NBA Mailbag

NBA Mailbag: 20 questions before final stretch of regular season

20-year NBA veteran Jamal Crawford answers 20 questions on the final 2 weeks, all-time best 6th men and more.

Entering Tuesday’s action, the Thunder, Wolves and Nuggets are separated by just 1 game for the No. 1 seed in the West.

The NBA Mailbag is here to answer your questions throughout the 2023-24 season! Have a question for Jamal? Submit it at the bottom of this edition of the NBA Mailbag. 

Who do you think will finish No. 1 in the West?

– from Josh in Denver, CO

I’ll go with the Thunder since they have the tiebreak over the Nuggets. But it will be back and forth over these final two weeks.

Although OKC is super young and inexperienced, they play like they’ve been playing together for years. Have you ever seen another young team like this? And do you think they have a legitimate shot to make a deep run in the playoffs this year?

– from Brodie in Coshocton, OH

Yes, I’ve seen a young team like this before … the Thunder with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. They were very, very young and played great together in the postseason. I’m not saying this current Thunder team can have that kind of run to the Finals. But what makes them special is their best player allows everyone else to excel in their role. And they have a college-type connectivity in the NBA, which is very rare for a young team.

How can the Suns make some noise in the next few weeks before the Playoffs/Play-In?

– from Kihoon in South Korea

They need to add more ball movement before their stars decide to shoot. Getting the ball moving side to side and getting everybody involved will allow them to better diversify how they attack. These next two weeks will be key for them to build more balance and synergy before the postseason.

What do you think of the Mavericks as a team heading into the Playoffs?

– from Juan in Dallas, TX

They’ve been a nice surprise, for sure. With the right matchup, I think they could make some noise in the playoffs. They’re playing more of a flow offense instead of your turn, my turn. They’re showing how a flow offense helps to keep the role players involved and creates balance.

Do you think that a fully healthy Knicks team can make the Finals?

– from Bradley in New York

Boston and Milwaukee obviously are the favorites, but both squads have shown some slippage at times. So if the Knicks get the right matchups and win a tough series, then the magic starts to happen. You win a matchup you’re supposed to win in the first round, then you win a tough series, and now you’re in the conference finals and all you have to win is four games. It sounds easier than it is, but I’ve seen teams like them get magic at the right moment, and boom … they take off. So I’m not going to say they can’t do it, especially if they’re fully healthy.

Have you watched any March Madness? What players have you liked watching the most?

– from Kevin in Toledo, OH

I’ve only watched the women’s tournament. To me, it’s so entertaining the way they’re playing team ball together and how fundamentally sound they are. They go from good to great options a lot when passing the basketball, which is the key to playing a true team game. As a coach of young kinds, it’s a beautiful thing to watch since that’s the way I teach the game.

Some of the players I’ve liked watching the most have been (in alphabetical order) – Paige Bueckers at UConn, Caitlin Clark at Iowa, Aaliyah Edwards at UConn, Milaysia Fulwiley at South Carolina, Hannah Hidalgo at Notre Dame, Kiki Iriafen at Stanford, Flau’jae Johnson at LSU, Tessa Johnson at South Carolina, Laila Phelia at Michigan, Angel Reese at LSU, Kiki Rice at UCLA, Talia von Oelhoffen at Oregon State, and JuJu Watkins at USC.

What expectations do you have for the Magic in this year’s playoffs?

– from Dax in Tampa, FL

First off, them getting to the playoffs this year is a win. Now they’ll get a chance to learn how to really build for the future since this playoff run should show them exactly what they need going forward. Then they can make moves this offseason to be in an even better position next season.

Do you think Giannis gets enough MVP recognition? He’s putting up 30 points a game on over 60% shooting, which has never been done before. But everyone is saying Jokic has basically won already. I feel like Giannis should still be in the race.

– from Sam in Wisconsin

I agree. We can’t take 30 points on 60% shooting for granted, especially when you’re on one of the top teams in the league. Giannis is not only one of the best players now but he’s one of the best players to ever play. So he should absolutely still be in the MVP race. I wouldn’t say it’s over just yet.

