In early June, amid the build-up for the 2019 NBA Draft, the Atlanta Hawks traded Taurean Prince and a 2021 second round pick for Brooklyn’s No. 17 pick in 2019, a protected first-round pick in 2020, and Allen Crabbe. From a Hawks perspective, the primary compensation in the trade is additional draft capital in the form of two first-round picks.
In return, Atlanta elected to absorb the final year of Crabbe’s contract at the cost of $18.5 million. While it is appropriate to view Crabbe as a salary dump and his long-term future with the team is in doubt, it would be neglectful to overlook his potential fit with the roster.
Crabbe possesses a skill which is currently in high demand around the league: putting the ball in the net from three-point range. He has that one stand-out skill, and he’s very good at it.
Boasting a career mark of 39 percent from deep, Crabbe is well-suited to contribute to a Hawks team which finished No. 4 in the league in team three-point rate last season.
Following the departures of Dewayne Dedmon and Taurean Prince, Atlanta will be seeking to replace their production from beyond the arc. And Crabbe is not just a proficient shooter, but a voluminous one.
Per Cleaning the Glass, Crabbe has finished above the 90th percentile in attempts from three-point range among wing players in each of the last two seasons. His willingness to get shots up will fit the identity of the offensive system that Lloyd Pierce has installed in Atlanta.
Perhaps more importantly, Crabbe also projects to add shooting to a bench that currently looks bereft of it.
Although Atlanta’s bench lineups have yet to take shape, it is reasonable to assume that Evan Turner and Jabari Parker, two of the most noteworthy offseason additions, will play important roles in the second unit. Both players have struggled from deep over their careers, and Crabbe could provide an important outlet alongside them as a floor spacer.
Bench wings competing with Crabbe for playing time include DeAndre’ Bembry and, potentially, Cam Reddish. While Bembry is perhaps Atlanta’s best guard stopper, he too has struggled with converting open threes. Facing uncertainty about his role in a suddenly crowded wing rotation, including questions concerning whether he and Turner can co-exist in lineups, Bembry could find himself behind the veteran marksman on Atlanta’s depth chart.
While Reddish projects as a small forward in the NBA, it is at least possible that he could play limited minutes at shooting guard, though Reddish, rehabbing a core muscle injury, and coming off a woeful freshman season on the offensive end, is unlikely to directly compete with Crabbe for playing time.
Never known as a defender, Crabbe should not be expected to provide positive value on the defensive side of the floor. Moreover, despite his impressive height for a shooting guard, Crabbe possesses little defensive versatility, unable to shift down a spot and guard bigger wings for prolonged periods. While Crabbe can play some small forward on offense, he can’t defend them.
A negative-value player on defense, the Hawks will seek to hide Crabbe on lesser offensive wings to mitigate his damage. For this reason, it is likely that Crabbe will play only limited minutes alongside Trae Young, as a Young/Crabbe pairing, despite offensive upside, would seem to be untenable from a defensive standpoint.
Although Crabbe offers value as a shooter off the bench, it must be noted that he is coming off his worst season since his breakout year in Portland, finishing his Brooklyn career with his lowest marks in field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, and box plus/minus since 2015.
Furthermore, Crabbe played in just 43 games, his fewest since his rookie season.
Given his relatively poor play last season, he is no lock to be a firm piece in Atlanta’s rotation, especially considering his status as an expiring contract on a young team.
However, injury was likely a contributing factor to Crabbe’s down season last year, and he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in April. A career season from Joe Harris further eroded Crabbe’s role. In the end, he became a cap casualty.
With better luck on the injury front, as well as a change of scenery, it is possible that Crabbe could return to form this upcoming season.
Should he do so, Atlanta could benefit from a lift off the bench provided by his shooting. From my perspective, Crabbe is vastly overpaid, but not useless.
There is also a possibility that a rejuvenated Crabbe could offer some appeal as an asset to potential playoff teams at the deadline, though his sizable salary will likely remain a major obstacle in moving him. More likely, his name could appear in buyout discussions around that time of year, a process with which Hawks fans have become acquainted of late.
Primarily, Crabbe remains a salary dump, but he could still become a quietly useful part of Atlanta’s rotation, if things break right for him. Hawks fans will likely already be looking ahead to the end of his contract, and the massive cap space its expiration will provide, but they should not overlook what Crabbe could provide in the short term.