Boston’s lasting return of the Rajon Rondo trade is this: A protected first-round pick from Dallas that could convey as soon as next season, a collection of (likely) second round picks both from the initial deal and flipping Brandan Wright to Phoenix, and the right to re-sign 24-year-old wing Jae Crowder. They have reportedly made a commitment to secure the latter on a five-year, $35 million contract that will see Crowder paid before really testing his market in restricted free agency.
Crowder, based on his performance last season and those prior, isn’t yet deserving of that kind of salary. Boston has instead made its play on the prospect of what the third-year forward might become – particularly in light of a league where late-blooming wing players have made for sound investments. Think of Crowder as a prototype DeMarre Carroll. He has the size to block off drives and the relative quickness to defend either wing position. His experience playing power forward in college primed his instincts as a helper, perhaps enough to log time as a small-ball four if in the right mix.
His perimeter shooting, marked at 28.2% during his time in Boston and 29.3% for the 2014-15 season overall, hasn’t yet materialized to 3-and-D satisfaction. Maybe it never will. Yet Carroll never managed even an average three-point shooting season until he was 27 years old and had worked with a committed staff in Atlanta that encouraged the practice. Crowder’s circumstances are a bit different (namely that both Dallas and Boston very much wanted him to shoot throughout), but there’s still reasonable hope that he could level out as a passable perimeter threat. If not, he still has some utility as a cutter and energy player, if not quite one of Carroll’s caliber.
It doesn’t seem as though Crowder will ever be an elite perimeter defender nor an especially trustworthy range shooter. As he develops, however, he could fall comfortably into a range of two-way serviceability that has its place and value. This contract is a proposition to pay a solid wage (or even a bargain one, as the cap shifts) for a solid wing. There’s nothing groundbreaking about the arrangement nor transformative for the current Celtics, but on balance it makes for a fair investment.