Jae Crowder's recent two-way impact could be the shot in the arm the Bucks need

Brooklyn Nets v Milwaukee Bucks
Brooklyn Nets v Milwaukee Bucks / John Fisher/GettyImages

The 2023-24 NBA season has been a roller coaster ride for Milwaukee Bucks forward Jae Crowder.

After opting to return to the team on a minimum deal following last season's lackluster conclusion, Crowder started the year off on a high note. The forward, clearly motivated to bounce back after an ugly 2022-23, was playing great basketball. Yet, it did not last long, as Crowder suffered an injury in November and underwent surgery, which sidelined him for the next several months.

Upon returning to NBA action in January, Crowder struggled to find his footing, clearly very rusty. These struggles persisted throughout the rest of January and all of February, but in March, he has started putting the puzzle pieces together for the Milwaukee Bucks, especially as of late.

Jae Crowder's recent two-way impact could be the shot in the arm the Bucks need

Over his last six games, Crowder is averaging 9.2 points, 2.2 rebounds and an assist per contest while shooting 57.9 percent from the floor and 50 percent from long-range. The veteran forward has found his stride on offense, especially from 3-point land. In this span, he is shooting 7-of-11 (63.6 percent) on his "open" triple tries, per NBA.com, thriving when he's been given four to six feet of space.

Yet, perhaps more eye-catching than his offensive production has been his defense. In these last six games for the Milwaukee Bucks, Crowder has held opponents to 20-of-53 (37.7 percent) field goal shooting. Not only is that the best mark on the team, but it is also the fourth-best in the entire NBA among players to defend at least 50 shots in this timeframe.

Over these last six games, the Bucks are 4-2, with one of those losses coming to the Boston Celtics with no Giannis Antetokounmpo. Yet, Crowder has been a part of the team's success in big victories over the Phoenix Suns and OKC Thunder. As evidenced by the numbers, his defense has been sharp as could be in this stretch, and he's also hitting his shots with incredible efficiency.

With 10 regular season games left to play before the NBA Playoffs begin, Jae Crowder is finding his footing at the right time, and the Bucks need him to keep his foot on the gas. He's going to be a key cog for this team regardless, but with Patrick Beverley's status up in the air as he deals with a wrist injury, Crowder's importance, particularly defensively, may increase mightily.

Since he was brought to Milwaukee last season, Crowder has been compared to P.J. Tucker, another veteran who brought defense, shooting and toughness to the table and helped the team win it all in 2021. If Crowder keeps up this strong play, perhaps he could follow in those same footsteps and be one of the team's most important playoff contributors in their search for another NBA championship.

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