Cleveland Cavaliers

Jae Crowder has lost his defensive identity

When the Cleveland Cavaliers traded for Jae Crowder, they expected a lockdown defender and a knockdown shooter. So far, they have got neither.

Although Jae Crowder had never played a game for the Cleveland Cavaliers before this season, he had still been a part of the organization before in his career. For one day in 2012, Jae Crowder was a Cav. They drafted him then traded him to Dallas.

There, he picked up valuable skills while transitioning to and from their G-League affiliate. He eventually signed with the Boston Celtics where he absolutely flourished. Last season, he averaged 2.2 threes per game and made significant contributions on the defensive end as well.

However, those talents have yet to fully transfer to Cleveland. While Crowder is making 0.9 threes per game less than last season, it’s his defensive identity that most concerns me.

Just by taking a look at some simple stats like steals per game and blocks per game, it’s obvious Crowder has declined. He’s averaged 0.3 fewer steals and 0.2 fewer blocks per game this season. Along those lines, Crowder also has a far worst defensive rating, which could also be attributed to the Cavs much worse team defense.

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Two of the numbers that are personally most concerning about Crowder’s defensive is his defensive rebounding percentage and his defensive field goal percentage. Each of those, for the most part, are impacted solely by the individual, not the team.

Obviously, the more defensive boards a player grabs, the more his percentages go up. Well, this season, Crowder has been far less active on the defensive glass. This season he has snagged 10.2% of the Cavs’ defensive boards which is putrid compared to last season when he hauled down over 17% of Boston’s defensive boards. The Cavs average the 13th most defensive boards per game, so they could certainly use a more defensively active Crowder.

As far as Crowder’s defensive field goal percentage goes, the players that Crowder has guarded or closed out on this season have been far more effective. Last season in Boston, Crowder held his opponents to under 30% from behind the arc. This season, his opponents have cashed in over 40% of their deep balls. Somehow Crowder’s opponents numbers have gone down when within six feet though, so maybe he has been doing something differently when defending in the post. That said, the Cavaliers, early in the season, were getting burned by the long-ball and Crowder struggled to guard it might have played a part.

So, why? Why has Crowder’s defense not lived up to the preseason hype? Maybe it’s his role in the defensive or the fact that he’s received almost seven fewer minutes per game. Whatever the excuse, Crowder has not played like he is capable of yet in Cleveland. The Cavaliers, behind improved play from Crowder, have won 12 straight. But, without a more significant contribution from Crowder, they will not be able to overpower the Golden State Warriors.

Crowder has a key role on this team, and if they are going to truly challenge for a championship, they need more from him.