Since receiving a promotion to the starting lineup, Brooklyn Nets guard Allen Crabbe has been playing out of his mind on both sides of the ball.
One of them was that the Nets need to insert Allen Crabbe into the starting lineup in place of Caris LeVert. Now, part of the idea was that LeVert would have the freedom to play through his mistakes within the bench unit. That’s a sentiment that I still 100 percent agree with.
But I wanted to expand on the flip side of the equation. I felt that, in this piece, I weirdly almost did Crabbe a disservice. I overlooked what he brings to the table. Crabbe isn’t just a good fit for the starting lineup because he bolsters the three-point shooting. He also isn’t a starter only because of LeVert’s struggles. No, he’s a starter because he’s been flat out amazing on both sides of the floor.
Ironically, this was one of the first sentences:
“Allen Crabbe has become overlooked in what he brings to the table because of that lofty $18 million contract.”
It’s rare that I have such severe reservations about an article. So, let’s expand on this idea. Shall we?
When bringing up Allen Crabbe’s name, you have to discuss his proficiency from deep. Since returning from injury, Crabbe has hovered around his career mark of 39 percent from three.
Playing next to Joe Harris and D’Angelo Russell—two guys who can knock down threes, put the ball on the floor, and distribute at an unheralded rate—Crabbe has all of the room in the world to fire from long range. He’s actually the team leader in three-point attempts per game, and that number results from his fearless ability to just simply launch it.
The clip above is a great example of just how much Crabbe flourishes while playing next to Lumber Joe and D’Angelo Russell. In a rare transition opportunity for the Nets, D’Angelo Russell pushed the pace full court. Fearing a transition three-pointer from the Nets’ All-Star, the Raptors converged onto Russell.
Russell surely must have smiled with glee; the Raptors had fallen right into his trip. D-Lo swung the ball to Joe Harris: the best spot-up shooter in the league.
At this point, the Raptors’ Kyle Lowry—an outstanding defender in his own right—lurched out at Harris to dissuade him from firing a gut-wrenching three-pointer. In a split second, Harris recognized the incoming defender and executed a beautiful touch pass to Allen Crabbe who was spotting up in the corner. Three-points, Brooklyn.
Harris’ absurdly-high assisted field-goal percentage has become a bit of a talking point among NBA circles. However, Crabbe is not far behind. 98.9 percent of his three-point attempts come from a teammate’s pass.
As a shooter, Crabbe sways his feet an almost obnoxious amount. Using your legs can extend a player’s range. With every jump shot, Crabbe practically hops the distance of the Hudson River. Crabbe uses “the hop” so violently that he ends up backtracking after every attempt from deep – almost as if he was taking fadeaway jumpers.
(The next clip in the video above is a great example of this. He spots up about 25 feet away from the basket and ends up planting his toes on the three-point line after his follow-through. Surely there’s a spot on the Olympic long jumping team for this guy!)
While playing with the reserves, Crabbe was the only real focal point for opposing perimeter defenses. Looking at his surrounding teammates on the bench, it’s easy to see why.
Spencer Dinwiddie is a solid yet somewhat inconsistent three-point shooter. DeMarre Carroll is excellent from the left corner, but he’s less of a threat from above the break or the right side of the court. Ed Davis’ range extends to two feet beyond the basket.
Crabbe’s promotion has given him much more room to operate now that he isn’t run off the three-point line on every possession. As a result, he’s showing increasing confidence on the offensive end. Take a look at this cheeky handoff play that he and Jarrett Allen busted out on Wednesday.
Playing with the starters also appears to have done something to Crabbe’s defense. He’s been playing with an intensity we haven’t seen from him all season long.
One of the best ways to invigorate a player on defense is to increase their role on offense. It allows the player to feel more involved, thereby causing them to buy into team success.
Defense starts and ends with effort. Right now, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a player on Brooklyn’s roster who is fighting harder to get around screens than Allen Crabbe.
Against the Cavaliers, Crabbe ran into a particularly brutal Larry Nance Jr. screen during the first quarter. Instead of giving up on the play, Crabbe brushed the (likely) pain off, hustled around Nance’s burly frame, and leaped forward to block Brandon Knight‘s shot.
(Also, take note of how Crabbe’s pump-fake in transition resulted in a wide-open Jarrett Allen dunk on the other side of the floor. The perks of being unconscious from three, I tell ya!)
A few possessions later, Crabbe was at it again—this time ricocheting the ball off the leg of Cedi Osman in a simple handoff play. Osman looks shocked and discouraged by the turn of events.
Crabbe’s extra effort paid dividends; it’s one of the 18 turnovers that the Nets generated on their home floor during Wednesday’s game.
Not many guys battle this hard to get around screens—especially this late into the season. Most players display exhaustion as the season rolls on and their effort wanes. Crabbe, apparently, continues to get stronger as the schedule progresses.
Perhaps my favorite Allen Crabbe clip occurred at the two-minute mark in the first quarter of the Cavaliers game. It’s very easy to miss, but take a look at Crabbe’s all-out defense on Cedi Osman.
As the ball crossed half court, Osman was standing in the right corner—waiting for the ball to swing his way. Osman’s dream came true when the ball ended up in the hands of Matthew Dellavedova. Delly signaled to Osman to sprint from the corner to the right wing for a (likely) hand-off. Ideally, Osman would then take one dribble and drill a three-pointer.
Crabbe, seeing the scoring opportunity, blew up Osman’s off-ball movement by angling his body in a way that walled Osman off from ever touching the ball. Osman responded by frantically cutting back-and-forth alongside the sideline out-of-bounds but to no avail.
It’s such a simple, yet essential play to make. It completely stymied Osman, too. (Notice the shrugged shoulders, head-down reaction.)
Poor defense on easy spot-up opportunities can easily get a capable shooter like Osman going. However, if you defend him as well as Crabbe did in this instance, you can completely take a shooter like Osman out of his game.
The Nets will need to Crabbe to continue playing defense with this much vigor. Crabbe is probably the best defender in their new starting lineup. He’s capable of picking up positions 1-through-3.
One last clip before I close this one out. If the videos from before didn’t exhibit just how out of his gourd Crabbe has been, this one will do the trick:
In one short second, Crabbe goes from defending a shot at the rim to defending a shot from three. He must have covered, what, 15-to-20 feet in three short steps? There’s no denying that he provoked the Cavaliers’ David Nwaba (who went 3-for-5 from deep) into a miss.
Allen Crabbe is peaking at the right time. With 15 games to spare and a tough 7-game road trip on the horizon, the Brooklyn Nets will need everything they can get from “Basic Cable.” (Shoutout to Mason Plumlee for the slightly insulting nickname, by the way.)
It’s very easy to view Allen Crabbe with a glass-half-empty outlook because of his hefty contract. But at the end of the day, it isn’t his fault that the Portland Trail Blazers went on a shamelessly frivolous spending spree during the summer of 2016. And hey, at least the guy can play. (Unlike, say, Evan Turner or Big Justin Bieber.)
Crabbe is a two-way menace who consistently shows up. He’s been Brooklyn’s best all-around player during the month of March and has earned these starting minutes.
Most of all, he’s doing his damnedest to earn every penny of that $18.5-million contract.