There's a buzz in the air regarding the Dallas Mavericks' 3-1 start to the season.
Without Dirk Nowitzki in the lineup, Dallas already has two quality wins under their belt by beating the L.A. Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers. If they didn't have a bad second half against the Utah Jazz, we could be talking about a 4-0 start for the Mavs.
No question, the success has come from the amazing backcourt combo of Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo, who both look like All-Stars in the early going. But there's another player that deserves some recognition, even though he's played four games in the NBA.
When Dallas made the trade during the NBA Draft by getting rid of the 17th pick to get three picks in return, it was more of a situation to make enough room to go after Deron Williams and having enough pieces to fill up a roster with numerous free agents.
But little did they know that they would be asking for production early from the one that no one expected: Jae Crowder.
With Shawn Marion out of the lineup for the next week with a sprained MCL, Jae Crowder may get his chance to prove to everyone, once again, why he can be a very good player in this league.
Here's what we know about the 22-year-old forward from Marquette: He's a tough, physical player, a pretty good rebounder, and has the ability to knock down shots from any range on the floor. Crowder's played about 19 minutes a game through his first four games, which-by Rick Carlisle's standards–is almost insane for a rookie.
Even in the short 14 minutes he played the other night against Portland, Crowder still put up nine points, two rebounds and a steal.
So, simply put, when Carlisle puts the rookie on the floor, good things happen. And to have a rookie be ready to go from day one the way he's been doing, that's a great sign for the future.
But the question needs to be asked: How good can Crowder be?
Without question, it's still too early to tell. He's a second-round pick with little expectations. But the situation is, if you get playing time in Dallas, you're expected to compete and be a contributor for this basketball team.
The bar has already been set, thanks to Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones.
The other two rookies, Jared Cunningham and Bernard James, are still pretty raw in talent; and because of the depth at those particular positions, they may not get much playing time this year.
As for Crowder, his time's coming a little earlier than anticipated. He's seen more game action than what the projected replacement for Marion, Dahntay Jones, has seen this season.
Crowder is NBA ready, physically and mentally. The potential starts coming over the next week could well determine where he goes on the depth chart and how teams will prepare for him.
Crowder has a lot of resemblance to Kawhi Leonard: He has a quality inside-outside game, can put the ball on the floor and is a pretty good defender at 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds. If you haven't seen Leonard play, make sure you check some tape.
With the way he shoots the ball, Crowder has a great chance to be the No. 3 scoring option in this offense along with Mayo and Dirk.
He's already proven you can't leave him open on the perimeter, and if Mayo continues his stellar play and Dirk showcases his All-Star form, then the sky's the limit.
Crowder may very well be the one piece of the future that Dallas has been looking for, for years. If the Mavs are going to continue this style of up-tempo, fast break, aggressive style of basketball, then he'll fit in Carlisle's system fairly well.
How good can Jae Crowder be? I'd personally like to say a 19-point (maybe more), 10-rebound kind of guy. Who knows? Maybe he can go beyond that, but right now, watching this guy play is truly something special.
And if this next week is the stepping stone for what's to come, then Mavs fans are in for a fun ride.