After Opening Night, Jae Crowder showed glimpses as to why he could be the best piece the Cavs received in the Kyrie Irving trade

NBA Opening Week

The opening game lived up to expectations by having the game decided in the final minute. We all know by now and have seen the Gordon Hayward gruesome injury. Prayers up to Hayward and his recovery. Also, do not blame Jae Crowder for his hip check on the play Hayward got hurt. Anyone who believes that Crowder or any player in that situation was trying to hurt Hayward is a fool. The chance of that happening is one in I do not know how many. It was a freak accident. Wishing the best for Gordon!

Now back to the game itself. One interesting takeaway from the Cavs 102–99 win over the Celtics was Jae Crowder. The bruiser and lifeline of the Celtics toughness the past three years brought the same intensity against Boston. Crowder was not backing down to any Celtic in his 35 minutes on the floor. Maybe it was Crowder trying to prove a point to Celtics General Manager, Danny Ainge that he should still be on the team; or maybe it was just his mentality. I will side with the second — although it does not hurt that opening night was against the Celtics.

With everyone enamored with LeBron, I found myself watching Crowder on more possessions than I would have thought of. Crowder is one of those bruisers that do not necessarily play dirty (like his former teammate Kelly Olynyk) but they bring intensity and give a ‘I’m not backing down’ mentality.

Just take this “meaningless rebound opportunity” with a bit of disrespect:

Now, we expect LeBron and JR to hop right up and do the same thing but this is different. LBJ knows when he needs to provide a spark like this and usually that is not until April, May or June. JR Smith comes off as more of a crazy man when he does it and it does not necessarily lead to a spark. Crowder will always defend his guys and somehow it will make the team tougher. They do not have to actively try and back up Crowder like they do LeBron. If someone takes offense to LeBron, the flood gates open and the whole roster is going to come swinging. For Crowder, he is a heck of a tough cookie.

The gritty style of Crowder will definitely help in physical match-ups and will help Cleveland stay physical against Golden State. Crowder is a more consistent 3-and-D guy than anyone on the Cavs. What is the key to winning the Finals? Having 3-and-D guys around James. JR Smith is a better shooter/scorer and Iman Shumpert could be a better on ball defender (or maybe he just looks the part because he tries to show effort). If the Cavilers had to put just one of these guys on the floor, Crowder would provide the best option because he will take on and lock down Klay Thompson or try to be physical with Kevin Durant. Now, Crowder does not have the JR ‘I’m f**king rainin’ threes and try to guard me’ Smith offense but his ability to space the floor will definitely help. Playing with LeBron will also help Crowder’s offensive efficiency and Crowder will get easy buckets off dimes like this:

The other pieces Cleveland got in the Kyrie trade were Ante Zizic and IT, Isiah Thomas. Isiah won’t be back until January or February and Zizic is one of the guys in suits every night. Now, IT’s contribution to the Cavs will be significant but his lack of ability to play defense will ultimate work against the Cavilers. Zizic is the perfect piece to stash until LeBron leaves for the Lakers next year. Zizic will be an impact player in a year or two once the Cavs demolish the roster and move this core away completely.

The one guy who will make plays night in and night out, whether it is for some miraculous shooting or a couple of huge stops in the final two minutes of a game, Jae Crowder’s impact will be felt.

We still have 81 games to go before the playoffs but Jae Crowder has set himself up to be a fan favorite in Cleveland and potentially be the best piece of the Kyrie trade.

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