Even in the overanalyzed NBA, sometimes everyone asks the completely wrong question. Take the Celtics’ 2014 trade of Rajon Rondo to the Mavericks. At the time, the trade analysis centered almost totally on whether Rondo, a four-time All-Star coming off of a career-altering knee surgery, was worth a first-round pick and a second-round pick. Instead, the real question should have been: Why, why, why is Dallas trading two draft picks for the right to give away the best player in the deal (Jae Crowder)? Don’t think too hard about that question, or you might wonder why the Mavericks decided to pay wings Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes a combined $164 million over the last two summers while Crowder—a superior option to both—re-signed with the Celtics for relative peanuts. The 26-year-old Crowder (14.2 PPG, 5.1 RPG) is a prototypical gamer who fills in the gaps around his more gifted teammates on offense while running himself ragged on defense. Although it’s hard to envision him effectively stepping into a higher-usage role on offense, the 2012 second-round pick has made progress as a shooter and seems to fully embrace his complementary role on offense and lead role on defense. Crowder was a key reason why the Celtics ranked No. 5 in defense and No. 2 in forced turnovers; his return on the wing coupled with Avery Bradley’s ball-hawking up top and the arrival of Al Horford on the backline gives Boston defensive impact-makers at all of the most important positions. Even if Crowder’s trade value was nonexistent two years ago and even though his national name recognition is still pretty low, he’s the type of indispensable all-around contributor who can help a good team “overachieve” its way to the conference finals. (Last year: Not ranked)
+ Registered 43 more steals than turnovers last year, ranking No. 2 in the NBA (+47)
+ Ranked in the top 30 in both Win Shares and Real Plus Minus.
– He hasn’t yet shown he should be taking threes in heavy doses (33.6%)
– His five-year, $35 million contract drastically undersells his value on the open market