Many people are referring to yesterday’s blockbuster trade between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics as a swap of All-Star point guards Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas. However, Jae Crowder – and the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick – also heads to Cleveland and Crowder’s value is unparalleled.
Not only does he have one of the most flexible long-term contracts in the NBA, the forward also fills a legitimate need for Cleveland next season. His defensive presence will help the Cavaliers against top scorers including Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors.
We used NBA Math’s FATS (Factor Adjusted Team Similarity) methodology to help us visualize the deal. We plugged in the on-off court variables of those involved in the trade. The results showed what kind of players both teams will receive.
When Crowder was on the court last season, Boston had the win-loss pace of a team set to finish with a .650 record. When he was off the court, the Celtics instead had a pace of a team with a .362 winning percentage.
Former NBA front office executive Ben Falk notes that Crowder’s teams have performed better with him on the court during each season of his career, though last year was the biggest overall differential.
This difference equaled 23.6 wins over the course of a season, proving the Cavaliers’ new forward is extremely valuable.
After inputting the same details but for Thomas, the difference was equal to 13.7 wins. While this does not mean Crowder is a better player than Thomas, it’s an interesting measure of success beyond the basic plus-minus counting stat.
Of course, the Cavaliers gave up a four-time All-Star in Irving to make this deal. But against the top competition where his presence mattered most, he did not offer as significant of an impact as one would have hoped.
We plugged in the factors based on his performance in the postseason and learned that Cleveland was roughly as good with him off the court as they were while he was playing. This, more than anything, is a credit to LeBron James.
If James ends up leaving the Cavaliers once again, Crowder will not provide the same star power once offered by Irving. Thomas, too, could leave after the upcoming season since he will be an unrestricted free agent. But based on Eastern Conference postseason statistics, it seems James may miss Irving less than one might think.
According to the FATS Calculator, the Cavaliers played like a team with a dominant .691 winning percentage when Irving was on the floor. But when he was off the court, they largely replicated the success – playing like a team with a nearly equally impressive .680 pace.
This difference equates to just 0.2 wins over the course of 18 postseason games, which is how many Cleveland played last season.