The NBA season is finally here! Although we know the main attractions (LeBron, The Brow, KD, etc.) will remain the same, every basketball season introduces us to some new breakout stars. “Poised to Breakout” will be a series that examines what players appear to have the opportunity and potential to take the biggest jump from last season to this season.
Jae Crowder — Forward, Boston Celtics
When the Celtics acquired Crowder back in December of 2014, many considered him a spare part in a blockbuster trade that sent Rajon Rondo to Dallas. Fast forward less than a year, and Crowder may be the most desirable player in the trade (of course, Boston is yet to use its draft pick from Dallas).
Crowder was nothing more than a role player with the Mavs — regressing his PPG from 5.0 his rookie season to 3.6 in his third year with Dallas prior to the trade. Once he arrived in Boston, Crowder averaged 24.2 minutes, 9.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.4 assist, 1.0 steals and started 17 of 57 games — all career highs.
As the season progressed, Crowder only continued to improve. Two big things stuck out to me during Crowder’s time in Boston. The first was that he became a hounding, physical defender, which doesn’t get you many fantasy points, but it does earn minutes. Crowder was consistently on the floor guarding the likes of LeBron James, and we all know that more minutes equals more opportunities to accumulate points.
The second thing I noticed, was that Jae reminded me a lot of Draymond Green. I wasn’t alone on this either, many others in the press box at the TD Garden started drawing the same comparison. Although he didn’t get Draymond money, Danny Ainge seemed to think highly enough of Crowder to reward him with a five-year/$35-million contract over the summer.
Ainge will be the first to tell you that nobody is “untouchable” when it comes to player movement, and he means it, but Jae Crowder is a part of the long-term plan in Boston.
As much potential as Crowder showed with the C’s in 2014-15, there were also plenty of inconsistencies. He matched a season-high with 22 points in 36 minutes against the Pelicans on January 12, then played just 20 minutes and scored seven points the following game against the Hawks. On March 1, Crowder recorded a career-high 17 rebounds in a near victory over the Warriors. It was good enough to keep him on the floor for 27 minutes in a games he shot just 4-for-17 from the field. The next game, Crowder played just 14 minutes and registered four points and two rebounds.
Crowder clearly has the skills to breakout this season, but the Celtics deep roster is still in tact, which means Brad Stevens has a lot of talent to fit on the court. The organization just invested a lot in Crowder, though. He should be even more comfortable with his role entering his first full season in Boston, and after proving himself late in the year, be one of the Celts’ leaders on the floor.
Truth be told, Crowder is best described as an “energy” player. Energy isn’t going to score us any points on DK. But that energy is going to keep him on the floor, where he continues to show us things that we didn’t know he can do. As he continues to develop, Crowder’s going to do a lot with those minutes when it comes to putting up numbers.
2015-16 projection: 30.5 MPG, 13.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.5 BPG, 1.5 SPG.
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