With the Draft Lottery taking place tonight, and the Bulls out of the playoffs, I thought it'd be a good time to talk draft. I want to specifically discuss Jae Crowder, the forward from Marquette. Every year it seems like some player puts up monster stats in college on a good team, and for whatever reason, they slide down to the late first round or even into the second round on draft boards and in the actual draft and then surprise everyone when they turn out to be pretty productive in the pros. One of my hobbies is trying to find these guys. I think that Jae Crowder will be one of these guys. Crowder is a bit undersized for his position at the next level (small forward), as he's only 6'5.5" in shoes. He does, however, have a decent wingspan at 6' 8.5". More importantly, Crowder is a ball of muscle. Dude is STRONG. He's a chiseled 242 pounds. He has the potential to be a defensive bully. Crowder put up an absurd 28.9 PER in his senior year, after submitting a very good 24.3 PER in his junior year. He shoots the three decently well at around 35%, he beasts on the glass for a SF (9.6 rebs / 40 mins pace adjusted). He's a terror in the passing lanes and he blocks shots, too.
His one weakness is that offensively, he's quite weak at creating his own offense, but then so is our current SF and he's pretty damn good overall (so good, in fact, that he could conceivably be dealt for Pau Gasol, which would make Crowder an even better fit). Here's what DX has to say about his offense:
Crowder gets most of his offense by working off the ball, be it spotting up from the 3-point line, diving to the rim to position himself for drop-off passes from his guards, running the floor in transition, posting up, or through his work on the offensive glass.
He's extremely intelligent operating off the ball, having a knack for moving to the right spot to catch and finish in a simple and effective manner, despite rarely playing above the rim. He uses the glass nicely and has terrific touch around the basket, which helps explain how he's able to convert 61% of his attempts inside the arc even though he is usually at a distinct size disadvantage. Although he's not a high flyer, he rarely misses high percentage looks.
The senior is especially effective in transition, sprinting the floor with purpose whenever he gets a chance, running straight to the front of the rim, and being very physical looking to receive the ball in the paint. This also makes him a factor in the half-court in post-up situations, where he uses his body effectively, draws fouls at a good rate, and does an excellent job finishing through contact, again, mostly below the rim. There's nothing pretty about his game, but it's brutally effective at this level.
Crowder is also a much improved shooter, attempting over 50% more shots from beyond the arc this season, but hitting them at a better rate—38% compared with 36% last season. The key seems to be his shot-selection, which is excellent, with 84% of his jump-shots coming with his feet set. The work he's put into refining this part of his game is obviously a factor as well, as he's managed to raise his free throw percentages from a paltry 62% to a much more respectable 73% this season.
But where Crowder is best is on the defensive side of the ball. Again, here's DX:
Crowder's best attributes revolve around his play on the defensive end, where he's one of the most versatile and effective players in all of college basketball. One of the rare players who truly guards every position on the court one through five, often within a single game, Crowder takes great pride in shutting down his matchup, and is a willing contributor as a team defender as well.
Physical and intelligent, with long arms, a strong frame, good footwork, excellent fundamentals, and nice anticipation skills, he follows the game-plan, gets in the passing lanes prolifically (ranking 5th amongst NCAA prospects in steals per-40), steps in for charges and never takes possessions off.
Despite possibly lacking a degree of lateral quickness to shut down some of the quicker wing players he'll match up with in the NBA, Crowder knows how to force opponents to settle for the shot he wants them to take, and won't give up an inch when matched up with bigger forwards.
Because of all this, I think Jae Crowder is a potential steal late in the first round, and a huge steal where DX currently has him going (13th pick of the second round). I really think the Bulls should take a hard look at Crowder with their pick or buy an early second round pick to get him, if he's still available. After the jump, a Jae Crowder highlight video.
Jae Crowder Marquette Scouting Report Draft 2012 (via Hoop mixtapez)