In the notorious free agency summer of 2016, the Trail Blazers handed Allen Crabbe a whopping 4-year $75 million contract to the bewilderment of much of the basketball community. Then they promptly traded Crabbe after just a year to the Brooklyn Nets for spare parts. Here’s why he’s been worth the money.
Fit in the System
Brooklyn’s offensive system is predicated on the modern tenants of offense. Specifically, Brooklyn values three-pointers, layups and free throws above all else. And by sporting a 39 percent three-point clip and a shot chart emblematic of the modern NBA, Allen Crabbe is a perfect fit on the Nets.
His shooting ability, although not in line with career levels, still requires enough attention from defenses. This because he opens teammates lanes just by lurking out on the wings.
Those kinds of possessions are exactly why NBA front offices everywhere are searching high and wide for shooters. He gives the Nets not only the gift of elite spot-up shooting, but he also provides the space that shooting opens up, which allows players like Dinwiddie to thrive.
He attacks on close outs, hits threes and moves the ball when he doesn’t have a shot he likes. In other words, he’s filling his role to near-perfection offensively. Allen Crabbe may never be a star player, nor consistently able to create his own shot, but the attention he attracts from defenses is invaluable in modern offenses.
While Crabbe has failed to establish himself as an NBA star he’s shown flashes that point to tantalizing potential. His scoring and efficiency have improved every year of his career, in tandem with his minutes. And although his shooting has dropped off slightly this year, his prior history suggests this is just an off year.
He also has consistently added new wrinkles to his game. For example, after scoring just .75 points per possession (PPP) in isolation last year in Portland, Crabbe has upped that to a nearly-elite .96 PPP in Brooklyn. This year he’s scoring 1.02 PPP off screens, and his numbers in that department have risen every year.
Throughout his career, he’s demonstrated ability to utilize pull-up jumpers. Moreover, he’s flashed creativity off the dribble, albeit on an irregular basis. And while he hasn’t displayed those skills every night, there is surely more to his scoring arsenal than first meets the eye.
Yes, he is 25 and he seems destined for a career in the mold of Kyle Korver or J.J. Redick (with lower efficiency), but with more opportunity in Brooklyn, he has a shot to become much more than that. For a team starved for assets and any clear vision for the future, taking a risk on a player who’s shown constant improvement through his time in the NBA is worth the financial impact.
Even if you don’t believe he can become a star, which is fair, there are teams out there who would be willing to shell out resources for players of Crabbe’s ilk. In the modern NBA spacing is king. So, players like Crabbe who can space the floor have immense value, which in turn gives the Nets unique flexibility.
Brooklyn could easily trade Allen Crabbe for assets to a shooting-deprived team desperate to make a splash like the Knicks. Or they could retain Crabbe and allow him to flourish under a coach like Kenny Atkinson. Another option, package him with another player like Spencer Dinwiddie in a trade to clear cap space. In turn Sean Marks could use the extra money to pursue free agents or to re-sign young players.
The point is, the California product has given the Brooklyn Nets a myriad of future options. Regardless of how Allen Crabbe’s contract may initially have been perceived, this benefit alone is something the Nets have been in short supply of and make him a very valuable roster piece.