LOS ANGELES -- A sure sign that things are going well for Jae Crowder: Mark Cuban is trying to claim the credit for the second-round pick.
Asked when he first suspected the Mavs might have a second-round steal on their hands, Cuban said, “When I was trying to convince everybody in the draft room that we should draft him.”
Crowder, whom the Mavs selected with the 34th overall pick, isn’t the kind of player who impresses NBA scouts. He’s undersized for a forward, measuring a touch under 6-foot-5 without shoes, and doesn’t possess awe-inspiring athleticism. Not to mention he played four seasons of college basketball, which is almost unheard of for NBA prospects these days.
But last season’s Big East Player of the Year for Marquette caught the eyes of computer geeks such as Cuban, who uses a variety of advanced statistical formulas as a tool in player evaluation. Some of those formulas considered Crowder a top-three player in his draft class; others put him among the top 20.
The consensus of the computer stats was that Crowder would be a great value early in the second round, even if his measurables didn’t match up with other players in the draft.
“There was a lot of geeky stuff that stood out about him,” Cuban said. “As a second-round pick, it was worth the chance.”
Crowder, who could be in the starting lineup when the Mavs open the season against the Los Angeles Lakers, looks like a great value now. He was the one real bright spot of the Mavs’ preseason, stuffing box scores with averages of 11.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.9 steals, 1.6 assists and 0.8 blocks in 22 minutes per game.
The spreadsheets showed what a well-rounded player Crowder was. The film showed that he was the kind of guy Mavs coach Rick Carlisle loved: a tough, gritty dude who played with the sort of disposition that the Mavs’ coach constantly discusses.
“You love guys who just do everything hard,” Carlisle said. “They force opponents to play on every possession. He’s one of those guys. We view him as a guy we’re lucky to get in the second round.
“Right now, he’s an important part of what we do.”
Right now, Crowder is probably a starter, at least until Dirk Nowitzki returns from arthroscopic knee surgery.
Which position he plays depends on your perspective ... or perhaps the possession.
“I play everything but point guard,” said Crowder, who has a muscular 235-pound frame and a nice mid-range game with shooting range that seems to expand by the week. “I’m a basketball player.”
Crowder gets why he slipped into the second round. He understands that the draft is based purely on potential.
He just believes that the majority of NBA GMs misjudged him. Crowder has a burning desire to prove that point, believing that he’ll emerge as an elite defensive player and a dangerous scorer.
Crowder has a lot of confidence in his skills -- which he is certain will improve due to his work ethic -- but he boasts that his best asset is an intangible. He believes that he has a stronger will than the vast majority of NBA players.
They measure a lot of things at the NBA scouting combine: height, wingspan, vertical leap, speed, agility, etc. Willpower isn’t one of them.
“That only shows on game day,” Crowder said, cracking a smile.