Welcome to the 2021-22 Phoenix Suns Season Preview series, starting with individual PLAYER PREVIEWS. We go through the roster, recapping last year and analyzing how they can help the Suns in their upcoming championship push.
The emphasis is different this year. We are no longer laser-focused on the highest upside, or praying for highlight endorphin spikes. Instead, we are looking to how this almost-the-same roster will perform a year older, a year wiser, a year more physically mature.
It’s the burning question of the NBA offseason. Who is going to stop Jae Crowder from reaching the NBA Finals for a third consecutive season?
Forward, 6’6” tall, 235 pounds, 31 years old
The backbone of the Phoenix Suns. The unsung hero. Toughness. Accountability. Culture. He brings it all to the table. Oh, and he can salsa dance.
The Jae Crowder experience™ is a lot of things, but one thing that’s guaranteed is that it’ll never be boring. Everyone should strive to have the confidence he does in his jump shot whether it’s dropping or not.
Even when the shot isn’t falling, he’s still a floor-spacing threat because he does not let a cold start slow him down, and the defense has to respect him. That can hurt the team at times (early in the Lakers series comes to mind) but you have to ride those moments out and embrace what he does in his role because he’s so damn important to the structure of this team on both ends.
10.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.5 BPG on 40/39/76 shooting splits + 57.4 TS%.
Net Rating: +6.3
Overall Grade as an NBA Player: B-
Grade relative to preseason expectations: B-
We are one year into Crowder’s 3 year, $29 million contract that the veteran forward signed coming fresh off a finals run in Miami. He will earn $9.7 million next season, which continues to look like a bargain when browsing the free-agent market.
Consistency on a game-by-game basis.
Offensively, at least. The saying “live by the three, die by the three” can be directly applied to Jae Crowder’s game. When the shot isn’t falling, it can get rough.
Guarding in space. At times Crowder can struggle to stay in front of quicker wings or guards on switches. His on-ball defense is phenomenal in the interior, but any time he’s on an island against a quicker player he can be exposed from time to time.
Effort. He does not take any plays off.
Attitude. His attitude never wavers, and that’s an important trait for a veteran leader to display on such a young team.
Defense. This goes hand in hand with the effort, but one thing he brings on a consistent basis is that interior toughness and fight on a possession by possession basis.
Passing? Passing. Yes, I caught myself surprised at some of the occasional flashy passes he’d make from time to time. He’s not a playmaker per se, but he’s a ball mover, and in Monty’s 0.5 system it was a seamless fit.
The three-point percentage.
Crowder actually shot on the high-end from long range last season, posting his second-highest three-point percentage of his career. Second only to his time in Boston in 2016 where he shot 39.8% from deep.
He is a career 34.6% three-point shooter and shot 38.9% last season for the Suns. If he can replicate something close to that mark, or even flirt with the 36-38 range throughout the year, that should be sufficient.
Crowder, on a year-to-year basis, is one of the more consistent “know what you’re going to get” type of players, so there aren’t any crazy predictions here.
I do think his starting job will be in jeopardy if Cam Johnson continues to improve, and that will be more of a product of someone else performing well rather than Crowder “losing” his spot. It will likely be matchup dependent when it comes to who “closes” games out, but an interesting storyline to watch nonetheless.
He’s a professional through and through and wants to win, so even if he is “demoted” to the bench I expect him to take it gracefully and to continue to be an integral part of this team’s success.