Kentucky's two '08 senior saviors just completed their first attempt to persuade NBA scouts and GMs that they are NBA worthy. The Portsmouth Invitational, by all accounts, went well for the two former Wildcats, with Bradley having an exceptional tournament. The following will be a moderatley educated opinion on Joe Crawford's chances at being noticed enough to garner at least the opportunity at making an NBA roster. Tomorrow I will follow with Ramel Bradley.
As a shooting guard, Joe's competition for a roster spot is a crowded field, indeed. Demarcus Nelson, Sonny Weems, Courtney Lee, JR Giddens, Jamont Gordon, Rob McKiver, Jajuan Smith, Sundiata Gaines, Josh Duncan and Shan Foster are just a few of the names that constitute the players vying for second round draft consideration. The second round of the draft is made up of 30 selections, with 15 of those selections, according to the mock draft at nbadraft.net, being guards, with 10 of those guards being shooting guards. If competition brings out the best in a player, then Joe has ample motivation to perform at his absolute best during the pre-draft workouts and tournaments.
Joe has a lot going for him, in my view. His uncanny, almost inate ability to split defenders on his way to the rim will serve him well. The question is whether he can create shots in this manner amongst the redwoods of the NBA. Mr. Varnado at Mississippi St. this past season displayed just a small dose of the medicine handed out in the Association to those who venture into the paint unwarranted. It remains to be seen whether scouts think Crawford's patented paint moves are NBA worthy.
In Portsmouth, Joe only played in one game, scoring 19 points. About Joe's Portsmouth showing, NBA scout Chris Eckstrand gave him a "B", and said he "missed some passing opportunities on his drives" to the basket. Hey, we've seen that before. In all fairness though, I am sure Joe is wanting to display his abililty to create his own shot, rather than his passing skills. In my opinion, Joe is talented enough to create in the NBA, and if he learns to consistently "look up," he could become an assist machine.
Joe's first step, while not slow, isn't blazing either. He tends to use his craftiness, his body, and his opponents body to shield his man in order to create shots for himself. This past year he used the baseline rather affectively to shield, also. If help is given, he will have opportnities to dish. Will that ability translate to the NBA? I think it can.
Crawford, who shot 36% from the 3pt line this past year, dropped a couple of 3's in his lone game at Portsmouth. Thirty-six percent, while solid, isn't eye-popping by any stretch, especially when considering the NBA extra point line is 4 feet farther away than the college line. I think though, that Crawford's shooting is a definite plus for him. His considerable competition at the 2 spot isn't exactly littered with great shooters. They seem to be a collection of solid shooters, nothing outstanding. This helps Joe.
Defensively Crawford, when properly motivated, can play solid to great defense. We witnessed this year his ability to deny, and ball defend exceptionally well. The players he will be guarding at the next level will be a bit quicker with their first step, bigger, and stronger than what he faced on a nightly basis at UK. Joe's solid body should serve him well, for he shouldn't be overpowered by many, if any, other 2 guard types. His length, or lack thereof, will probably play a role in where he lands professionally. At 6'4", he will be giving up 2 to 3 inches on many nights. Will this enable his opponents to rise up over him, and shoot relatively uncontested shots? That is one of the many questions to be answered with his showing in upcoming workouts and games, but my initial thoughts are that he will struggle defending the perimeter.
Joe's intangibles such as attitude, leadership and desire, will also play a part in his future success at the next level. Coaches like having players who display great attitudes, especially players who are considered role players. Bad locker-room guys, with marginal talent, tend not to stick in the NBA. This also works in Joe's favor, I feel. His willingness to do what is asked of him was on display at UK this year. His leadership, at least on the floor, was readily evident in his performance, especially during SEC play. His desire ... well who doesn't have the desire to draw a fat paycheck while doing something one loves? Will he do what is necessary to fulfill the desire, though? Only Joe knows the answer to that question.
Joe can be very dangerous because of the position he puts the defense in. By creating open shots, he pulls defenders, which allows for a pass for an even easier shot for a teammate. His ability to create so close to the basket is what makes this attribute so dangerous. Will he eat a steady diet of roundballs, or dish the dime? I think he is smart enough to recognize that this aspect of his game will go a long way in determining his viability as an NBA player.
All in all, I think Joe will be presented with at least a serious opportunity to make a team. The NBA Summer League(July 11-20 in Vegas) will probably be the deciding factor in where he will end up professionally for the next year. Kelenna Azuibuke has found a niche with the Warriors, and he and Joe have comparable games. If I were Joe I would have Kelenna on speed-dial, with a list of questions ready for the established NBA player.
Tomorrow: Ramel Bradley
Thanks for reading, and GO JOE!