NBA Mailbag

NBA Mailbag: Most improved team? Comeback player to watch?

20-year NBA veteran Jamal Crawford answers 20+ questions on offseason moves, Victor Wembanyama and more.

The Lakers have made key changes to their roster since the beginning of last season.

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

How do you think the In-Season Tournament will be received by the players?

– from Eric in California

Some players will take to it more than others, at least at first. Mostly because we’ve all been in the same rhythm for so long, it may take some time to adjust. But I’m sure each player’s competitiveness will kick in during the games, especially for the inaugural edition this season.

All 30 teams will compete for the NBA Cup starting on Nov. 3.

After all the offseason moves, which team do you think is going to be the most improved next season?

– from Dion in Rochester, N.Y.

If we’re talking about who will have improved the most from the beginning of last season to now, then it’s definitely the Los Angeles Lakers. They’ve done a great job adding pieces to surround LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

How important will five years of coaching from Gregg Popovich be for Victor Wembanyama?

– from Tony in Roslyn, N.Y.

It’s not only career-changing for Wemby, it’s life-changing. We know Popovich is an all-time great coach. But he’s also an all-time great leader and person. He’s going to help Victor see things that are going on in the world beyond basketball.

How different is the regular season in comparison to the Summer League?

– from Brandon in Sharon, Mass.

The regular season is different because you’re going against truly the best players in the world. Summer League has some of the best players and other guys who are fighting to be in that position. So it’s a major difference when everyone on the floor is an NBA player. Also, the regular season is way more intense than Summer League. You have to be at your best from the start … there’s no room to relax. But I never played in Las Vegas, so maybe it’s more intense now!

Which NBA prospect is your favorite among this season’s rookies?

– from Isaiah in Iowa

Besides the obvious choices like Wemby or Scoot, I’ll say Amen Thompson and Emoni Bates.

What do you think is the biggest strength for No. 2 pick Brandon Miller?

– from Kim in South Korea

His confidence. I love how confident he is in any situation. There’s no fear in him. That’s helpful in basketball. But in the NBA, that’s everything.

Knicks will become a powerhouse sooner than later – true or false? And why?

– from Victor in Arecibo, Puerto Rico

False! Just because you used the word “powerhouse”. I believe they’ll be a really good team for years to come. But a powerhouse team is on a different level.

Who are your comeback players to watch this season?

– from John in Naples, Italy

Derrick Rose jumps out to me as a comeback player. He wasn’t hurt last season, but he didn’t get a lot of playing time. I believe he’ll have an amazing opportunity in Memphis, especially at the beginning of the season with Ja Morant suspended.

If you had to pick one player to play against 1-on-1, who would it be?

– from Kevin in Jacksonville, Fla.

Easy … Michael Jordan because he’s the GOAT. So you would want to see where you’re at against the best. But it has to be alternating possessions! If it was make-it-take-it, I would never touch the ball.

Who was the best playmaker you played with during your career?

– from Cameron in Washington

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

Which NBA player did you enjoy playing with the most?

– from Omar in San Francisco

Great question. You got me going through the archives right now, checking everything. You know who was an underrated fun player to play with? “The Junkyard Dog” … Jerome Williams. He was always positive and encouraging. And he passed the ball a lot! So I’ll say J.Y.D.

Were you on the shortlist for any USA Olympic teams?

– from James in Elmyra, N.Y.

No. But I was on the shortlist for the guys who practice against the Olympic teams. And for me, that would’ve been so cool. It would have been like playing in the Olympics for me because I would have had more freedom than them. They had to actually play as a unit. I would’ve just gotten the chance to get some buckets.

Reading that your dad played with Kevin Love’s dad blew my mind. The NBA has so many instances of all-time greats whose parents were former pros who were lesser-known role players or journeymen. What kind of intangibles are passed down the pro-player family tree that leads to a Steph or a Jamal? You all had to earn your spot in the NBA, obviously, but you ended up excelling way past your parents’ achievements in spectacular fashion.

– from Marcel in Staten Island

One intangible my dad always taught me was to be a team player. He always said, “If you’re a really good team player, then teams will want you on their team.” That’s as simple as it sounds. If you have a good attitude, if you’re cheering for your teammates and happy for their success, then teams will want you around. That always stood out to me as something he passed down. And I’m not sure he would’ve had that same advice if he had not experienced it during his own playing career. So that’s one way he was able to steer me in the right direction.

What are good books to read so that I improve in basketball?

– from Hasan in Canada

“Mamba Mentality” by Kobe Bryant. It will definitely help you improve. It helped me improve while I was in the NBA.

Who do you think are the best streetball players in the league right now? Give me your top 5.

– from Mohamed in Egypt

  • Kyrie Irving
  • Stephen Curry
  • Kevin Durant
  • Jayson Tatum
  • LeBron James

Who are some players you would have liked to see play in the All-Star game that would have put on a show and dazzled the crowds, but never got the chance?

– from Mao in St. Paul, Minn.

ME! Then I could have released my 10 unseen moves!

Besides me, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. He would’ve put on an incredible show at an All-Star Game.

While you were playing, was there ever a team you felt like you could fit perfectly with and be the missing piece to take them to the next level?

– from Oscar in Vigo, Spain

No, because whenever I was playing I was so locked into the team I was on. Now retired, I could look back and say, “Oh, I would have fit perfectly in this situation.” But as a player, I was loyal to the team I was with and not thinking about other situations.

How does it feel to coach your own son?

– from Talyn in Atlanta

It’s something I didn’t see myself doing, but now it’s something I would rather do more than anything else. I look forward to coaching more than I do anything basketball related. It brings me so much joy to see not only my son but other kids as well go from point A to point B as they continue to get better and better. I’m actually going to go work out with the team after answering these questions.

How many shots should I take a day if I want to make the NBA?

– from Michael in Florida

It’s not about how many shots you should take. It’s about how many shots you should make a day. And I would start with 1,000 per day if you want to make the NBA.

Do you think AAU makes it easier to go pro in basketball?

– from Titus in Alabama

AAU is tricky. If it’s not a true team, then it’s a bunch of individuals just playing to be seen. As an AAU coach, I try to make sure that it’s a team and then everything else is after that.

Hey Jamal, how do NBA players work on extending their range? What are some good drills to help me accomplish that?

– from Mason in Michigan

To extend your range, you need to strengthen your legs. That will give you the strength needed to shoot it from further out. Once you get the strength, you don’t have to change your form to shoot from longer distances, which will help you to become a more efficient and consistent shooter.

How do you get more shifty? North-south and lateral shiftiness?

– from Kam in Louisville

Go play soccer 😂 Just kidding. Play 1-on-1 with more athletic players and work on something specifically, like just getting to the basket. The opponent doesn’t know you’re not taking jump shots, but you know you’re working on getting shifty and just focusing on getting to the rim.

Have A Question For Jamal? Submit It Below!

Check back later this offseason for more editions of the NBA Mailbag!