Congratulations to Joe Crawford for being selected in the 2nd round of the NBA draft. Crawford went #58 to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Crawford really came on in the last 2/3 of this season after a slow recovery from minor knee surgery last year and a bit of a rocky start with Kentucky's new coach, Billy Gillispie. As the year progressed, Crawford and teammate Ramel Bradley developed into a dynamic duo and became the backbone of a Kentucky team that reinvented itself after a rocky non-conference season to finish second in the SEC East.
What I will always remember is the sudden appearance of noticeable heart and passion in Crawford, who for three years at Kentucky played with a kind of disinterested and even surly demeanor. Later in his senior year, it became obvious that he was leaving it on the floor every single game, and Crawford became an unmistakable leader for the Wildcats.
When looking back at Joe's career, StatSheet.com has a couple of charts that provide some compelling food for thought and reflection. First, this one:
As you can see, Joe's scoring had exactly the kind of trendline you want to see in a player -- steady, predictable and always in the right direction. The only reason this chart would give any of the Wildcat faithful heartburn is because Crawford was a McDonald's All-American. High school all-Americans often develop much faster, but not always. This is a lesson learned for us all about the differences beteween the high school and college game.
Chart 1 is the kind of chart I want to see if I am Mitch Kupchack or Phil Jackson. It is illustrative of a player constantly working to improve his game, and a little more improvement is all Joe needs to make the Lakers team and help them. No, he isn't going to get a lot of minutes playing behind Kobe Bryant, but he will certainly learn a lot about basketball practicing and playing with him.
Chart 2 above shows Joe Crawford's progression over the 2007-2008 season. Unlike previous years where Joe would be up one game and down the next, 2008, particularly the last 3/4 of the season, was a model of consistency for any player. Joe just kept scoring more and getting better, and that trend carried over into the pre-NBA draft camps and workouts, resulting in Crawford moving his NBA stock consistently upward.
So congratulations, once again, to Joe Crawford. He has finally realized a dream and been drafted by the NBA. I think Joe will make the Lakers, but if not, I am confident he will find an NBA team he can contribute to. Of course, there is no guarantee with second-round picks, either that they will be on the team or that they will earn a dime. But Crawford has learned during his time at Kentucky that earning things is what makes the world go 'round, and that is no different in the NBA than in college. Joe will earn it, and I believe he will succeed.