With 30 seconds left and the Clippers up four points in regulation, Crawford found himself mismatched against Thunder big man Kendrick Perkins. After looking off point guard Chris Paul and failing to give forward Blake Griffin any thought, Crawford blew past Perkins to attempt a beautiful finger roll layup, only for an ugly result. The Thunder would grab the rebound and outlet the ball to Kevin Durant, who would score two of his 27 points.
With two games left in the series and a low likelihood of winning two straight games, it seemed as if that would be the defining possession of the year. Regretfully, it was. Another moment on the momentous list of almost-wins, adding to a calling card the Clippers are all too familiar with… loss.
With the Clippers season coming to a halt after six hard-fought games played against the Thunder, they find themselves facing another summer with major decisions to make. After another abrupt and unexpected end in two seasons, (the first of which resulted in the departure of Vinny Del Negro) without a doubt, his replacement, Doc Rivers, will seek to upgrade the Clippers roster. Although it’s a tough decision to make, it’s time for the Clippers to sail on without Jamal Crawford. Just like Del Negro, the team’s promise has surpassed Crawford’s.
Crawford will command a salary of about $5.5 million over the next two seasons, which is a relatively cheap price for his talent. However just as the Clippers success and ambition outgrew former head coach Vinny Del Negro, their need for consistency and lowered risk has outgrown Crawford.
Crawford is the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, and is one of the league’s elite scorers. He’s also 17th all-time in career 3-pointers, one of three active NBA players with at least three games of 50-plus points (Kobe Bryant and LeBron James), third in fourth-quarter scoring (behind Bryant and Kevin Durant), and the league leader in four-point plays.
Therein lies the Clippers issue with the 34-year old guard. It’s not that Crawford isn’t effective, in fact the Clippers put up 27 percent of their regular season average in points while Crawford was on the floor. His natural knack for scoring the ball and creating his own shot makes him attractive for any team in need of a scoring punch, however while most players create easier shots, it seems the majority of Crawford’s are heavily contested.
On the year, Crawford’s usage percentage (the percentage of a teams offensive possessions a player uses while on the court) sat at 27 percent in the playoffs. Chris Paul is at 23.4 percent. That’s a ton of touches and shot attempts for a player not considered to be one of a team’s big three. Possessions that could be considered wasted with every attempt at a four-point play, finger roll or crossover move that’s visibly impressive but has a lower likelihood of changing the scoreboard.
During the postseason, defense becomes double tough. Guys who might typically mail it in for half of their regular season games play with increased intensity. In the regular season Crawford, averaged 41.6 percent in field goals and 36 percent from 3. Most likely that increase in defensive opposition accounts for Crawford’s slight drop to 39.8 percent from the field and 34.2 percent for 3. He was planned for and defended much better.
For a guard who dictates so much of the Clippers offense, it’s the dip in production and poor possessions that the Clippers have to leave behind. It’s an anchor preventing them from sailing further into championship water. To move full speed ahead, they’ll have to rid themselves of the dead weight.