Jae Crowder could be a key piece for Cleveland Cavaliers in Kyrie Irving trade
If you're a fan of the Cleveland Cavaliers, chances are you're already familiar with Jae Crowder.
After all, it was Crowder who was at the center of a scuffle with former Cavs center Kendrick Perkins during Game 4 of the first round playoff series between Cleveland and the Boston Celtics in 2015.
Perkins had set a hard screen on the then-Celtics forward, who refused to back down from the Cavs enforcer. For his efforts, he received a hand to the face from Cleveland guard J.R. Smith, which forced Crowder to leave the game with a sprained knee.
If any bad blood still exists between Crowder and Smith, it will likely be cleared up soon. On Tuesday, the Cavs acquired the now-former Celtics forward -- along with All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas, center Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets' unprotected 2018 first-round pick -- in exchange for Kyrie Irving.
But while Crowder may be receiving third billing behind Thomas and the Nets pick, the sixth-year forward remains a valuable piece of the package the Cavs received for their 4-time All-Star. Because although Thomas will attempt to replace Irving's productivity and the draft pick will help hedge for the future, Crowder will provide a plenty that Cleveland hasn't enjoyed as of late.
In particular, for a team that's lacked consistency on defense, Crowder has proven himself steady on that end of the floor. Last season, the 6-foot-6, 235-pound Marquette product ranked 34th in the league in defensive win share, according to NBA.com's advanced stats. For comparison's sake, the highest rated Cavs player in the same category last season was LeBron James, who ranked 73rd.
Speaking of The King, Crowder possesses the potential to be the best backup James has had in Cleveland since returning in 2014. That could conceivably mean more extended rest for the Cavs star forward throughout the season and an even fresher version of James come playoff time.
Also boding well for Cleveland's addition of Crowder is the 27-year-old's improved shooting. Last season, he shot a career-best .398 percent from 3-point range, which would fit well in the Cavs' drive-and-kick offense should Crowder maintain his shooting stroke.
But more than anything, what Crowder brings to Cleveland will be what Cavs fans already know him best for: his toughness. You'd have to go back to Perkins to find the last time the team possessed a true enforcer -- and even then, Crowder would have taken issue with that assessment.
"Nobody on their team is intimidating," Crowder said of the Cavs in 2015.
That's about to change.