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NBA PM: Crawford Deserves Sixth Man Award
Posted By Alex Kennedy On April 10, 2013 @ 5:24 pm In NBA | No Comments
The 2012-13 NBA regular season is winding down, which means it’s time for voters to determine this year’s award winners. It seems like the Sixth Man of the Year award will come down to two players: Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers and J.R. Smith of the New York Knicks.
Crawford is averaging 16.7 points, 2.5 assists, 1.6 rebounds and one steal in 29.5 minutes. He’s shooting 44.1 percent from the field, 36.9 percent from three-point range and 87.5 percent from the free throw line.
Smith is averaging 17.8 points, 2.7 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 33.5 minutes. He’s shooting 41.7 percent from the field, 35.2 percent from three-point range and 77.2 percent from free throw range.
Crawford has been nearly as effective as Smith despite playing less minutes and taking less shots. Smith has become the Knicks’ second option due to injuries and is playing much more lately. If Crawford wins the award, he will become just the fourth NBA player to win multiple Sixth Man of the Year awards, joining Kevin McHale, Ricky Pierce and Detlef Schrempf. Crawford says he would be honored, but he insists it’s a testament to the team around him.
“I think it would be really cool, but it’s really a credit to my teammates, coaching staff and organization,” Crawford told HOOPSWORLD. “We have the best bench in basketball. It’s not just me out there. We have a lot of guys who are really established and really good. I just try to play my part and keep us moving along.”
Back in 2010, Crawford won the Sixth Man of the Year award with the Atlanta Hawks. However, he says this season is the best of his career because of his team’s success and because he has been nearly as in productive in a much lesser role.
“There are some similarities [between the two seasons], but I think this is a much better bench,” Crawford said. “In Atlanta, I was more of a featured piece in terms of shots and stuff. It was Joe Johnson and then I was the second-leading scorer because I was basically the second option even though I was coming off of the bench, kind of like J.R. is in New York. With this situation, it’s different. I have to be a lot more efficient and a lot more selective because we have such a good bench and it’s not just me out there.”
“I would say [this is my best year], when you factor in all things,” Crawford added. “It’s the best team I’ve been on and winning is above everything. We’ve all said – even Chauncey and Grant – when you have a group as talented as this and this coaching staff and this organization, it’s kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s a dream to have a team this talented, one through 15. It’s just unbelievable how deep we are. That’s why I say it’s not just me in the second unit, because we’re so deep. That’s why this has probably been the best year of my career.”
The 33-year-old Crawford has been one of the best fourth quarter scorers in the league this season. He is a +220 in the fourth quarter this season, which leads the league. LeBron James is second in fourth quarter plus-minus, but Crawford has 11 points on him. Despite coming off of the bench, Crawford is third in the NBA in fourth quarter scoring, trailing only Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant. When asked if that separates him from the other candidates, Crawford gave a modest response.
“I don’t know, it’s up to the voters to decide,” Crawford said with a laugh. “I just know that’s winning time. That’s the most important time. My teammates always look to me in the fourth quarter as far as being more aggressive and having a positive effect while I’m on the court and scoring. I try to take advantage and do what I can do, but that’s up to everyone that’s out there voting.”
As SI’s Ian Thomson recently pointed out, Crawford has the highest “simple rating” of any of the Sixth Man of the Year candidates. Simple rating accounts for a player’s plus-minus as well as the production of his counterpart player on the other team while he is on the court. Crawford’s simple rating is +5.8, which is the highest of any reserve in the league. Crawford’s simple rating is significantly higher than other Sixth Man candidates such as Jarrett Jack (+2.9), Kevin Martin (+2.5) and Smith (+2.2).
Kobe Bryant believes that Crawford deserves the award. After the Clippers’ recent win over the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant praised Crawford and said that he has earned the honor over Smith.
“I think he is [Sixth Man of the Year],” Bryant told Eric Patten of Clippers.com. “J.R. Smith’s had a great year but everybody on his team got hurt so he got to start. But Jamal, he’s been playing like the Sixth Man of the Year from the word ‘go.’ It helps [the Clippers] tremendously. He can get 20 on any given night and most times he does.”
Crawford enjoys the role of sixth man and is happy to see other reserves around the league getting credit for their team’s success and getting paid as a result.
“I’ve embraced the role and embraced coming off of the bench, for sure,” Crawford said. “I understand that everybody can’t start and I understand that you can still have a huge effect. I was Sixth Man of the Year before, but watching [James] Harden out in OKC with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, he had a huge impact and effect and he was looked at in a great light. He was still viewed as a big piece, the third option, even though he came off of the bench.”
Even though Crawford and Smith are battling for the award, they’re good friends off the court. They occasionally tweet each other and talk throughout the season.
“We’re friends, for sure,” Crawford said of Smith. “I’m happy for his success. I knew that Coach Woodson would put him in a good situation and put him in a situation to be successful. With his talent, I knew they would really hit it off. I’m happy for him and the season he’s having.”
Smith is having a great season, but the numbers suggest that Crawford is having an even better one.
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Zeller Declares for NBA Draft
Cody Zeller has officially announced that he will enter the 2013 NBA Draft. Entering this season, Zeller was considered a potential top overall pick. Now, after a mediocre season, Zeller’s range is probably top 10. In the latest HOOPSWORLD mock draft, Zeller is projected to go eighth overall.
Zeller did have a production season, he just didn’t show much improvement from his freshman year to his sophomore year. He averaged 16.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 blocks and one steal while shooting 56.2 percent from the field. As a freshman, he averaged 15.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.4 steals while shooting 62.3 percent from the field. Zeller’s efficiency rating actually dropped from 31.3 to 29.8. Zeller had a relatively good year; it just wasn’t the dominant showing or significant improvement that NBA decision-makers hoped to see.
Zeller has the size and skills to develop into a very effective big man in the NBA. He runs the floor well and always plays hard. However, teams are concerned about his lack of athleticism and strength, as well as his sub par length.
How will he match-up against NBA centers that are just as big as Zeller, but much stronger and more athletic? If he struggled to dominate on a nightly basis at the college level, what can teams expect at the professional level?
During the tournament, the seven-footer left a lot to be desired. Executives and scouts were hoping to see Zeller dominate and make his presence felt, but he didn’t do much, even against lesser opponents in the early rounds. Victor Oladipo emerged as Indiana’s best player and Zeller struggled.
In three tournament games, Zeller had just 36 points, 20 rebounds and two blocks. In the loss to Syracuse, he couldn’t do anything against the Orange’s zone defense and shot 3-11 from the field. One scout predicted that Zeller’s draft stock would take a hit because of his play this season.
Fortunately for Zeller, this is a weak draft class so he’s almost guaranteed to still go in the top 10.
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