Jordan Crawford over Courtney Lee… justified or not? | Red's Army - The Voice of Boston Celtics Fans
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Jordan Crawford over Courtney Lee… justified or not?

One of the questions I was most asked during Game 2 was some variation of “why is Doc going with Jordan Crawford over Courtney Lee?”  Here’s Doc’s reasoning: 

Rivers was asked Wednesday about his preference of Crawford over Lee, and he said he simply thinks Crawford is playing better than Lee right now.

“Yeah, it’s not that deep,” Rivers said. “I just think right now (Crawford is) is (playing better) and I think offensively he gives you a better shot at it. Courtney, defensively, is better, so it really depends on — with us, because of the injuries we have at the guard spots, it really depends on the matchups for us, whether Jordan, in certain spots, or Courtney, will play. And that’s just the way it’s going to be.”

OK, it’s not the most ringing endorsement of Crawford over Lee, but that doesn’t change the fact that right now, Crawford is behind Lee on the depth chart.  I had a Twitter discussion yesterday with a couple of pretty knowledgeable guys and it seems like while there is some reasoning behind Doc’s decision, there are some holes there too.

So the question is… is Doc justified in going with Jordan Crawford over Courtney Lee?

Let’s go to the numbers… starting big and working our way down (Stats via Basketball-Reference):

First of all, the biggest of pictures:

Courtney Lee (career)

  • 44.4% FG 
  • 38.4% 3pt
  • 83.6% FT
  • 53.8 TS%
  • 50.6 EFG%
  • 106 ORtg
  • 12.1 PER
  • 9.5 PPG

Jordan Crawford (career)

  •  40.2% FG
  • 30.1 3pt
  • 81.4% FT
  • 48.9% TS%
  • 44.8 EFG%
  • 97 ORtg
  • 13.6 PER
  • 12.7 PPG

Lee, over the course of his career, has been a better shooter.  Crawford scores more points, but clearly it’s because he takes more shots  (almost 4 more per game).  Shocker, I know, because Crawford has never been known as the model of efficiency.  But maybe there’s something more recent that we’re missing.  Moving on, here are the numbers from this past season:

Courtney Lee

  • 46.4% FG
  • 37.2% 3PT
  • 86.1% FT
  • 54.5% TS%
  • 51.9% EFG%
  • 102 ORtg
  • 11.7 PER
  • 7.8 PPG

Jordan Crawford

  • 41.5% FG
  • 33.7% 3PT
  • 81.1% FT
  • 51.2% TS%
  • 47.2% EFG%
  • 98 ORtg
  • 13.8 PER
  • 11.6 PPG

Nothing really changes when you look at this season.  Lee leads in nearly every category.   Let’s go further, and look at the numbers since Crawford joined the Celtics (stats via

Courtney Lee

  • 46.4% FG
  • 37.2% 3PT
  • 86.1% FT
  • 54.3% TS%
  • 51.9% EFG%
  • 1.07 PPP

Jordan Crawford

  • 41.5% FG
  • 32.0% 3PT
  • 79.2% FT
  • 50.4% TS%
  • 47.0% EFG%
  • 0.97 PPP

I’m still looking for a reason that Courtney Lee wouldn’t be considered a better offensive player other than the “mentality”… which means Lee just won’t shoot as much as Crawford does.   But basketball isn’t an individual sport.  There are five guys on the floor for each team.  Maybe there’s something we’re missing there.  Let’s take it to the 5-man rotations (Stats via NBA).

In 6 games, for 32 minutes, a 5-man lineup of Bass, Bradley, Green, Pierce, and Jordan was a +24.3.  Of all the Jordan lineups with any significant minutes considering the small time frame with which we’re working, this is the best.

However, the exact same line up with Lee instead of Crawford is a +25.5 over 92 minutes spanning 11 games.  Comparing those 2 line ups:

Lee lineup:

  • 57.4% FG
  • 45.5% 3PT
  • 65.6% TS%
  • 22.3 Assists
  • 13 turnovers
  • OffRtg: 123.5

Crawford lineup: 

  • 49% FG
  • 42.9% 3PT
  • 64.3% TS%
  • 27.3 Assists
  • 16.7 turnovers
  • OffRtg: 120.1

You want a statistical oddity?  Jordan Crawford’s line up actually does better defensively.

Since Crawford’s arrival, the best lineup that involved Kevin Garnett and one of these two guys is Bradley, Lee, KG, Pierce, Green but that only lasted 9 minutes over 6 games.  It was a +25 over a short time, but keep in mind that Crawford showed up at the end of February and KG missed a bunch of time.

I’d say the numbers are pretty clear.  For whatever reason, the perception of Lee has been strictly a defensive one.  The fact is, aside from Jordan Crawford’s willingness to shoot any time, any place, Lee is no only a better individual offensive player, lineups that include him perform better than similar lineups that include Crawford instead.


What if it’s that mentality that Doc’s looking for?  What if it’s the mere threat to shoot and the possibility that he can heat up that makes Crawford valuable, in Doc’s mind on the floor?

There is zero question, after looking at the statistics, that Courtney Lee is a much more sound offensive player than Crawford.  But Lee also has one more thing that Crawford doesn’t out there…. a conscience.  And that lack of conscience is what makes Crawford so dangerous offensively.  The problem, however, is that the lack of conscience can often make Crawford dangerous to both teams.

Still, that’s not enough, in my opinion, to warrant Lee riding the pine.  Lee has not only been the better offensive player, but he’s been here with these guys since the beginning of the year.  Some of the Celtics greatest success this season has come with Lee and Bradley in the back court.  And no matter how much anyone wants Crawford to morph into Leandro Barbosa, he’s just not going to do that.

