Opening Tip: Crowder's D developing

DALLAS -- Coach Rick Carlisle has often referred to Shawn Marion as the only player on the Mavericks’ roster who can be considered a defensive stopper.

Jae Crowder’s goal is to be the second.

Crowder, the Mavs’ second-year small forward, is trying to develop into a Matrix-like type of Swiss Army Knife defender. In other words, like Marion, Crowder wants to be the kind of stopper who can defend multiple positions.

“That’s what I’m working on trying to be,” said Crowder, who has guarded every position but center at times this season. “It just takes time, and it takes me getting put into the fire each and every night and stepping up to the task.”

The numbers indicate that Crowder has done a terrific job stepping up to the task this season. His defensive rating (94.0 points allowed per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor) is drastically lower than any other player on the roster.

No other Dallas player who has logged at least 50 minutes this season has a double-digit defensive rating. Crowder, who shed 15 pounds over the summer to prepare to chase guards, has trimmed 8.4 points off of his defensive rating from his rookie year.

“That’s pretty good,” Crowder said, smiling, when informed about his defensive rating, a stat he had only vague knowledge of.

It’s about as good as the Mavs could have possibly envisioned for Crowder, who is averaging 17.9 minutes per game off the bench and has the best net rating (10.1) on the team.

Crowder is a streaky shooter, but he’s earned consistent minutes because of his defense. It’s extremely valuable to have another player capable of guarding four positions.

"At times he can do it, at times he has done it," Carlisle said. "At the end of the New Orleans game we had him on [Jrue] Holiday and he made it tough on Holiday.

"But he’s a second-year player. Marion is in his 15th or 16th, so [Crowder is] going to learn a lot more, he’s going to have a lot more tough matchups and his willingness to take the challenge is going to determine how good he can become, but we think he has terrific upside."

Crowder has proven he can be a Swiss Army stopper in small doses. The question now: Can he be consistent? The question later: Can he do it in an expanded role?