Jae Crowder and the Phoenix Suns recently agreed to keep the veteran forward out of training camp until there’s been a resolution on a trade — with other reports indicating that a diminishing role in the rotation is a primary cause of this conflict. The Memphis Grizzlies are in the conversation around his trade market.
"Sources tell me that both the Suns and Crowder are now working toward finding him a trade out of Phoenix...Look for teams like Boston, Memphis, Dallas, Miami."— The Rally (@TheRally) September 26, 2022
NBA Insider @ShamsCharania reports on the Suns looking to find a trade partner for veteran forward Jae Crowder. pic.twitter.com/sAVkxXumh8
This report obviously drives discourse around the Grizzlies, whether it’s tweets, podcasts, or columns. The biggest factor is his past with the team. He served as the team’s starting small forward after coming over to Memphis in the blockbuster trade that sent Mike Conley to the Utah Jazz. Midway through his first season, the Grizzlies traded him to the Miami Heat to take a flier on Justise Winslow (yes, we know how that turned out!). His veteran presence stood out in his tenure here, and he still has a fan in Grizzly superstar Ja Morant.
In a short statement, I don’t see it going down, nor do I really desire it.
The dynamic and timetable of Jaren Jackson Jr.’s injury change the calculus of this reasoning. If Jackson was going to be out closer to the latter part of his 4-6 month timetable, where he’s returning near Christmas or the start of 2023, I’d be pushing for it. Leaning on unproven talent like Santi Aldama, Jake LaRavia, and David Roddy might be too risky in the context of playoff positioning. There are 31 games before the Christmas Day showdown. Any slow start could’ve put the Grizzlies in a hole in playoff positioning, and perhaps having a stopgap veteran like Crowder in that starting power forward spot could’ve helped them here.
However, Jackson seems more likely to be back around Thanksgiving, given the dialogue around his injury during Media Day. The Grizzlies have a relatively easy start to the season, so it’s more likely they test the development of their young forwards through the first 15 or so games of the season.
In addition, if Jae Crowder is adamant about going somewhere he could start, then Memphis isn’t a landing spot for him. They aren’t moving Dillon Brooks or Steven Adams to the bench for him. Is the possibility of frustration worth the vibes everyone raves about around the Grizzlies? Furthermore, is it worth sacrificing the development of their young forwards for him?
Probably not. The Grizzlies wouldn't have created this mini frontcourt logjam towards the back-end of their rotation if they had their sights set on bringing in a veteran forward. Hell, if they wanted a veteran forward there, they might have just kept Kyle Anderson.
In terms of skillset, it’s a mixed bag, perhaps a trick or treat, with Crowder. The Grizzlies were not good when Crowder was on the floor during his half-season here, as they were 6.8 points per 100 possessions worse in those minutes — per Cleaning the Glass. Most of it was predicted around his poor shooting — only making 29.3% of his 3’s on 5.9 attempts per game. However, he connected on 36.9% of his 3-pointers on 5.9 attempts per game in his two seasons with Phoenix. A team may seek to acquire him for his 3-point consistency from the past two seasons, but his shooting from Memphis may not resonate well in front office decision-making.
Crowder is also a good positional rebounder and defender. He’s averaged 5.2 rebounds, and he’s boasted a positive defensive box plus/minus (DPBM) in his past 4 seasons. His size and toughness are factors that drive his steadiness in these categories. Any team seeking a playoff berth and an edge may welcome his grittiness in the frontcourt.
So to circle back, should the Grizzlies actually trade for Jae Crowder?
I’m still leaning no, but I wouldn’t absolutely hate it given the cost. If the price for a deal was Danny Green and two second-round picks, then sure let’s ride. However, I don’t see why Phoenix does that as an operating contender.
There is plenty to like here for a #Grizzlies pursuit of Jae Crowder:— Shawn Coleman (@StatsSAC) September 26, 2022
-knows his role and how to contribute to winning
-knows our culture and roster core and would be a great mentor for our young combo forwards
-versatile off the bench and can add value on both ends of court https://t.co/dOOmF7dpDK
In addition, there are two interesting wrinkles with Danny Green here. For starters, the Grizzlies may welcome Green’s veteran presence a bit more, because his injury prevents him from stealing time from the young players — unlike Crowder, hypothetically. Trading Green for Crowder may also be cashing in on the asset too early. If the Grizzlies seek an upgrade at the deadline, it’s more convincing to deal Green when he’s more ready to play, and teams out of the mix are more willing to negotiate a trade-and-buyout. His $10M could open the door for several rotation players on lottery teams.
All in all, the narrative around a reunion with Jae Crowder seems cool, as the Grizzlies have arrived as young contenders since his departure in the first season of the “Grz Nxt Gen” era. His game also fits the “grit and grind” mentality this city and fanbase absolutely adore. However, the fit in the rotation isn’t as clear to justify a deal.