The Crawford experiment hasn’t worked very well in two games.  It’s time to make the switch back to Courtney Lee.

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  • i’d prefer either over Jason Terry. Tyronn Lue should see the floor before Terry does.

  • eddysamson

    Crawford is a true double-edged sword of a player. I love watching his crazy shots go in and he really has a knack for them…I would say he makes off-balance or odd shots with a similar FG% to his more normal looking shots.

    BUT I think our team looked best this season with the pitbulls starting and JG on the bench. When we had that 7 game streak after Rondo and Sully went out where we suddenly had a surge in pace…if we can re-create for the next 2 games we have a chance to get back in this. Lee seems better on the run, and him + AB turn defense into offense so I say we try Lee out since Crawford hasnt helped the two worst halves the C’s have ever played in the playoffs.

  • Stephanie McGovern

    Twill should get more minutes he’s what we need has better handles and can dribble penetrate and finish at the rim plus takes care of the ball better

  • vitamin d

    I love Crawford, and his aggressive mentality, but the good thing about Lee is that he never takes bad shots. They’re always high percentage shots. But sometimes, it makes him passive offensively.

    I agree with giving Lee a chance in Game 3 though.

  • Gorey

    I get that coaches shorten their rotation in playoffs, but given the C’s current lack of depth. Doc needs to explore all options at this point. Doc needs to go with a defensive unit whenever Jr.Smith, Kidd or Felton are on the court together. I don’t like a match-up with Terry and Crawford on the court together. But Doc is stubborn so that expect to see those kind of adjustments.

    • eddysamson

      Has woodson really shortened his bench, though? I think the only dude who isn’t playing much is Copeland isn’t it? And he started game 1! Kmart is playing and killing it. Look at Shav as who we have because we didnt take Kmart and realize that our dude we took over Kmart isn’t seeing any time at all meanwhile Kmart is seeing good minutes and helping the Knicks beat us! Its stupid! And you can say all the same damn things about Birdman except he isn’t beating us…no hes seeing decent minutes on the best team in the damn league and we couldnt take him either?

      Play Shav or we lose. Twill wont save us because Doc wont play him more than 15 minutes and thats not enough time to have impact at the point.

      • Bleedgreen.

        I’m glad we diddnt take birdmAn. 1.he gets dunked on by Jeff green all game. 2. He isn’t the type of a-hole that we need. He fits in perfect with the a-holes in Miami.

  • Crawford gives you points and Lee gives you defense…. Idk I think Lee should of got more pt in game 3. Anyways this 7 man rotation isn”t cutting it. Doc needs to put his bench into use!

  • Lee is the better player.

    Doc is desperately seeking a miracle. He has limited options to work with, but is willing to try anything available. It`s like a guy spending his last dollar on a lottery ticket.

    One thing that might help : Stop giving the team sedatives at halftime.

    • But he’s not trying anything. I haven’t seen Randolph play more than one minute. Just change SOMETHING doc!

  • Pingback: NBA Celtics Fan » Lee is out of the rotation, but “will have a say in this series”()


    • Truthfully, I’m not sure who should get the minutes. Neither of them are really good enough right now for what this team needs. But one thing I can tell you for sure, is that there is no way in hell when any coach has decided who should be playing, he compares numbers. That is so idiotic I cannot even explain. If you want to compare numbers because you’re a fan, that’s fine, but just understand that when two guys are that close statistically, it is not the NUMBERS that make the decision of who to play.

    • Ok, so whoever gave my last comment the thumbs down…do me a favor. Tell me whether you’d prefer greivis Vasquez or Chris Paul as your point guard. My guess is you answered Chris Paul. Now go look at their numbers. If you don’t feel like it, I’ll tell you that they are very similar. Paul averages a couple more points but shoots more shots per game. Vasquez averages more rebounds. Equal assists. But why would you choose Chris Paul? Because he would help your team more. He’s better. This is exactly why you cannot just sit there looking at statistics to decide who you want to play. That’s why no coach in the history of high level basketball has ever done that most likely.

  • Darkbloom

    When will people stop giving Rivers a pass for D+ decisions? This is one; another is running an older team into the ground with a very short rotation–probably the shortest in the playoffs. If the Celts get by the Knicks, which they won’t because they are playing better ball by making smart (coached) adjustments within and between each game, they will be completely burned out for the next series. We can see how well Lee’s absence benefitted the teams offense the last game. The ball movement both games was torporific and nearly every possession is a tell and slow. I’d love to play poker with Rivers for high stakes

  • Raoul

    I love Doc, but far too often he lacks utilization of talented players. I feel Lee would impact these games more than Crawford has. I’d still like to see more Wilcox. I’d like to see exactly why we picked up these 20-10 guys from China. Doc is quite terrible at managing the bench minutes; often playing them for insignificant amounts of minutes and judging them on what they do after sitting for 42 game minutes. Celtics backs are against the wall this year. We have no advantage over virtually anyone in these playoffs. Lets try something new for a change. From 5 to 1, lets try Randolph, Wilcox, DJ, Lee, and T-Will. What’s the worst that can happen? We blow another quarter coming out the half? At least that line-up finally exploits the Knicks lack of size for a change. We’re barely on the damn block against them and that’s their weakness. Makes no sense.

    • Darkbloom

      I agree with much of what you’ve observed. I think River’s obsession with tight rotations, especially in the playoffs, is quite detrimental.

  • IDKsh1taboutbasketball

    I say we let DJ White run the point.