Including you, what starting lineup of all-time 6th men can make the playoffs?

– from Julevarrus in Houston, TX

  • Manu Ginobili
  • Lou Williams
  • John Havliceck
  • Lamar Odom
  • Kevin McHale

With me as 6th man!

If you were to watch one NBA player’s private workout, current or past, who would it be and why?

– from Weston and Andrew in Huntsville, AL

I would want to watch Kobe’s workouts. I think he maximized his talent more than just about any player who’s ever played. So for me, it would be incredible to have seen a day in the life for him and be a fly on the wall. All of his workouts would’ve been a treat to see.

Do you believe Tim Duncan doesn’t get his due when people talk about him? Especially recently?

– from Vince in Toronto, Canada

Absolutely! He’s probably top two or three most underrated players to ever play. His greatness is so surreal. We played against them in the 2015 playoffs and he was still the best player on that team at 38 years old. He’s an all-time legend.

Are NBA players really affected by contests? It seems like shot contests, especially from the midrange rarely do anything and when a player misses it is just due to the player missing. How much did a contest affect you when you were shooting a shot?

– from Henry in Lexington, VA

I had a tougher time making wide-open shots than I did contested shots. The wide-open shots made me think too much. Was I taking too much time? Did I have the right rhythm? With contested shots, I had to really focus, and that made them easier. But if I missed it, it wasn’t because of the contest. For most players, they don’t have much of an effect.

Do you think having a one-on-one challenge in the All-Star Game would be a good idea? And who would you want to face?

– from Fredy in San Fernando Valley, CA

I think it’s a great idea. If it was done correctly, it could possibly be the biggest event on Saturday night. Especially if you get the right players who would be willing to really go after it on such a big stage. It would be like a boxing match. T-Mac has been talking about it for years. Kevin Garnett and I talked about it, too. It could be special.

And I’m always excited to go against any top-tier guard. The best 1-on-1 player I’ve had matchups against is Kyrie Irving.

Have you ever been dunked on during your NBA career?

– from Thomas in Salt Lake City, UT

Yes, in the playoffs against Derrick Rose. He went up for a lob that I didn’t think he could grab. Next thing I know, his feet are almost touching my shoulders.

In all of your 20 seasons, what is one thing you wish you were to have learned earlier in your career?

– from Brian in Niota, TN

I wish I had a better grasp on the importance of daily routines earlier in my career. We’re all creatures of habit and it helped a lot once I had a consistent sleep schedule and diet. I started getting a better routine once I got to New York around my 6th-7th season in the league.

If there’s any moment you would like to relive from your career, what would it be?

– from Alex in Hungary

When we were up 3-1 against Houston in the conference finals — we would have found a way to win one more game, especially if we had known it would be the last real chance we had to win the championship.

What rookie throughout your career did you play and think, “Man, this guy is going to be great” and how did that player turn out?

– from Kole in Newburgh, IN

LeBron James. I saw all his physical attributes. But more importantly, I saw his poise and his IQ. And those two were more impressive than his physical skills. The poise he played with was like a 10-year veteran. You knew right from the start that he was going to be one of the greats of the game.

Do you think that LeBron James could be as successful as he is now in the 90s? Why or why not?

– from Myles in Baltimore, MD

When you’re an all-time great, you cover any time, any era and any place. So yes, he would have been just as successful in any era of the league.

What do you think is the best dribble move for 10-13-year-old kids to learn?

– from Nate in New York, NY

Hesitation pull-up jumper because if you learn it now then you can use it the rest of your basketball days. It’s always effective. It always keeps the defense off balance. For me, it’s the equivalent of the jab in boxing. Just like my son JJ does here.

What was your favorite drill when you were young?

– from Noah in Los Angeles, CA

It wasn’t necessarily a drill, but I used to do the “5 … 4 … 3 …” countdown in my head and do different moves before getting a shot off before the buzzer in my mind. If I made it, the announcer in my head would go wild. If I missed it, I would do it again until I was making it consistently.

Have A Question For Jamal? Submit It Below!

Check back on Tuesdays throughout the 2023-24 season for more editions of the NBA Mailbag!