Let me first say that I was wrong. I really didn’t think Portland would be able to get Jamal Crawford, so I thought it seemed safe to stop pretended that that was going to happen. I’ve been wrong more than once this off season, I was convinced, for instance, that there was no way Brandon Roy was going to retire. This time, though, being wrong isn’t so bad.
There has already been plenty of good stuff put out in the last day or so about the signing of Jamal Crawford, and to a lesser extent about the signing of Craig Smith, so I’m just going to give you my quick opinion of the whole situation. (RE: good things to read, Seth Johnston on Crawford, Sean Highkin on Crawford, Mike Tokito on both)
Starting with the obvious. I think these are phenomenal signings for the Blazers. Crawford’s been around the league, and has the kind of experience and skill set that Portland needs to begin to fill the Brandon Roy-shaped void in the team’s offensive capabilities. It’s true that Crawford has never seen a shot he doesn’t like, and it’s true that he’s a bit of a free-lancer, but those aren’t exactly bad things. He has a ton of respect for Nate McMillan, I’m sure he wants nothing more than to try and help the fans get over losing Brandon forever, the long and short of it is that this is where he decided he wants to play, and I’m more than happy to oblige him.
It’s very rare that Portland lands one of the big fish. This is one of those times. He may not stay. He may make some bad choices with the ball. But by adding Jamal Crawford, the Blazers got better. Also, he is a beast on Twitter.
The second signing comes with a little less luster but Blazer fans should be just as happy about it. Craig Smith is the definition of a working man. He’s not a great point scorer, but he can finish at the rim and shoot a little, he can play defense on both post positions, he can crash the glass, and most of all he can come in for LaMarcus Aldridge and give productive minutes. He’s a big body, he’ll fill the lane, and he’ll punish people inside. All those things are pluses.
The negatives with Smith are basically that he’s never played for a winner (three years in Minnesota two in LA with the Clippers) so there might be some adjusting to the Blazer culture, and as I said before, he isn’t much of an offensive player. That being said, Portland’s bench is going to get offense from Nicolas Batum and Jamal Crawford–or if Crawford starts (which he won’t) from Wesley Matthews–so Craig Smith won’t have to do much more than rebound and dunk. He can do both of those things.
On the eve of the eve of preseason, the Blazers have now addressed both of the things they needed to address. They need offense to replace Brandon, and they need front court size. Done and done. Does that mean they’re catapulted from the bottom half of the Playoff race to the top?
Probably not, especially since the Western Conference team du jour is the aforementioned perennial losers the Clippers who have leapt up the ladder because everybody knows Blake Griffin can jump over the hood of a midsized sedan and CP3 can throw amazing lobs, but it does put a whole new spin on the season. Sure Portland can still be rebuilding this year, but who says you can’t rebuild and win at the same time?
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