numbers from Crawford and analyze why they’ve changed and what they mean.

Below is a chart of Crawford’s per-36 minute stats through the afternoon of January 26th, 2013.

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Crawford’s reputation as an inefficient gunner might be warranted, but nonetheless, he has reigned himself in this year. His attempts from the field and at the line have decreased and his shot selection has clearly improved, as shown by his significantly higher FG% and 3P%.

Part of this restraint likely comes from playing more point guard in John Wall’s absence. In line with his increase in point guard duties, both his assist and turnover numbers are up. Other notes include improved rebounding numbers and fewer steals. Put it all together and so far we have a more well-rounded and efficient Jordan Crawford.

Other stats can bolster this analysis. Here are JC’s advanced numbers from basketball-reference.

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These stats confirm what we saw above–Jordan is a much improved passer and rebounder and he is scoring much more efficiently from the field. His steal numbers are slightly down and turnovers slightly up, but nonetheless his ORtg and DRtg are career bests, contributing to a WS48 rate that dwarfs those of previous seasons.

Before moving to shot charts, opponent stats, and position analysis, I want to use this opportunity to point out that Crawford’s value, however improved, is still questionable for some. His 16.2 PER is a tad above average (15), but his .072 WS/48 is a tad below average (.100). This discrepancy obviously speaks to the two stats valuing different things and to a larger debate about the value of shot-creation vs. efficient scoring. I won’t go on a rant here, but given that Wizards struggle to create offense for themselves and that it’s unlikely Crawford is stealing efficient shots away from the Wizards’ league-worst offense, the shot-creation-favoring PER might be a better gauge of Crawford’s value than WS/48.

The overarching themes here for Crawford’s improved shooting and point guard play. Other than the shooting restrictions that come along with running the point, what else might be responsible for Jordan’s shooting improvement?

One potential reason: is Crawford being set up more by his teammates? This seems unlikely, with Wall out and Crawford running the point so much, but it’s possible. Alas, this isn’t the answer. According to basketball-reference.com, Crawford has increased his FG% on jumpers from 34.9% in 2011-12 to 40.5% this year, but was assisted on a greater percentage of jumpers last year (41.7%) than this year (37.8). This self-reliance extends beyond jumpers; his percentage of assisted FGs has dropped from from 38.7% to 35.2%.

How in the world is Crawford more efficient with his jumpers despite being assisted less often?

Using NBA.com’s shooting analysis and hoopdata.com, we see some that compared to last year, this year Crawford is shooting more from inside the paint (but only outside the restricted area), and he’s making these shots at a much higher rate. Last year, only 10% of Crawford’s total shots came in the paint outside the restricted area, and he only made 38%. This year, his shots in the paint outside the RA are more frequent (up to 15.4% of his shots) and more accurate (47%), which has provided a big boost to his efficiency.

This is in line with data from hoopdata.com, which sorts field goal attempts by distance. Last year from 3-9 feet, Crawford shot 31.6%.  This year that is all the way up to 48.8%. And from from 10-15 feet he is up from 43.5% last year to 48.1% this year. In addition, he’s increased his attempts from 10-15 feet (1.3 per game last year; 1.6 this year) and decreased his attempts from 16-23 feet (4.0 per game last year; 3.6 this year).

Put it all together and we that Crawford has been more accurate across the board, with his biggest strides coming from three-point land and short jumpers/runners in the lane.

For one final look at Crawford’s development and in an effort to move beyond shooting analysis, we turn to 82games.com to see how Crawford plays at PG vs. SG and how this translates to his defense. (As a matter of warning, 82games.com uses a PER variant that is scaled and treated the same; I will treat and refer to the variant from 82games.com as “PER” for the sake of simplicity.)

Last year, Crawford played PG 15% of all Wizard plays, during which he he posted a 9.2 PER and gave up a 12.6 PER. He played SG 55% of all Wizard plays and posted a 14.6 PER while giving up a 16.6 PER. Add it all up and Crawford’s opponents sported a 16.5 PER with Crawford defending, a 2.5 increase over his own 14.0 PER.

This year? Crawford is responsible for much more PG (29% of all Wizard possessions) vs. SG (24% of all Wizard possessions), which confirms previous analysis about his assist and turnover rates. More importantly, Crawford is ousting his opponents at both positions. His PER while running the point is 16.7 and his PG opponents have a 9.5 PER. At shooting guard, his PER is only 14.3, but his SG opponents have a 10.1 PER. Add it all up and his PER (16.2) is vastly superior to his opponents’ PER (10.0).

Conclusion

Jordan Crawford has improved each year as a Wizard and this year has finally taken the step towards being a teammate that positively contributes toward winning. This has taken shape in many ways: improved shooting accuracy and shot selection, better rebounding on both ends, unselfish passing and pointmanship, and better defense.

Much of the underlying reason for those improvements is his increased dribble penetration into the paint, which has led to better shots (and likely more assists). Although his steal numbers are down, his opponents are struggling against him at both positions (something that wasn’t the case last year).

It will be interesting to see how Crawford’s role and ensuing production change with Wall’s return. In all likelihood, his assists and his turnovers will both drop. Hopefully his shooting efficiency will improve even more than it already has with Wall setting him up for open shots (recall his low percentage of assisted FGs). In the 6 games they have shared so far, Crawford is 22/45 (48.9%) from the field and 9/16 (56.3%) from downtown.

I was once of the opinion that Crawford’s trigger-happy ways would plague him forever, especially because he didn’t claim to see anything wrong with his shot selection. Now, I am pleasantly surprised to see Crawford using his talents for the betterment of himself and the team. I am sure the Wizards are taking notice, and if other teams don’t start to pay attention to him, he might go all MJ on ’em.

What do you see in Crawford’s game? What does the future hold for him with the Wizards or beyond? 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.

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One Response to Third-Year Wizards and Their Progress, Part I: Jordan Crawford

  1. Pingback: Third-Year Wizards and Their Progress, Part II: Kevin Seraphin | Alone In The Green Room

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