Where will Jae Crowder end up?

NOTHING BUT NET 44

In this era of the NBA, no player is safe from the threat of being moved to a new city at any time. This summer was no different. With all the movement that occurred across the NBA, some teams lost considerable talent while others boosted their squads in hopes for a title run. Despite all this movement, one player who could be a key piece on a championship roster remains available. 

Who is this valuable asset? None other than NBA veteran Jae Crowder. Entering his 11th NBA season, Crowder has been in the epicenter of trade talks that would send him away from the Suns.

Coming off two seasons in Phoenix, Crowder approached this offseason in hopes of an extension. The Suns had different priorities however after star center Deandre Ayton signed a deal worth $133 million over 4 years with the Indiana Pacers. The Suns, realizing the crucial role that Ayton fills in their starting lineup, quickly scrambled to match that offer and bring Ayton back to Phoenix.

Phoenix, who now faces tough roster decisions following the recent contract extensions for Ayton and star guard Devin Booker, no longer has room for the experienced Crowder. In a summer filled with rumors of Kevin Durant making his way to the desert, Suns management never gave Crowder confidence that he was part of the organization’s long-term plans. Crowder subsequently asked out.

The 6 foot 6 inch small forward has a reputation for being a top-notch 3 and D player. A career 41.7% shooter from the field and 34.6% from 3-point range, Crowder is a capable scorer. Not only can Crowder score, but he also does the little things extremely well. Coming off a season where we saw Draymond Green impacted the Warriors title run in every aspect of the game, Crowder has been cast in a similar role during his time with the Suns and the Miami Heat. Perhaps Crowder’s greatest asset is his ability to contribute to a winning environment.

In 2020, Crowder and the Heat won 44 of 72 games and cruised through the Eastern Conference playoffs on their way to an NBA Finals matchup with the Lakers. After losing that series 4-2 to Los Angeles, Crowder made the decision to join the Phoenix Suns for the next season. The addition of Crowder helped the Suns achieve their first winning campaign since the 2013-2014 season. They finished with 51 wins in the regular season despite rosters sometimes being decimated because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The success continued through the postseason as Crowder had a significant role in Phoenix’s first NBA finals appearance in 28 years. Following his most recent season in which the Suns had the best record in the NBA, teams have caught onto Crowder’s winning ways.

The question that remains for Crowder is what team will make a trade to acquire his talents? Almost every NBA team would like to have a player like Crowder rounding out their rotation. Considering the teams that Crowder has most recently played for though we can safely assume that a contender is a more likely destination.

Here are three contending teams that could land Crowder:

MILWAUKEE BUCKS

The first team that comes to mind when considering potential landing spots for Crowder is the Milwaukee Bucks. He would immediately fill the role that P.J Tucker left vacant since the Bucks’ championship in 2021. A lengthy, tenacious defender like Crowder would be an effective complement to Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday’s elite defensive abilities.

Crowder is set to make $10.1 million this year which should make matching salaries easier than when a big star is moved. Grayson Allen is a name to watch if a trade is to happen. The 4th year guard is making $8.5 million this year and could be thrown into the trade mix along with picks or other players. A trade involving Allen and guard Jevon Carter who has a salary of $2.1 million would make sense on a financial level and offers Phoenix an opportunity for depth in the backcourt. The Bucks make a lot of sense as a landing spot and have the assets to offer Phoenix a fair return.

MIAMI HEAT

A reunion with the team that brought Crowder his first NBA finals appearance would certainly be intriguing. The Heat fell short of another finals trip last season and could use an extra defender with solid shooting to replace the recently departed PJ Tucker. The issue for the Heat is matching up salaries to complete a trade for Crowder. Miami may be open to trading streaky shooter Duncan Robinson, but his salary for this season is just shy of $17 million, making him an unattractive trade option for most teams. They could also decide to move Victor Oladipo and his $8.75 million figure. This seems less likely though as the Heat would lose guard depth behind the aging Kyle Lowry. In either deal, some maneuvering on both sides would be necessary through the addition of picks and players to match salary.

Crowder landing in Miami seems to be less likely than him going to the Bucks, where he can slide into an immediate role on a great defensive team. The Heat, on the other hand, would be wise to hold onto their shooters after coming up short in their series against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. In that series, injuries hampered the team’s shooting and points were hard to come by while facing a tough Boston defense. While Crowder is a solid shooter, the Heat could be looking for cheaper options that would bolster the team’s scoring. That said, he’s familiar with Heat culture and has already successfully meshed with several members of the current roster on the court.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

The Cavaliers are a team that enters this season with a lot of potential. After acquiring star guard Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland is poised to roll out an impressive starting lineup that already includes all-stars Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen. Having Donovan Mitchell and Kevin Love is a big plus for a team that is heavily reliant on its young and fairly inexperienced core, but they could use another voice in the locker room with experience playing in high-pressure situations. Enter Jae Crowder.

Because of the depth on their roster, Cleveland has some options as to who they give up in a trade for Crowder. Pairing Cedi Osman with a lower cap figure or picks could be a deal that appeals to Phoenix. Recently acquired guard Caris LaVert is also a candidate to be traded once again. He would provide Phoenix with quality depth at the guard position, but it is worth noting that he carries a cap figure that is much larger than Crowder’s. Whichever route the Cavs may choose to go would be wise for a team looking to add more championship experience to their roster.

EXPECT RESOLUTION SOON

There’s always the possibility that Crowder could be sent to a non-contender if that team has a player that intrigues the Suns and can provide bench depth for a contender. However, after a tumultuous offseason, the Suns will probably try to do right by Crowder and move him to one of his preferred destinations. Either way, expect something to happen soon. With so much internal dysfunction already, this is a situation the Suns will want to resolve quickly and they have several options at their disposal.

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