Previously: Jeff Teague and Zaza Pachulia, Maurice Evans, Josh Powell, Jordan Crawford, Etan Thomas and Jason Collins, Pape Sy
A 2010-11 season preview for Jamal Crawford must begin with an an off-season recap.
First, a look back at Crawford's 2009-10, a career season for the veteran:
The Hawks acquired Jamal Crawford to score. He held up his end of the bargain, scoring more frequently and more efficiently than in any of his previous nine NBA seasons. Joining a good team for the first time in his career, specifically one that institutionally de-emphasized the importance of perimeter defense, Crawford found a context that made his obvious strengths more valuable than his equally obvious weaknesses were costly.Crawford reveled in his success and wanted to stay in Atlanta despite the removal of the chief facilitator of his success (and that of Flip Murray before him), Mike Woodson. The Hawks, already overpaying Crawford (on his current deal), Mike Bibby, Marvin Williams, and Joe Johnson, were understandably reluctant to make another* unpromising, expensive commitment to a one-dimensional guard in his 30s. Especially with Al Horford due a contract extension. So Crawford floated a pay-me-or-trade-me plea. The Hawks didn't respond (publicly) to that plea leaving Crawford to lament his preoccupation with an uncertain future.
Crawford's 2009-10 saw him set new career highs* in each of these categories.
Crawford Pts/36 2PTFG% 3PTFG% TS% Previous High 18.6 45.2 36.1 54.5 2009-10 20.9 49.1 38.2 57.3
*Crawford averaged 18.6 points per 36 minutes in both 2007-08 and 2008-09, made 45.2% of his 2PTFGA in 2005-06, 36.1% of his 3PTFGA in 2004-05, and posted a TS% of 54.5 in 2008-09.
*If it were a better managed team under discussion, the limit for overpaid, one-dimensional guards in their 30s would surely be lower than two.
What does this mean for the Hawks in 2010-11? In his career year, the Hawks were outscored by a point-and-a-half with Crawford on the floor. As much as he helped the team's offense, his complete inability to play defense hurt the team significantly. The damage suffered on the defensive end was not entirely Crawford's fault. A disinterest in team defense was endemic to the 2009-10 Hawks, especially with regard to the second unit which, at times, had Crawford charged with defending the opposing point guard, Maurice Evans assigned the opposing small forward, and Joe Smith nominally defending the opposing power forward.
If Larry Drew (despite being hampered by a lack of capable perimeter defenders on the roster) creates a culture of responsibility on the defensive end, teammates might mitigate Crawford's inherent limitations as a defender. However, it would take a massive improvement as a defensive team to off-set the decline Crawford will likely suffer offensively. It's highly dubious to assume that, without Woodson catering to his specific, narrow gifts, Crawford can again better his career eFG% and TS% by five percentage points or score at 121% of his career rate, much less do so at such a high usage rate. Crawford's coming back to Earth in 2010-11. The Hawks must not let that probability seriously hinder the team as a whole.