If you’re as big of a basketball fan as me, sometimes you like to mix your Big Ten viewership with a little bit of NBA action. From NBA veterans to rookies, it’s always fun to see former Big Ten succeed at the next level. For this week’s roundup let’s take a look at how some NBA Big Ten veterans are performing so far this season.
Jamal Crawford (Los Angeles Clippers):
The former shooting guard out of Michigan has remained a steady presence off the bench for the Clippers. Although Crawford’s scoring has declined this season, his shooting efficiency has gone up slightly. Last season he averaged 14 points per game. So far this season he’s at 11 points per game.
Now with Blake Griffin expected to be out three to six weeks, you’d have to think Crawford will be counted on more. Griffin’s usage rate is the highest on the team, the Clippers offense will have to adjust. One adjustment for head coach Doc Rivers might be giving Crawford the green light more often. The lineup combination of Chris Paul, JJ Redick and Crawford is deadly, but will it be enough to remain one of the better teams in the Western Conference without Griffin? We’ll have to wait and see.
Deron Williams (Dallas Mavericks):
It hasn’t been a fun season for the former point guard out of Illinois. Williams is having his worst statistical season of his NBA career. He’s averaging 13 points per game on 39% shooting from the field and 32% from three. The team Williams plays for, the Dallas Mavericks, are tied for the worst record in the NBA. It hasn’t been easy without best player Dirk Nowitzki, who hasn't appeared in a game since November 25th. Nowitzki is a lethal weapon for Williams in Rick Carlisle’s pick and roll offense. With Nowitzki out, Williams doesn’t nearly get as much space to shoot off of ball screens with Dwight Powell and Dorian Finney-Smith as his pick and roll partner.
With the Mavericks at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, it will be interesting to find out what their plan is when Nowitzki comes back. Do they decide to tank the rest of the season for a better draft pick or do they make a push at the eighth seed? I think the Mavericks will do their best to push for the eighth seed because their roster is full of NBA veterans and high paid players like Nowitzki, Harrison Barnes and Wes Matthews. If Dallas wants to get back in the playoff picture, Williams and Nowitzki will need to be one of the better pick and roll duos in the league. A healthy Williams-Nowitzki tandem should make it easier on Matthews and Barnes — who’ve had to carry the majority of the offensive load so far this season.
Evan Turner (Portland Trail Blazers):
It’s been a disappointing season so far from Turner. The Blazers invested 70 million in the former Ohio State Buckeye to be a playmaker like he was at his alma mater. So far Turner hasn’t been a meaningful enough passer to become the playmaker Portland was hoping for. Turner’s assist percentage has dropped by about 30% over the last two seasons and it hasn’t gotten better with the Blazers (17%). Turner’s scoring and efficiency has also gone down, he’s averaging 9 points per game on 42% shooting from the field and 29% on three’s. Turner ranks 7th out of 8 in offensive rating for Portland’s main group of rotation players.
Although this season hasn’t been the best for Turner, there’s still plenty of time for him to turn it around. Look for head coach Terry Stotts to make adjustments with Turner. Stotts could try working the ball to Turner in the post more often when Turner has a smaller player guarding him. Letting Turner post up more often might spark his passing ability and also allow more space for Portland’s three-point shooters.
Stay tuned each week for updates on your favorite Big Ten stars in the NBA.