Welcome to the Phoenix Suns 2021-22 Season Preview, starting with individual PLAYER PREVIEWS. We go through the roster, recap last year, and analyze how they can help the Suns with their upcoming championship boost.
The focus is different this year. We are no longer laser focused on the highest benefit or pray for highlight endorphin peaks. Instead, let’s look at how this almost identical cadre will grow a year older, a year wiser, a year more physically mature.
It is the burning question of the NBA offseason. Who will stop Jae Crowder from reaching the NBA Finals for a third straight season?
Forward, 6’6 “tall, 235 pounds, 31 years old
The backbone of the Phoenix Suns. The unsung hero. Toughness. Accountability. Culture. He brings everything to the table. Oh, and he can dance salsa.
The Jae Crowder Experience ™ is many, but one thing is guaranteed never to be boring. Everyone should strive to have the confidence they have in their jump shot whether it falls or not.
Even if the shot is not fired, it is still an expansive threat because a cold start will not slow it down and the defense has to respect it. That can hurt the team at times (it comes to mind at the beginning of the Lakers series), but you have to go through those moments and embrace what he’s doing in your role because he’s so damn important to the structure of this team on both ends is.
10.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.5 BPG at 40/39/76 shooting splits + 57.4 TS%.
Net rating: +6.3
Overall rating as an NBA player: B-
Note relative to the expectations of the preseason: B-
We’re one year in Crowder’s 3-year $ 29 million deal that the veteran striker signed after a final run in Miami. He is set to make $ 9.7 million over the next season, which continues to look like a bargain when browsing the free agent market.
Game to game consistency.
At least offensively. The saying “live with the three, die with the three” can be directly applied to Jae Crowder’s game. If the shot isn’t fired, things can get rough.
Guarding in space. Sometimes crowder can have difficulty staying in front of faster wings or guards at counters. His defense on the ball is phenomenal on the inside, but every time he’s on an island against a faster player he can be suspended from time to time.
Effort. He doesn’t take any plays.
Attitude. His attitude never wavers, and that’s an important quality a seasoned leader can display on such a young team.
Defense. This comes with the effort, but one thing he consistently brings in is inner toughness and fighting on a possession basis.
Pass? Pass. Yes, I caught myself amazed at some of the occasional flashy passes he made from time to time. He’s not a playmaker in and of himself, but he’s a ball mover, and it fitted seamlessly into Monty’s .5 system.
The three point percentage.
Crowder actually shot from a distance last season, posting his second highest three-point percentage of his career. Second after his time in Boston in 2016, where he shot 39.8% from the depth.
He is a 34.6% three-point shooter of his career and shot 38.9% for the Suns last season. If he can replicate something near this mark, or even flirt with the 36-38 range year-round, that should be enough.
Crowder has been one of the most consistent players year after year who knows what you’re going to get, so there aren’t any crazy predictions here.
I think his starting job will be in jeopardy if Cam Johnson continues to improve, and that will be more because someone else is doing well than Crowder “losing” his place. It will likely depend on the matchup who “closes” games, but an interesting story nonetheless.
He’s a professional through and through and wants to win. Even if he is “demoted” to the bench, I expect him to take it with decency and continue to be an integral part of the success of this team.