Sports Illustrated is in the midst of their countdown of the top 100 players for the 2018 season in the NBA. Tristan Thompson was the first inclusion on the list at No. 52, while Derrick Rose and J.R. Smith landed among the honorable mentions. Meanwhile, a new Cavaliers addition has landed in the top 50 in Jae Crowder, who slots in at 44. Here’s what SI wrote about Crowder:
The fiery and hardnosed Crowder (13.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.2 APG) stands above all of his 3-and-D brethren when it comes to the major advanced stats, ranking No. 20 in Real Plus Minus, No. 45 in Win Shares and No. 58 in WARP. It’s plain to see why the 6’6” forward is an analytics darling: he’s a dependable spot-up option and shot nearly 40% from deep last season, he rebounds well for his position, he guards multiple spots, he moves well and is an opportunistic off-ball scoring threat, and he competes with great energy. This is not a typo: Boston’s net rating sunk from +7.8 with the 27-year-old Crowder on the court to -3.9 when he went to the bench. That’s a star-level swing.
Ben Golliver, who wrote the snippet on Crowder, is not wrong to say that he’s among the best super-role players in the league. Crowder is certainly not a star, and Golliver notes later that his limitations become a little more clear in the playoffs (though, almost every player’s do). With that said, his ability to be an advanced metrics darling plays to his favor for a list like this.
It’s also worth noting that health is an enormous factor in Crowder’s value on this list. He’s in the same company as Joel Embiid (No. 41) not because he’s remotely in the same talent stratosphere, but because he stays healthy. Crowder has played no less than 72 games in his five-year career, and that matters for rankings like these.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of player Crowder is outside of Boston’s ecosystem that helped him flourish. Nobody saw this coming when he was traded out of Dallas, and it’s on Tyronn Lue to figure out how to employ him in a way that makes him just as effective.