The Portland Trail Blazers are in a dogfight for the eighth and final spot of the Western Conference Playoffs with the Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks. If the Blazers are to earn the right to seek a prayer’s chance against either the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs, they will need more than Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic and one very large, prehistoric lucky rabbit’s foot. The will need Allen Crabbe to start earning his paycheck.
Crabbe signed a $75 million deal this offseason, a substantial raise that has seen minimal returns for the Blazers. Last season, Crabbe averaged 10.3 points a game and earned $947,276. Crabbe is earning nearly 20 times that amount at $18,500,000 for this season. His average point total this year? 10.6. Across the board, Crabbe is putting up numbers on par with what he averaged last season. Sounds about right, you may say? Hardly. Not when you get a $70 million dollar raise!
I mean, couldn’t we ask for at least one more point per game? Maybe grab an extra rebound or two. Crabbe’s number are typical of what you can find on any NBA roster, and for far less money. If this is really Crabbe’s ceiling, which I doubt, his huge payday has skewed our perception of his numbers. To put it in perspective that Blazers fans can understand, Crabbe’s numbers are below Raymond Felton’s career numbers.
Averaging 10 points a game was cute last year, but now it is just maddening. Crabbe should be contending for a sixth man award with the kind of change he is carrying around. He should be spearheading a weak Blazers bench with a spark of offense when McCollum and Lillard are resting. He has done neither of these things.
That being said, as any Blazers fan knows, when Crabbe is involved on offensive and motivated on defense, he can be the X-factor the Blazers need to reach another level of existence. It’s that next plain of basketball that the team have failed to reach all season that Crabbe can still give to the Blazers.
Crabbe was supposed to be our version of Jamal Crawford or Kyle Korver. Someone who could come off the bench and immediately make a difference and not give the opponent a sense of relief when the starters need to rest.
Crabbe has had a handful of solid games this season, including a 30-point outburst on January 8 against the Detroit Pistons. But, that was followed up by games of 9, 24(!), 7, 5, 5, and 4. Too often, Crabbe has shown his gift of scoring, only to follow it up with his gift of disappearing into the floorboards of the arena like Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games.
Luckily for Crabbe, he has gone mostly unscathed from criticism this season thanks mostly to the Blazers’ other big-money, free-agent signing of Evan Turner. Turner, who was lured away from the Boston Celtics for $70 million over four years, has had difficulty adjusting to Terry Stotts’ offense while being absent from Brad Stevens’ smoldering good looks
While Turner was showing some promise of turning his season around before he went down with a broken hand, Crabbe has shown minimal improvement as the year has progressed. If I got the kind of raise Turner signed on for, I would at least turn my timesheet on time, which would be a monumental improvement in the eyes of my boss.
If Crabbe is ever going to earn his keep, now is a good time to start. The Blazers need him now more than ever. Turner may be farther away from returning to full strength than we thought, Meyers Leonard is struggling with his own ailments; leaving the Blazers bench thinner than a Michael Bay plotline.
The best thing about sports is that it doesn’t take a whole season for fans to feel you’ve earned your money. For Crabbe, now would be a good time make us forget about the last five months and make the next month and beyond 70 million dollars’ worth of memories.