WASHINGTON -- When it comes to tough-minded basketball, Jae Crowder has stood out for all the right reasons.
A throw-in as part of the Rajon Rondo trade to Dallas in 2014, Crowder has developed into one of the most versatile defenders in the NBA.
“That was one of the best deals Danny Ainge has made,” a league executive told CSNNE.com. “It was one of those sneaky-good deals that, obviously, has worked out really well for those guys.”
We have seen Crowder tasked with guarding wing players, shooting guards and power forwards despite being just 6-foot-6.
Crowder relies on a strong upper body, good lateral quickness and, like Avery Bradley, tremendous defensive instincts that will get him some serious consideration for a spot on one of the NBA’s All-Defensive teams this season.
What really stands out with Crowder defensively, though, is how he has fared against the game’s best players.
While we all agree Cleveland’s LeBron James is as unstoppable a force as there is in the NBA, Crowder defends him about as well as any player in the league.
James’ offensive rating this season against Boston when Crowder is on the bench is 135.2. When Crowder is in the game -- and most possessions, Crowder is the primary defender on James -- his offensive rating (115.1) drops more than 20 points.
But as we’ve seen with Crowder, he’s more than just a good defender.
His growth can be seen most in his improved shooting.
It was a career season in several categories for Crowder, including a career-high 39.8 percent shooting from 3-point range.
He has also increased his rebounding to 5.8 per game (it was the third year in a row his rebounding numbers increased), which has really been important in this series against the Wizards.
As much as Crowder craves winning, he’s just as motivated to get the respect he feels he’s due.
When the Celtics hosted the Utah Jazz earlier this season, Crowder was noticeably upset at fans cheering for Jazz wing Gordon Hayward, who will be a free agent this summer if he opts out of his contract, as expected.
“I heard the cheering before the game,” Crowder said. “I didn’t like that at all. I think that was a sign of disrespect to me from the fans. That sparked a little fire in me.”
Crowder had 21 points in Boston’s 115-104 win over the Jazz, which included six 3-pointers.