Free agent Jamal Crawford has decided to make Portland his home this season, choosing the Blazers over the Kings and Knicks. Reports have the contract at 2 years, $10 million total but the second year is a player's option. What does this mean for the Blazers?
The initial reaction is to cheer. It's probably a correct one. Crawford is easily as good of a free agent as Portland could have dreamed of picking up with its limited budget. Outside of Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, Crawford ranks at the top of the class. Getting that kind of player is a major boost to morale, especially when he has both talent and options. There's no downside in the immediate outlook.
On the other hand this is basically a rent-a-player. For all of the "choosing" language that's being expressed today, Crawford wanted a single-year deal so he could become a free agent again next summer when bigger money is available. Portland might have some of that money to throw around depending on their other contract moves. If so, it would seem the Blazers have the inside track at this point. But there may be no track at all. There's no guarantee of Crawford doing anything besides spending a year playing as close to his hometown of Seattle as is possible in this league and then trying to break the bank somewhere.
Also one can't help but reflect that a couple years ago Crawford would have seemed more of an option for Portland than a savior, perhaps a precarious option at that. Right now it's any port in a storm and Crawford is a good port to seek haven in. But he doesn't calm the storm nor fix the Blazers' problems. He adds depth and scoring at guard but right now at least he's splitting time in a backcourt containing Wesley Matthews and Raymond Felton. One look at his stats will tell you that dude likes his touches. When his shots went down last season so did his per-minute production and shooting percentages. He's not a defender. Offense is his game. Fit is going to be an issue, especially if you start thinking of him as a long-term possibility.
Fortunately the Blazers need somebody to pull the trigger in the backcourt right now. As long as he's playing for the team and not just for his next contract this should be a good pick-up for Portland...this year. As for the other questions--whether he'll improve the team's win total and whether he'll be here for more than a year--we're going to have to see. I'm not entirely sure we'd be as excited about this tall drink of water if we weren't so darn thirsty right now. But what the heck...bottoms up. Here's hoping this pays off.