After rummaging around the league for a backup point guard, the Golden State Warriors settled on a three-team trade that netted them Jordan Crawford. The Dubs needed a ball-handler who can facilitate offense and spell Stephen Curry. Crawford, who showed promise under Brad Stevens in Boston, can be a bit erratic, but his ability to create shots for himself and others should help the worst bench unit in the NBA.
The Warriors have one of the best starting fives in the league (with Andre Iguodala healthy, they have outscored opponents by a league-best 21 points per 100 possessions, per Zach Lowe of Grantland). Their bench, however, is dead last in points per possession, according to NBA.com statistics.
When head coach Mark Jackson plays his second unit, the team struggles to create its own shots. Toney Douglas wasn’t getting the job done as Curry’s backup, and general manager Bob Myers swapped Douglas for Crawford to kick-start the offense when Curry gets his rest.
With Curry on the floor, the team moves the ball better and often beautifully.
With Curry: 1.132 points per possession, assisting on 59.7 percent of field goals.
Without Curry: 0.895 points per possession, assisting on 55.9 percent of field goals.
Stats via NBAwowy.com
During the bench mob, the offense leans on Harrison Barnes, running plays to get him the ball that often result in isolations. Barnes has a lot of potential, but he isn’t ready to carry the scoring load. With Curry, Klay Thompson, Iguodala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut out, Barnes is shooting 33.3 percent while putting up the most shots on the team, per NBAwowy.com.
Douglas had been virtually a non-factor with the starters out, averaging 2.3 assists per 100 possessions with a usage rate of 16.8, a low number relative to point guards.
Curry, who has a history of injuries, is logging nearly 38 minutes per game. Jackson only played Douglas 11 minutes per game and already is playing Crawford 14.5 minutes after two. If Crawford can continue to help extend Curry’s breaks another three or four minutes and help motivate a stagnant offense, he will be doing his job.
So what can Crawford do?
Stevens was able to transform Crawford from a ball-dominant 3-guard type to one who can help lead an offense. His assist numbers hit a career-high, and even though his minutes did too, he attempted the same number of field goals as the year prior in Washington.
Crawford’s quickness may be his best asset. He can run the pick-and-roll while adding his own wrinkles and creating his own shots.
In Boston, Stevens would often call for pick-and-rolls between Crawford and Kris Humphries. On this play, the Knicks took away Humphries. The Warriors often struggle when teams take away the pick-and-roll.
As Lowe puts it, "if that first action fails to produce a good shot, the Warriors too often devolve into one-on-one nothingness—even when they have lots of time left on the shot clock."
Crawford is able to create his own shot in these situations. He had someone open, but opted to take a shot he is, well, good at shooting.
He is still apt to do some questionable things—force some shots, dribble too much or make the wrong read. However, his quickness and unpredictability will be a welcome change from the more conservative Douglas.
"He's instant offense for us and that's why we made the trade," Warriors center Andrew Bogut told Jimmy Durkin of the San Jose Mercury News. "Our bench, love 'em or hate 'em, sometimes struggles to score for us. They battle defensively and rebound, but sometimes we need someone to score."
After a renaissance in Boston, Crawford will fall back into a backup/3-guard type role in the Bay Area. In two games with the Dubs, Crawford has 18 points on 70 percent shooting and three assists.
Those bench mobs probably won’t be around when the bench shortens in the playoffs. At that point, Crawford could see some time in hybrid lineups, and Jackson may even stagger his minutes with Curry in Jarrett Jack-fashion.
Staggering his minutes with Curry could allow Curry, who is so often crowded as soon as he crosses midcourt, to rest and play off the ball.
More than anything, Crawford’s addition means more rest for Curry. Right now, the Warriors have the fourth-worst plus/minus of all bench units in the NBA. The Warriors need Crawford to mitigate the hurt when the starters (namely Curry) go out.
Stats accurate as of January 19, 2014.