Joe Vardon of the Athletic has reported that the Cleveland Cavaliers are interested in trading for Phoenix Suns’ forward Jae Crowder. The report was unclear as to how much progress was made in making a deal happen or if the Suns have any interest in any package the Cavaliers could realistically offer.
Crowder is going into the final year of his three year deal with the Suns. He is due $10.1 this season. He has requested a trade while also releasing an accompanying hype video which is very normal behavior from someone who has averaged 9.4 points over their career.
Getting a deal done between the two sides could be tricky given the cap situation of both teams. The cleanest path for a deal would be to include both Cedi Osman and Dylan Windler in the trade. The Cavs also have all of their own second round picks, with the exception of 2024, and have three incoming second round picks from 2024 through 2027 from various teams. I’m not sure if the Cavs have enough to get a deal done with that, but I would expect the market for Crowder to be lower than the one for Bojan Bogdanović.
Provided there is a path to get a deal done, Koby Altman and company should do everything in their power to make it happen. This team has a massive hole on the wing in general but especially so within the starting lineup.
Every current starting wing option brings a different set of challenges that don’t exactly fit what the other four starters need. Isaac Okoro is the cleanest fit, but he may not have the physical abilities to guard wings like Khris Middleton, Jayson Tatum etc. while still being a work in progress offensively. Caris LeVert also doesn’t have the size to guard wings while being someone who is primarily an on-ball scorer which doesn’t fit well alongside both Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell. Cedi Osman has proven to be too streaky of a player to keep in the starting lineup. Dean Wade hasn’t shown enough offensively to be a starting caliber wing. The Cavs have a lot of options, but no perfect fits.
Adding Crowder would clear the wing rotation up while providing clarity for the rest of the depth chart. The Cavs need a low usage wing on the perimeter who is comfortable taking and making threes if teams over help on their bigs or guards. Crowder fits that bill offensively as he finished last season with a low usage of 14% and took 64.5% of his shots from beyond the arc. Crowder nailed over 40% of his corner threes the last two seasons which would likely be his primary spot on the floor within the half-court offense. Overall, Crowder was a 35.1% three-point shooter last season.
Crowder would also be a seamless fit defensively. He has proven over his career to be a good defender within a strong defensive scheme, which is something that 2017-18 Cavs certainly didn’t provide. Crowder remains an ESPN real plus/minus god as he finished last season with the fifth best defensive RPM of 6.79 and the 33rd highest RPM in the entire league.
His on/off numbers back up what the real plus/minus is saying. The Suns allowed 3.5 fewer points per 100 possessions and opponents had a 2.8% worse effective field goal percentage with Crowder on the floor during the 2021 season than they did with him off. Last season, opponents scored 1.5 fewer points with him on the floor while having a 0.4% worse effective field goal percentage.
Adding Crowder would also allow Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen to continue to be used in creative ways defensively. Crowder is a good enough defensive rebounder to play the bottom of a potential 3-2 zone which J.B. Bickerstaff experimented with a lot in the second half of last season but wouldn’t really work with many of the starting three candidates on the roster. Crowder would also fit nicely in man-to-man concepts by being able to guard the best opposing wing which would continue to allow Mobley and Allen to play free safety at the rim instead of possibly being forced out onto the perimeter.
Crowder’s tour during the 2017-18 season understandably left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. He struggled to find a role on this team while clashing with the existing personalities in the locker room. That bad experience shouldn’t be held against him now. This isn’t the same team led by LeBron James, J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson who Crowder had previous run-ins with. The only remaining player from that team is Kevin Love. He wouldn’t be walking back into a locker room he previously helped divide.
Koby Altman and company have gone all-in with this core by adding Donovan Mitchell. You don’t want to throw away games or this season trying to find a wing that potentially fits with the starting lineup. Grabbing Crowder solves that issue in the short-term while leaving the long-term flexibility in place considering he will an unrestricted free agent next off-season. There really isn’t much of a downside for seeing if things will work out differently this time.