Drew Crawford had to close things down quickly. The shot clock was winding down and a defensive possession was at risk as the ball swung to the perimeter.
Crawford was never known for his defense at Northwestern. That was the big detraction from his game that could hold him back from a potential NBA career. He had to prove himself, especially during his senior year with Chris Collins putting an added emphasis on defense.
The process to become defender was a long one. It took him to the NBA outpost in Erie, Pa. If the first week of Summer League is any indication though, defense has become the priority for him. And, maybe — gasp — an emerging strength.
Drew Crawford Q&A, Part 1
Crawford dishes on his first experiences as a pro, an opportunity to play in Israel that he nearly took, and grueling late night bus rides in the NBA Developmental League.
On that possession, the player drove left and found Crawford impeding him. He stopped and tried to pump fake, but Crawford held his ground. The ticking clock forced him to shoot, but Crawford, without jumping, contested and blocked the shot.
All that length and athleticism was finally coalescing on the defensive end. In Orlando, that was what stood out most.
"I think it was definitely the Magic organization and my coaches in Erie that did a great job emphasizing that with me," Crawford said of his defensive emergence. "If I am going to make it in the NBA, I am going to have to be a guy that can get stops. The coaches emphasizing it and me thinking about it and me working on it, helped me get better at it. I think it is going to give me a better shot."
Crawford recorded two blocks in that game alone, and had numerous other solid defensive plays that a stat sheet doesn't track.
Offensively, he struggled though.
Despite being one of the first guys off the bench for the Magic, Crawford averaged 5.7 points per game on 5-for-17 shooting (36.8 percent) in three games before heading to Las Vegas to play for the Toronto Raptors. He hit only one of his seven 3-pointers.
After a solid season at Erie — 16.0 points per game, 53.1 percent effective field goal percentage — teams know he can shoot the ball. And Northwestern fans know what he can do when he gets hot from beyond the arc.
In finding a place in the NBA, Crawford had to make his mark defensively. That was how he would find a way to stick. He has the skills to be a good spot-up shooter.
It would seem after a year of development at the professional level, Crawford is making those steps. The shots will come.
They already seem to be coming with the Toronto Raptors and their Summer League squad. Through two games in Vegas, Crawford has scored 24 points on 9-for-17 shooting and 1-for-3 shooting from beyond the arc.
Crawford said his focus in Vegas will be the same as it was in Orlando. If he can add the shot, then things get interesting for Crawford moving forward.
"I want to defend and rebound first as always," Crawford said. "Knock down my open shots and just be solid out there. Play good minutes. Trying to keep impacting the game in any way I can."