Shepard: Why The Best NBA Free Agent Is In His 40s

With the NBA restarting its season, several teams may want to give a 40-year-old free agent a look, David Shepard says

CBS Sports Radio Weekend
June 22, 2020 - 2:23 pm
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Things have been ugly with MLB as of late. Greed and lack of leadership are the main topics of conversation. Fortunately, the NBA has important figures such as Adam Silver and Mark Cuban who won't allow that to happen. Players are truly looked after in the NBA, much more so compared to MLB. The main topic of conversation in the NBA is not based on greed and losing a fan base like MLB. The question right now in the NBA is who wins it all? NBA teams will have to be shrewd when it comes to which free agents they will add to their rosters in Orlando. If done correctly, it can very well put a team over the top, which would ultimately result in an NBA title. The free agent who would make the biggest splash for an NBA squad this summer happens to be in his 40s. His name is Jamal Crawford.
 
The last time Crawford was on an NBA court (2018-19 season), he scored 51 points (one point shy of his career-high). By doing so, at 39 years old, he became the oldest player in NBA history to score at least 50 points in a single game. In that same game, he also went for five boards, five assists, and shot 54 percent from three. The only other player at ANY AGE to have a game like that last season was Kevin Durant, one of the two or three best players in the world when healthy. If you even look at the last month of the 2018-19 season, Crawford was averaging over 31.0 points per game and 6.0 assists per game while shooting 50 percent from three. Granted it was four games, but NOBODY in NBA history has averaged those numbers for an entire season. We should take note that he STILL has the ability to take over games. He has also proven he can do a lot more than just score.
 
When Crawford gets minutes, he makes the most of it. In four of the 64 games Crawford played in last season (just six percent of his games) he got over 30 minutes of burn. In those four games, Crawford went for 27 points per game on 42 percent shooting from three and had 5.0 assists per game. Only Steph Curry, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan have put up those numbers in a season.
 
Yes the legacies are different, but if 43-year-old Vince Carter got a decent amount of minutes this season, Crawford should be on an NBA roster. Crawford, in year 19 (2018-19 season), put up 8 points per game and 4 assists per game on 40 percent shooting despite playing less than 19 minutes per game. Carter, in year 17, recorded 6 points per game and 1 assist per game on 33 percent shooting. Clearly Crawford was the better player. Carter played FIVE more seasons after this and Crawford hasn't played a game since putting up that kind of season. Even with such little playing time, the 4.0 assists per game for Crawford were the most assists per game he has averaged in more than a decade. He became one of just four players to do that in year 19 or later in NBA history. The other three are Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, and John Stockton. Keep in mind this is assists we’re talking about, not Crawford's best skillset, which we know is scoring.
 
With the numbers he put up last year, how is he not, at minimum, reserve in the NBA? Off the court issues? YEAH RIGHT!!!!! Through his foundation, he has funded projects for heart defibrillators and athletic trainers for public schools in his hometown of Seattle. He has conducted free basketball camps. He has organized back-to-school rallies giving away free school items including backpacks.
  
To recap, he is still productive, efficient, more than just a scorer, and a great representative for the NBA off the court. Is he not a great teammate? He was voted the NBA Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year just two seasons ago. He became the first player to ever win Sixth Man of the Year three times, which shows you how he is willing to put his team first. Look at the plethora of teammates he has had in his NBA career: Scottie Pippen, Chauncey Billups, Penny Hardaway, Elton Brand, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and Derrick Rose to name a few. This shows he can play very well off of GREAT players, which will be necessary for a 2020 NBA title run. 
 
Crawford is also incredibly exciting with the rock. Arguably one of the five best ball handlers in the history of the NBA.

On numbers alone, he can still very much play the game at a high level. But being the teammate he is, not to mention an exemplary figure off court, he needs to be in the NBA. If teams are smart, they are doing everything they can to pick up Crawford. The fact that he is 40 makes it even more exciting and inspiring to watch. Excitement and inspiration are much-needed not just in sports these days, but in everyday society with the times we are in.

CBS Sports Radio producer David Shepard is a former ESPN researcher, a former Division I college basketball practice player, and the host of The Good Shepard YouTube channel. Follow him on Twitter @TheGoodShepard_.