It's been a few weeks since we dove into the Celtics Mailbag, but imagine our surprise when we pulled the drawstrings this morning and gobs of letters about Jordan Crawford came spilling out.
It's safe to say that we didn't see this coming. During our annual Summer Forecast, Crawford was our panel's leading candidate to not be with the team in November. Instead, you can make the case that he was one of the most important pieces in Boston as the Celtics built some momentum at the end of that month.
Over his past seven games, Crawford is averaging 19.1 points on 47.5 percent shooting (40.5 percent beyond the 3-point arc) along with 6.9 assists and 4.3 rebounds per contest. Boston's offensive rating during that span is 112.3 when he's on the court and dives to 93.3 when he's not. Everyone wants to talk about the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week.
Yup, it's Steez's world; we're just living in it.
Let's dive into your swaggy letters:
A: By far the most popular question of the week. And can we stop and consider that for a second? There are Celtics fans who are downright worried out about how the return of Rajon Rondo could diminish Jordan Crawford's playing time. There are people concerned about bringing back an All-Star point guard with a championship ring because of how well the guy some would have traded for a bag of balls this summer is performing. It really speaks to Crawford's emergence and just how well he's playing. Two thoughts here: (1) The Celtics' bench could use a spark like Crawford. Boston's reserves combined for four measly points against the Clippers during Wednesday's loss. If Crawford can buy into being a sixth man the way he embraced filling Rondo's shoes at the start of the season, then he'll only further endear himself to this fan base. Imagine if he could emerge as a Jamal Crawford-type presence? (2) The Celtics could use a second-unit ball handler. Undrafted rookie Phil Pressey is going to be a fine pro, but there's plenty of learning and development ahead for him. Having Crawford to handle the ball and provide a scoring jolt would steady the reserves (and allow Stevens to use Pressey in bite-sized, change-of-pace chunks).
Q: When Rondo returns, is Crawford a backup point guard or shooting guard? If shooting guard, does Bad Crawford return? -- Scott / @BostonsportZ (via Twitter)
A: Courtney Lee has played well enough that you would think the bulk of Crawford's minutes once Rondo returns will be at the point guard spot (especially as Rondo himself is eased back into game action). That being said, Crawford is going to see time off the ball as well, as coach Brad Stevens will likely attempt to create as many minutes as his team can find if Crawford maintains this level of play. It's fair to wonder how Crawford will respond to being a bench player. The talent level around him dips, making him more of a focal point. That said, in four appearances off the bench this season, Crawford has shot 56.5 percent from the field (and 44 percent beyond the arc) while being a highly efficient reserve. We need a larger sample to judge whether he can flourish like he has in that role.
A: Listen, Crawford is playing great, but let's slow our roll a bit. Not to single you out, Ro, because I see where you're going with this, but we had people writing in lamenting how the Celtics might have missed an opportunity to extend Crawford's rookie pact before this year's Halloween deadline. Holy hindsight. Crawford is playing excellent, but let's see how the rest of the season goes before we wonder if the team should part with members of its starting backcourt to create a larger role for him. The Celtics can still extend a $3.2 million qualifying offer next summer, which could be enough to keep him here unless he plays so well that another team is willing to submit a big-money offer. How Rondo and Bradley play together later this season should dictate how Boston moves forward with both of them (and with both nearing contract years, the Celtics have to decide their futures soon).
Q: Do you think Crawford gets extended? What sort of contract could he be looking at? -- Michael / @MichaelBesaw (via Twitter)
A: At this rate? Max deal (I'm kidding, I'm kidding). Gut feeling right now says the qualifying offer -- if Crawford is still here after this season -- might be enough to keep him around. I'm not sure I see teams throwing midlevel-caliber money at him unless he further blossoms.
A: Gotta be Crawford, right? I don't think they could have given him away this summer, but in a league desperate for serviceable point guard help, there's a market for Crawford (and maybe more so as an inclusion in a larger package). Wallace does a lot of the little stuff, but not enough to make his bloated deal any more attractive to the rest of the league. Humphries has been solid despite an inconsistent role and he'll have interest because he's a serviceable big with a large expiring deal. Bass' value ought to have risen because he's been superb while anchoring this defense, but his efforts often blend quietly into the scenery and I'm not sure anyone will overvalue him because of that. Courtney Lee has probably re-established his value if teams can stomach the length of his deal. The one guy who has increased his value the most -- Jared Sullinger -- might be the guy the team is least likely to part with (unless it had to begrudgingly throw him into a package deal to net a proven star).
