One of the best pure shooters in the 2013 draft class, California Golden Bears guard Allen Crabbe played three years of efficient ball for well-respected head coach Mike Montgomery. At 6-foot-6 in shoes and with a near 7-foot wingspan, Crabbe could remind Suns fans of Wes Johnson, take away an inch in height and all the expectations that came with Johnson being a fourth overall pick. As a shooter, though, he has the same attributes with an arguably sweeter stroke.
Deadly in catch-and-shoot situations, Crabbe can pour it in even with a hand in his face. As the focal point in Cal’s offense, his shooting percentage of 45.9 was impressive. Though his three-point stroke dipped to 34.8 percent during his final season, it likely was due to adjusted defenses, and he will be in a better position as a spot-up shooter a la J.J. Redick in the NBA.
Considering his slim frame, Crabbe was also a very good rebounder, grabbing more than six per game. The length of Crabbe projects him as a solid NBA defender from a physical standpoint as well.
As good as Crabbe might be as a scorer, his ball handling leaves much to be desired. Because of it, Crabbe rarely gets to the free throw line. His lack of explosiveness – though his combine numbers aren’t bad at all – also hurts his ability to break down defenders off the dribble, and his slight frame will keep him from finishing through contact in the paint. Again, the similarities to Johnson are there.
Crabbe’s focus is another issue. He’s known to float through games on both ends, and proving to NBA teams that he’ll be able to dial in could be his biggest challenge of the next few weeks.
Simply put, Crabbe has a skillset that’s obviously coveted – you can never have too many shooters, as they say – but in a way not only has one dimension (scoring) but one dimension in which he’s one-dimensional (shooting). Add that to his mental makeup and you have a first-round talent who could slip.
A brief understanding of what could hurt or help Crabbe both in the draft and in the longterm outlook of his NBA career was a controversial exchange during a Pac-12 game against USC this year. Early in the second half, Montgomery shoved Crabbe after a called timeout, and the guard sulked his way to the tunnel before returning and immediately checking back into the game. He reacted quite well despite the blowup, scoring 10 points in the final five minutes to help the Golden Bears win. Overall, the exchange was a sign his maturity could hurt him, but there is indeed a fire burning erratically within.
How would he fit with the Suns?
One of the best shooters at the combine, Crabbe would give one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the NBA a boost in that regard as a catch-and-shoot type that spreads the floor and comes off screens. He would immediately fill a need if the Suns don’t re-sign Johnson.
Crabbe could go just after the lottery or fall to the second round because of his question marks. We assume research done before the draft will alert the Suns to whether his personality is really that big of a concern, and if they feel comfortable with him from this standpoint, they could get a steal.
In what could be another brutal season, Phoenix could give him the time to quickly develop the mental toughness-slash-confidence to shoot himself out of slumps and into hot streaks. The Suns can also give him a good amount of time to prove he can play consistently hard. And in that way, his development could be quite quick.
And 1 … A second-rounder to consider
James Ennis, an athletic 6-foot-7 small forward out of Long Beach State, is raw having playing just a few years of high-level college basketball, but he might be someone the Suns could take a swing at. He’s a freak athlete with a sound shooting stroke and the tools to become a defensive stopper – the key to his ceiling is keeping him focused and developing his smarts around his physical abilities.