In the first half of last night’s Hawks/Bucks game, Jamal Crawford got a steal and took off the other way with only Luke Ridnour standing between him and the basket. Considering what JC did once upon a time to Kirk Hinrich — who’s actually a good defender — I was kind of afraid for Ridnour’s general health. But Crawford let him off easy with a simple wraparound behind-the-back and finger roll.
As is typical with a player who is suddenly getting a lot of overdue attention — in Crawford’s case, because he’s now on a playoff team after a career spent on Lottery squads — fans and media are prone to go overboard with praise. For Crawford, who should be running away with the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award, it appears the trendy thing is to crown him one of the best, if not the best, one-on-one scorers in the League.
As the NBA increasingly caters to guards and wings who can create off the dribble, the elements that make up a productive one-on-one scorer become even more coveted. Crawford has just about all of them: His handle is perhaps the best in the game, he’s got a quick release on his jump shot, he’s got range out to the concession stands, and there’s a certain level of craftiness to his game. He doesn’t have the muscle or mindset to get to the free-throw line as much as guys like Kobe, D-Wade or LeBron, but Crawford is in their class as a guy who can take over a fourth quarter/overtime on short notice and win a game by himself on nothing more than clear-outs and high screens.
Where does Crawford rank among the NBA’s elite 1-on-1 scorers? The top of the heap will inevitably be flooded with perimeter players, because they can create offense from anywhere on the floor, whereas big men often need to catch the ball close to the basket. That said, here’s my list:
1. Kobe Bryant
2. LeBron James
3. Dirk Nowitzki
4. Carmelo Anthony
5. Kevin Durant
6. Dwyane Wade
7. Brandon Roy
8. Paul Pierce
9. Jamal Crawford
10. Joe Johnson
Honorable mention: Monta Ellis, Manu Ginobili, Tyreke Evans, Kevin Martin, Vince Carter