Should Jamal Crawford Remain the Starter When J.J. Redick Returns?

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Should Jamal Crawford Remain the Starter When J.J. Redick Returns?
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
The Clippers have been average with Jamal Crawford in the starting lineup, but they sorely miss J.J. Redick.

Despite the allure of keeping Jamal Crawford in the starting lineup, the Los Angeles Clippers should send him back to the second unit once J.J. Redick returns from injury.

Redick has been out of the lineup since he sustained a wrist injury in a win over the Sacramento Kings on November 29th. Since that time, the Clippers have gone a pedestrian 9-7 while trying to find some rhythm sans Redick.

Doc Rivers tried to keep his second unit intact by starting Willie Green but soon relegated Green to the bench in favor of Crawford. The Clips had their longest winning streak of the season at five games with Crawford in the starting lineup before dropping back-to-back close contests to the Golden State Warriors and the Portland Trail Blazers.

Even with the recent success of pairing Crawford alongside Chris Paul in the starting lineup, Lob City should fare better with Redick in the starting five.

Noah Graham/Getty Images
The Clippers have not been the same without Redick on the floor.

 

Lineup Symmetry

Without Redick in the lineup, it is easy to forget about his brilliance and fit on the Clippers’ offensive machine.

Of Clipper lineups that have logged at least 35 minutes together, the five-man unit of Paul, Redick, Jared Dudley, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan boasts the highest offensive rating at an astronomical 119.4. That number is not just good for the Clippers, but it would also rank as the second-best offensive rating in the league among lineups that have logged at least 50 minutes together.

Substitute Redick for Crawford, and that number falls to 107.0. Unsurprisingly, the Clippers enjoyed the third-best offensive rating in the association with Redick in the lineup, while they have been only the sixth-best offense with Redick sidelined.

Beyond his success with the starting lineup, Redick was also enjoying the best season of his career before he went down.

The Duke standout’s 15.8 points per game and 46.8 percent field-goal shooting are the highest of his career. His 18.2 PER is over three points higher than in any other season.

Redick’s constant motion in the half court compels defenses to stay honest while opening up more passing lanes for Paul and Griffin to work with. He finds a way to warp the floor, running off double screens and forcing defenders to chase him along the base line.

Frankly, Redick is the perfect complement for Paul on the perimeter.

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
Redick has excelled alongside Chris Paul.

 

Second Unit Success

Restoring Crawford to the second unit will also pay dividends for the bench squad.

With injuries to Matt Barnes and Reggie Bullock, the second unit has not been at full strength all season. Antawn Jamison has appeared in just 16 games this season.

Although Coach Rivers is not partial to the hockey-like substitution patterns that former head coach Vinny Del Negro employed, having Crawford among a host of other versatile bench players should create more dynamic opportunities for Los Angeles.

Rivers could send out Barnes, Crawford and Darren Collison alongside Dudley and either Griffin or Jordan for a small ball second unit. Unfortunately, injuries have limited Los Angeles’ attempt at experimenting with different lineups.

Nevertheless, the pair of Barnes and Crawford posted a 105.9 offensive rating and an 8.1 net rating in 2012-13.

Although the Clips have fared decently with Crawford in the starting lineup, his increased responsibility has come at the cost of his efficiency.

Over Crawford’s first eight games in the starting lineup, the guard averaged 19.1 points, nearly two higher than his season average. Despite the higher average, Crawford shot just 38.6 percent from the field in that span.

Should Jamal Crawford stay in the starting lineup when J.J. Redick returns?

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With Redick in the lineup, Crawford was averaging 15.8 points per game, but on a much more efficient 46.4 percent shooting. His 40.0 percent shooting from downtown was on pace to be the second highest of his 13-year career.

One player that has benefited from Crawford’s insertion into the starting lineup is Collison.

Entering the Clips’ last game of 2013 against the Phoenix Suns, Collision was averaging 10.5 points on 50.8 percent shooting from the field.

With Redick healthy in November, Collision could not buy a bucket, averaging just 6.7 points on a putrid 38.9 percent shooting from the field.

Collison’s improved play with Crawford in the starting lineup is curious but not necessarily an indicator that the two cannot coexist. If the UCLA product can sustain his production, then the Clips will have a potent backcourt coming off of the bench.

The Clippers should hope that Redick returns soon, paving the way for Crawford to pursue a second Sixth Man of the Year award and returning Lob City to its early season offensive explosions.

Statistics accurate as of December 29, 2013. Statistics used from NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com.

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