The Brooklyn Nets lost their first game after the All-Star break to the Portland Trailblazers, but may have found just where Allen Crabbe fits.
It’s not easy playing the team that traded you. There are expectations, narratives set. Allen Crabbe battled both the familiarity of old teammates and a reoccurring knee injury for his best game of the season on Thursday.
In 29 minutes on the floor, he scored 17 points on 7-for-13 shooting from the field. Crabbe played almost entirely with the Nets second unit and reserves, playing the role of offensive option one in most of those lineups.
With playoffs approaching and the Brooklyn Nets hoping to be in the mix for their first postseason since 2014, it’s important to settle the rotation.
That means finding roles for players, which lineups they fit with, and what their minutes will look like with the season on the line. But Allen Crabbe hasn’t really looked like a future Brooklyn guy since arriving the summer of 2016.
Yet after the Nets’ most recent loss, he’s looking like a player who can contribute to a competitive seven-game series in April. A look at Crabbe’s return from knee injury, and where he fits in Brooklyn.
The Nets’ sharpshooting wing has played just 32 games this year. And only 15 of those featured Crabbe in the starting lineup.
He’s averaging 10.2 points and 2.5 three-pointers per game.
After playing 27 games from the season’s start to mid-December, he was sidelined nearly two months with a knee injury.
There may be no greater testament to his fit (or lack thereof) in Brooklyn than the success they saw in his absence. The Nets went on a run that would push them into the playoff conversation, going 17-9 without the guard. As a player, that’s something you take with a grain of salt.
Crabbe knows his ceiling. He knows the player he can be. But since joining Brooklyn, the question has constantly been asked of how the Nets can get him there.
Crabbe is the exception here, having seen a decline in his shooting since donning a Brooklyn jersey. The season prior to being traded to the Nets, he shot .468 from the field and .444 from three.
With the Nets, Crabbe has seen one year viewed in its entirety as a “shooting slump” and the other without enough time to gain his footing. Until now.
In Brooklyn’s latest loss to Crabbe’s former team, he reminded the Nets of the player they traded for.
Yes, he shot three-for-eight from beyond-the-arc. But it’s his having found those looks from deep that resemble just why he was acquired.
And it’s just that kind of play that will prove a difference-maker for the Nets come playoff time. Crabbe has played five games back from injury, and in them, is shooting a scorching hot 17-for-35 from three.
That kind of shooting reliability off the bench is quite the trump card in any playoff series. Pair that with a solid backup point guard, and another former Blazer in Shabazz Napier, and you get something like this:
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) February 22, 2019
Brooklyn is a three-point team by identity. They live and die by shots outside the arc. Per NBA.com they rank fifth in makes, sixth in attempts, and ninth in percentage.
Having a guy like Crabbe go off from deep can transcend every tier of the rotation, and result in stronger play for Brooklyn.
He resembles everything the team is good at. So if head coach Kenny Atkinson can get him playing well, then it only makes sense that the Nets will follow suit.
If he can continue to contribute this three-and-d effort up until, and through the postseason, the Brooklyn Nets will be all the more dangerous. Reliable three-point shooting on the bench is a modern day commodity, and Crabbe is as good as it gets.
Brooklyn will look to get back on track on Saturday, as they travel to Charlotte to face-off with the Hornets. Tip-off is 7:00 p.m. ET.