Jamal Crawford is helping out the Minnesota Timberwolves bench. And proving a lot of people wrong who thought he was done.
There was a lot of…let’s call it mixed feelings about Jamal Crawford coming to the Minnesota Timberwolves this offseason. The main points against him were things like “he doesn’t have anything left in the tank” and “why would a defensive coach like Tom Thibodeau bring in a player who doesn’t play much defense at all?”
The reason coach Thibs brought him in was to try to shore up a bench that did not look good at all last season. Crawford certainly does make this razor-thin bench look better. When you combine him with Tyus Jones and Gorgui Dieng, you see the only part of the Timberwolves bench that does anything (with Nemanja Bjelica currently out of the lineup due to injury).
With such a weak bench, J Crossover has to find ways to work with his new teammates in ways they are comfortable. He has been doing that well with Gorgui Dieng.
Back when Zach LaVine called the Target Center home, him and Dieng would run the pick-and-roll very effectively. I’m not saying they were John Stockton and Karl Malone good, but they were a very solid pairing. They knew what each other wanted to do before they had even made their way down the court. They were proficient at both pick and roll as well as pick-and-pop.
Crawford has been slowly gaining confidence and familiarity with Dieng as a roll man. While they might not be as good of a duo as when the two-time slam dunk champion played for the Wolves, they are getting there.
When the second unit comes out during the next game, keep an eye on them. They make plays both in the pick and roll/pop as well as unscripted plays where one seems to be in the perfect position. Take this play for example: While it might not have looked like anything impressive, it was a smart play by Dieng. He knew that, with Crawford’s ability to finish at the rim, he would suck Cody Zeller into the paint for a block attempt. Crawford delivers on his end with a sweet drop off pass to G for the easy slam.
The former Louisville Cardinal could have just has easily popped out to around 15 feet and settled for a mid-range jumper. When you factor Crawford’s ability to score with ease into the situation, it makes for an easy finish in the paint for the big man.
Just to close things out on the pick and roll, the former Michigan Wolverine is in the 61st percentile when it comes to being the ball handler. Jeff Teague, this team’s starting point guard, is in the 56th percentile.
While assists and gaining continuity with teammates is very important, we all know what Crawford was brought to Minnesota to do: score off the bench.
The former Los Angeles Clipper has been doing that well for the Wolves. He is averaging 9.2 points per game off the bench, which is more than two pointer above the closest bench player (Bjelica at 7.1). Just imagine where this bench would be if Crawford was on another squad.
His ability to score in bunches is well-known. It has shown so far this season. He has 11 games this campaign where he has scored 10 points or more in a game. When you play for Thibs, he likes to bring players off the bench who can score in bunches and combine them with the starting lineup. Just look at when he was back in Chicago and had Nate Robinson.
There were a lot of people who had written off Crawford as just another late in his career signing who would be a shell of himself. So far this season, the 17 year veteran is showing that he is just as valuable as ever, especially to a Timberwolves team struggling off the bench.