Q: Who's the first player to be traded off the Celtics? -- David / @DavidJamesHill (via Twitter)
A: Whomever an opposing general manager is most likely to give quality future assets to obtain (yeah, I'm dodging your question). We need to see more basketball before I can make an educated guess here. But what's certain is that if someone comes knocking with future picks or a young talent in exchange for, say, someone with more experience who could aid a contender, then Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is most certainly going to consider it. One of the biggest keys to being able to expedite this rebuilding process is unclogging the cap and stockpiling as many assets as the Celtics can get their hands on.
Q: I'll get smashed on message boards for suggesting, but could Boston actually be buyers at the trade deadline? In this year's East, they may be one or two players away from a top 4 seed (which they currently are as division leaders) -- Rob (Memphis, Tenn.)
A: Hey, look at this guy everyone! He thinks the Celtics could be BUYERS at the trade deadline! What a loon, right?! (:: quiet voice :: Between the two of us, Rob, I've wondered the same thing, but people act like you're crazy around here if you suggest the Celtics could go in that direction. One thing I think you have to keep in mind is that you don't want to mortgage your own future just because the East is weak one season. I think it's even less likely that Boston considers buying if the East dusts itself off a bit and teams like Brooklyn and Cleveland get back in the mix. But if Boston hangs around the top of the Atlantic for another month and can make a move without giving up much in terms of future assets, well ... )
Q: Brandon Bass and Jordan Crawford for Omer Asik, who says no? -- Travis (Waltham, Mass.)
A: More like Danny from Waltham, amiright? Here's the deal I'd pitch to Houston: Bass, Crawford, MarShon Brooks and the Clippers' 2015 first-rounder for Asik and Omri Casspi. Listen, no one appreciates Bass more than me, but Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk are the future at the 4. The Celtics desperately need a rim protector and they don't come much better than Asik, a guy the Rockets have to deal by mid-December. You sell high on Crawford and send out Brooks to ensure you stay under the tax line after the deal. If Houston is leery, you toss in that Clippers pick from Doc Rivers' departure, which will likely be late first round anyhow. It leaves you exposed at point guard until Rondo is healthy, but you unclog at both the 2 and the 4, while adding the potential center of the future. The idea of Asik as the back line of a Stevens defense would leave Boston swooning while filling the Celtics' most glaring need.
LIGHTNING ROUND! (:: lightning sound effect plays ::)
Q: When is Kelly Olynyk coming back to the Celts? -- Eddy (Warwick, R.I.)
A: Stevens said before Wednesday's game that he could return from a 10-game absence during Friday's visit from the New York Knicks.
Q: What makes your job so difficult? -- Chris (Pennsauken, N.J.)
A: Open-ended questions like this during lightning round.
Q: This team is fun as a Celtics fan, but as far as being competitive, how do the C's get back to that point if they make the playoffs and get quickly bounced? -- Omar (Calif.)
A: It's a risk, but I have to admit, from a pure curiosity standpoint, I'd like to see how this team might fare in the postseason against anything other than one of the top two seeds (Miami or Indiana). It's particularly intriguing with the idea of giving Stevens one singular opponent to prep for. The Celtics would have to have faith that the front office can navigate this rebuild without lottery picks to push for a low playoff position.
Q: Have been playing around with the NBA Trade Machine for a while now (actually pretty on point). I have been a huge fan of Gordon Hayward since his 2009 Butler days. I propose this: Hayward and [Derrick] Favors for [Gerald] Wallace and [MarShon] Brooks, works in the machine but I know we would have to give up a little extra to make this more interesting for Utah. Any thoughts? Feel free to forward this to Ainge for me. Big fan of your articles, I bleed green for life (got to smell Red's cigar smoke at a b-ball camp as a kid, best memory of my life), and let's just say THANK GOD for NBA League Pass… I say C's are 5-6th seed with this trade, and 2014 champs. BOLD, I know. Take care, thank you for your time. Go C's! -- Matt (Santa Barbara, Calif.)
A: Yup … these are (wait, that's taken).