For all the discussion of how young players can carry the day for Brooklyn, there’s been little discussion of how one 26-year-old could be key to any jump the Nets make in 2018-19.
We’re talking about Allen Crabbe. Crabbe has more or less been the forgotten man in discussions of the off-season. There’s been plenty of talk about D’Angelo Russell, Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie even the rookies, but Crabbe has seemed an after thought ... at least on the sports pages.
But Crabbe has been one of the most team’s dedicated players over the summer. He’s been religious in his workouts and even showed up at the Dzanan Musa - Rodions Kurucs press conference, offering support from the back of the media room. He also helped recruit two former Blazer teammates, Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier, to the Nets.
His only interviews came back in July when he famously made a big contribution to keep his Los Angeles high school —one founded by his grandfather— open.
No problem. All of that and his improvement at the end of last season speaks for itself ... and hopefully is a harbinger of what next season can bring.
Crabbe took a while to settle in Brooklyn, shooting 35.3% from three through his first 50 games of the season. Then, he (finally) became more aggressive. He not only shot 41.7% from deep over his last 25 games (February 6 through April 11), but his scoring average improved more than anyone else on the team, going from 11.6 to 16.3 points per game, including 10 games with 20 or more points and 10 with 5 or more three’s made. He had a career best of 41 on April 9, his 26th birthday.
Crabbe also became the Nets best wing defender.
There are a number of pundits who think Sean Marks only mistake in his two years worth of moves was not demanding a pick in the July 2017 salary dump that brought Crabbe to Brooklyn for Andrew Nicholson (who the Blazers unceremoniously cut and stretched.)
Brooklyn’s front office and coaching staff do NOT think that way. The Nets like Crabbe a LOT. They liked him in July 2016 when they tendered him a $75 million offer sheet loaded with disincentives for the Blazers. They liked him in July 2017 when they traded for him and they like him now in August 2018.
Crabbe admitted that it took him a while to take on the leadership role Marks and Atkinson envisioned for him. He had always been the third wheel in the Portland offense behind Damian Lillard and C.J. McCullum. Now, in Brooklyn, he has the green light.
“Honestly, the opportunity was given to me in the beginning, and it just hasn’t been in my nature,” Crabbe said as he began to take off back in February. “You can’t go from one system and being a role player to a guy they’re giving you the green light, and acclimated to playing one way for four years.”
“For me, I’m not just able to turn the switch off and turn the other one on, and go out there and be overly aggressive. I feel like with certain people it just takes time: It took time with me. Hopefully I can just continue to play like this.”
Of course, the Nets need Crabbe to succeed no matter what role he plays ... and how well he plays may factor into their free agency thinking as well. He has a player option at $18.5 million that will come due next June 30. Will he want to exercise it if he’s had a big year? Will he simply let it pass? Best not to think about that right now, rather just hope the Allen Crabbe we saw at the end of the season is the same one we see at the beginning of the next.