Is Jordan Crawford Trade Enough to Push Warriors over the Hump?

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Is Jordan Crawford Trade Enough to Push Warriors over the Hump?
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The Golden State Warriors are officially a finished project. Sort of.

According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the Warriors, who were aggressively searching for a talented backup point guard, completed a three-team deal with the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat that nabs them Jordan Crawford.

From Wojnarowski:

The Warriors will send guard Toney Douglas to the Miami Heat, and Miami sends center Joel Anthony and a future first-round pick and second-round pick to the Celtics, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

[...]

For Golden State, this is the completion of several weeks of work to bolster the depth of its backcourt. Crawford has had a professional revival under coach Brad Stevens, learning to become more of a playmaker and less of a shoot-first guard.

The word "completion" leaves nothing to chance: Golden State devoutly believes in this trade.

The Warriors hope this deal will push them over the hump, transforming them from fringe contenders into a legitimate and consistent Western Conference powerhouse.

 

Help Was Needed

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

While entertaining, the Warriors desperately need some assistance.

After beginning the season 8-3 and putting the entire NBA on notice, they entered a slump, largely fueled by Andre Iguodala's extended absence, ultimately dropping to 14-13 and outside the West's playoff picture.

Golden State was quick to regain form, though. The Warriors won 11 of their past 12 games, including an almost record-breaking 6-1 road trip.

During this streak, they allowed just 94.8 points per 100 possessions, second only to the Indiana Pacers. But their offense was uncharacteristically middling, checking in at 17th in efficiency these last 12 games.

Golden State Warriors Efficiency Ranks
When Off. Rtg. Rank Def. Rtg. Rank Net Rtg. Rank
First 27 games 11 7 8
Last 12 17 2 4
Overall 13 4 8

Via NBA.com.

Obvious backcourt voids aren't helping things. Though Iggy has a profound impact on both ends of the floor, the Warriors didn't adequately replace 2012-13 Sixth Man of the Year candidate Jarrett Jack, who was an integral part of last season's Cinderella run.

Stephen Curry and Douglas were the team's only two point guards, the latter of which averaged just 11 minutes per game in 24 appearances. The lack of point guard depth forced Golden State to rely extensively on the passing acumen of Curry, Iggy and, to lesser extents, David Lee and Andrew Bogut.

 

Is Crawford an Upgrade?

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

In a way, yes.

Under rookie head coach Brad Stevens, Crawford was a reformed chucker with a still-iffy shot selection and an uncanny ability to create plays for his teammates. His 5.7 assists per game are a career high, as is his 108 offensive rating.

When pitted against Douglas, there's really no comparison:

Crawford vs. Douglas
Player MPG PTS ASTS FG% 3P% AST% Off. Rtg. Def. Rtg.
Crawford 30.7 13.7 5.7 41.4 31.8 31.0 108.0 109.0
Douglas 11.0 3.7 0.8 37.2 32.2 10.4 94.0 105.0

Via Basketball-Reference.

For what the Warriors gave up, Crawford was a borderline steal. He won't provide much in the way of three-point accuracy and defense, but those are two areas in which the Warriors are already well endowed.

What they needed was a backup point man, which Crawford may or may not be.

The shoot-first guard developed into a savvy distributor in Boston, but how legitimate his metamorphosis is remains to be seen. Was it for real, or was it the product of a mediocre player drumming up his statistics and value on a tank-tastic team?

This wouldn't be a question if Jordan had the Celtics' offense firing on all cylinders, but they rank 24th in efficiency. Crawford wasn't leading them anywhere special. He also logged a career-high 30.7 minutes per game with Boston, playing time he's unlikely to match while coming off the bench for Golden State.

Can he be effective in short bursts, in limited playing time? And if he's not, is he really an upgrade over Douglas?

All the Warriors can really count on from Crawford is uninhibited shooting. Anything else he provides, in way of jumpstarting the offense for others, is extra. Expecting him, a guy who's averaging just 3.5 assists per game for his career, to fix Golden State's bench is unrealistic.

Like Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes points out, there's really only way to solve this problem and it doesn't involve handing the reins to Crawford and saying, "Go":

One player was never going to be the cure-all for the Warriors' bottom-ranked bench. They can only hope Crawford is able to treat the second unit's deficiencies—playmaking and scoring—not remedy them entirely.

 

Over the Hump?

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Before acquiring Crawford, the Warriors were right there, in the thick of the Western Conference's elite fray. Adding a scorer and assist-racker of his current caliber brings them closer to the top, but it's still not decidedly enough.

To be certain, this was a good trade. Golden State's bench lacked offensive production and Crawford, for most of his career, provided just that. 

Playing him next to Curry also gives the Warriors another ball-dominator who frees up things for the vast array of shooters on the floor at any given point.

But it doesn't give them a proven backup point guard.

What the Warriors did was potentially deepen their rotation. Possibly strengthen their bench.

Hopefully land the additional facilitator they desperately needed.

What will Jordan Crawford do for Golden State's ceiling?

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Championship campaigns aren't built on maybes, though. The Warriors have just as many questions now as they did before, the difference being there's a chance they may actually have an answer.

"I'm leading the team and getting everybody involved in the offense," Crawford said of his role with the Celtics, via USA Today's Sean Highkin. "It's just a bigger role."

A smaller role awaits him with the Warriors, who will still expect him to play like he did in Boston—relatively unselfish—under more pressure and in limited playing time. And while that's a risk certainly worth taking, it falls well short of a safe bet with definitive returns.

 

*Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference and NBA.com (subscription required) unless otherwise attributed.

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