Cavs will be best served with Jae Crowder coming off the bench
After the long and drawn out process of the Kyrie Irving trade, the Cleveland Cavaliers were able to land Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, a 2020 second rounder, and the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first round draft pick.
With Thomas, the most obvious decision is to start him next to J.R. Smith when his hip injury is 100 percent recovered. With Zizic, he will spend most of his time developing and growing as he is an extremely raw prospect with a lot of untapped potential. With the Brooklyn draft pick, once the Cavaliers figure out what LeBron James’ plans are for next season, they can either draft a star prospect like Michael Porter Jr. or move the pick to a team like New Orleans for Demarcus Cousins. But the biggest question that remains with the team is whether or not Jae Crowder starts or come off the bench for the Cavs next season.
If Crowder were to start, it would more than likely be at the power forward spot, sliding Kevin Love to the center position and Tristan Thompson as one of the first players to come off the bench. While Crowder is a defensive stud who can defend power forwards in bursts, he is naturally a small forward. If he were to start for Cleveland, there will be a timeshare with Love, a natural power forward, Channing Frye, and Jeff Green which would really eat into his minutes.
Instead of starting, Crowder will and should come off the bench for Cleveland as LeBron James’ primary backup at small forward. The biggest and obvious reason is that while he would not be starting for Cleveland, he would still be playing his natural position of small forward.
As mentioned before, Crowder is a stud defensively, with an outstanding average of 10.5 defensive win shares throughout his career, meaning that through his career, his defense alone has created nearly 11 wins. During the Cavs introductory press conference of Thomas, Crowder, and Zizic, Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue stated that he would find lineups that would feature Crowder and LeBron James on the defensive side of the ball which would allow Crowder to lock down a team’s primary scorer, like Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant, and allow James to play more of a “free safety” position and intercept passes and create defensive nightmares for opposing teams.
Besides his defense, Jae Crowder is also a very stable scorer and would breathe life into a Cavaliers bench that was towards the bottom of the NBA last season. Last season in Boston alone, Crowder shot 32.8 percent from beyond the arc and was a solid scorer throughout the season.
That would be huge for Cleveland who, as mentioned before, had one of the worst benches in the NBA last season. Instead of leaning hard on LeBron James, Kevin Love, and, eventually, Isaiah Thomas, the team can look towards its recent additions like Derrick Rose and most importantly Jae Crowder.
The other luxury of the Cavaliers’ position of having so much talent is that while Crowder will likely come off the bench for the team, he will always be finishing the game for Cleveland each and every night. His offensive and defensive versatility simply play so well with LeBron James’ abilities on both ends.
The luxury to have a reliable option, who would start for almost any other team in the NBA, in Crowder for Cleveland is huge for the team. He will easily be in the conversation for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award and will be huge for the team as they look to win their second NBA title in three years.