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How Well Will Cal's Allen Crabbe Do With The NBA's Portland Trailblazers??

We're talking today with Dave from Blazer's Edge about their newest draft pick, Cal's Allen Crabbe.


Dave: The Blazers' party line on Allen Crabbe was pretty standard. "He was a first-round talent who dropped to us in the second round." But that's what they say about every second-round pick they make. So what makes Crabbe special? Other than his 6'6" height, which is evident, what makes the Blazers think he'll actually find a place in their now-crowded rotation?

Yellow Fever: I'd have to say, wait, what? Now-crowded rotation? Didn't you guys have like the league's worst bench last year? I mean, I see a wing rotation that last year consisted of the eminently replaceable Wesley Matthews (who I take it will in fact be replaced in the starting lineup by C.J. McCollum), Nic Batum, and...and...wait, isn't that the whole rotation? Is there someone I'm missing?

But back to Crabbe - I think if there's one thing he brings to the Blazers, it's "Not being Sasha Pavlovic". Seriously, that guy was playing for your team last year? Other than that he also brings an impeccable 3-point stroke, which should help since it looks like the Blazers didn't have anyone on their bench who shot better than 35.4% from 3. So I imagine that should help LaMarcus Aldridge and J.J. Hickson (is he coming back?). He probably won't help as much on defense, unfortunately, but hey, there's a reason a guy with his shooting ability didn't go in the first to begin with.

Dave: So what's wrong with Crabbe's defense then? A few analysts were scratching their head over why a guy with his size and ability isn't a better defender. What's the story there?

Yellow Fever: I think a part of that is that it's hard to judge defense. Was he really as bad as everyone says? I mean, I don't know. I don't think he was. Was he getting blown by on a routine basis? Was he getting beaten up in the post every game by lesser talents? The answers to that are no, and no, but a typical college star doesn't get toasted on defense anyway just because there are relatively few games in which they'll see other players with NBA-caliber talents.
(Side tangent - Anthony Bennett going number one was a bit surprising and I think speaks to the problem that fans have doing armchair scouting. Not that Cal shut him down in the two games we played him (he had 25-13 in December, 15-11 in the tournament matchup) but at no point do I think anyone was watching him and saying, "There goes the number one overall pick.")

Anyway, armchair scouting. Why isn't Crabbe good at defense? And why does everyone say that? The easiest things to point at are a relative lack of lateral quickness - it doesn't look like he's particularly good at staying in front of his man at all times, though he doesn't seem bad - and he's kinda skinny. Averaging 0.9, 0.5, and 1.1 steals per game also means he's not exactly Chris Paul or Eric Bledsoe out there and doesn't have the quickest of hands.
I imagine he'll fill out a bit more but probably not too much, and there's only so much one can do about their speed. He's the kind of kid who will do the best that he can, but he's not predisposed to it.

Dave: I'm assuming the lack of lateral quickness and questionable hands also applies to his dribble-drive? The guy did score 18 a game with a good field goal percentage and only 40% of his attempts came from distance. How does he get points when he's not lofting beyond the arc?

Yellow Fever: He has the ability to drive a little bit when his jumper isn't falling, but his in-between game still needs a little bit of rounding out. He doesn't have the vision yet to make plays on the move (which is typical of college shooting guards) and he's not a terrific playmaker for others - as evidenced by his rather pedestrian assist numbers. But that's not what his role was anyway. He could be a bit better at drawing contact when he does drive since his free throw attempts are low relative to what you might expect for a top option in an offense, but it's not clear whether that's the kind of thing that will improve over time. It might if that's what's asked of him, but if his job is to a be a knockdown shooter off of open looks a la James Jones (before he disappeared into purgatory) he should be able to do that just fine.

Dave: Speaking of purgatory, I'd be remiss if I didn't ask about "the incident". Mike Montgomery. Shove. Tempers flare. Time spent in tunnel cooling down. What, if anything, do we take away from this about Crabbe, other than he doesn't like to be shoved? Was this an aberration with a heated coach and player or was something deeper boiling over? Should we chalk up the incident to a lack of coach ability or a lack of coachability?

Yellow Fever: I'd say the former more than the latter. I mean, look. Even Latrell Sprewell didn't have another incident the rest of his career. These things do happen, and by all accounts it was more on Mike Montgomery more than Crabbe. So I wouldn't expect anything like that to take place again, or to be reflective of Crabbe's coachability. Or lack thereof.