Last year, no one was bothering with the Brad Millers or the Tony Allens of the game. Stars were available; The world, set to be re-made. This free agency, with a period that’ll come and go as swiftly as 50‘s prime, without any real bank breakers or future stars, it’s all about securing the role players. Take at look at our free agent tracker. How many of those guys are even the third-best player on a title team? Hardly any. All-Stars? You’ll have an easier time convincing CP to stay in N’awlins. But there are numerous players available with specific skill sets who can step into a working team and make a difference.
This is where Jamal Crawford comes in, one of the most talented one-on-one players in the league. For a decade, he’s languished in situations that couldn’t make the most of his talent, and by that I don’t mean he didn’t get shots or couldn’t do his one-on-one thing or couldn’t hide defensively. He’s a sixth man, a true sixth man, and would be the perfect one on a great team. The only chance he’s had to do that was the last two seasons in Atlanta, and they weren’t exactly contending for anything other than the second round.
Reports are saying there are a number of contenders who feel the same way that I do, and many of them have already come knocking on Crossover’s door looking to get a taste. The real question is how much money will he be signing for? He made over $10 million last year, ridiculous for a bench player. That number could be cut to around $5 million if he wants to sign with a contender, perhaps $8 million if he goes to another middling team. Either way, he has as many options outside of Atlanta as any free agent, and all reports indicate he’d rather move on. Atlanta has $65 million already committed to just seven players. The luxury tax sits at around $70 million. You can do the math. There is very little chance Crawford goes back to the ATL.
With that, here are the five teams most likely to sign Crawford.
1. New Jersey Nets
I feel bad for the Nets. They struck out badly last summer, and instead had to justify it by throwing $35 million at Travis Outlaw. I’m starting to get the feeling it’ll happen again. Dwight Howard‘s not going there, at least not right now. Deron Williams is opting out. They’re still stuck in New Jersey, not quite good enough to call themselves a team on the rise, and not quite awful enough to land Andre Drummond or Anthony Davis. Their money has to go somewhere for the sake of keeping Williams. Ironically, they can’t afford another boring summer.
Someone’s going to get overpaid by Jersey. Crawford is definitely in the mix here. His new agent, Andy Miller, has tight ties to the New York area. The Knicks won’t offer anything over one year (to keep their cap space for this summer), so New Jersey looks like the next logical destination: moving to Brooklyn with tons of money and the opportunity for shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots.
2. Portland Trail Blazers
We know LaMarcus Aldridge wants him. Aldridge teamed up with JC over the lockout during Kevin Durant‘s charity game, and was adament he wanted to see Crawford come to the Northwest. If Brandon Roy fails to pass the individual tests the Blazers are running him through, then Crawford could be a great backup plan. If they keep Roy (which probably won’t happen), I can’t see them adding another two guard who needs minutes. Wesley Matthews is entrenched as the starter, but an offensive shot in the arm off the bench could help turned the Blazers into a top five team in the West.
3. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls are after pretty much anyone who can shoot and create off the dribble. We love Keith Bogans, but when he attacks offensively, you don’t need to read the epilogue. You know how it’s ending. The Bulls proved last year they need another creator, and every move they’ll make is held in one prism: How will it affect them against Miami? Crawford will alleviate pressure from Rose, and would force someone â€“ probably Dwyane Wade â€“ to quit playing tag-team defense against the MVP. Crawford has defensive questions, and surely won’t be a difference-maker there, but as we’ve seen with plenty of players in Boston, anyone can become a passable defender in the right system.
Do I think this is a good fit? Not really. More than likely, Crawford would revert to a supporting role, only get two or three isos a game, shoot 34-36 percent from three, lose minutes to better defensive players in the playoffs and we’d hear the same thing out of Chicago next summer: We need someone who can complement Rose! Crawford said after Atlanta’s loss to Chicago in the playoffs last year that he would love to return to the Windy City. It’s probably going to come down to money and whether a few million dollars means that much to him.
4. Miami Heat
Getting a recruiting call from the best player in basketball has to have some pull (even if he did refer to himself as King James), and once Aldridge opened the recruiting floodgates, LeBron couldn’t allow the Blazers to get too big of a lead. The Heat can’t offer much in the way of money (probably around a $5 million starting point), but they offer his best shot at a title. Of course, anyone who believes Crawford will come in and take shots away from Wade and James is dreaming. JC will be lucky to average 12 a night in South Beach. He’ll hide defensively, and because of this, we could plan on seeing a lot of Wade/LeBron/Crawford backcourts. On paper, that looks scary right? Too bad one of them would have to give up a lot of shots. And since he’s the worst of the three, Crawford will be sent to the corner. And since creating offense is his money-making gift, that’s not a good thing.
5. New Orleans Hornets
While the Hornets were one of the initial eight teams to contact Crawford on Wednesday, this is more of a suspicion on my part than anything else. They have $13.5 million in cap space to use. They have an angry – or at least a very anxious superstar who could see his next best player (David West) leave this summer for a better situation. Because of the confusion circulating around the team, I highly doubt they’re getting any of the biggest names on the open market (even if they do offer a lot of money). But remember, this team actually made the playoffs last year, and the chances of CP getting traded to New York anytime soon are small. The Knicks just have nothing to offer. For Crawford, the money will be there if New Orleans is interested. If Crawford is intent on upping his value or simply having the opportunity to beef up his numbers, this could be one of the places to do it.
Where do you think he’ll sign? Where should he sign?
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