Veteran sixth man Jamal Crawford was expected to join the Cleveland Cavaliers after he was released by the Atlanta Hawks, who acquired him via trade from the Los Angeles Clippers. He even met with Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, fueling rumors that his next stop will be in Cleveland. That’s why many were caught by surprise when he joined the young Minnesota Timberwolves over a team that has a better chance of giving Crawford his first NBA Championship.

According to Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune, Crawford said he picked the Timberwolves over the Cavaliers because they were serious about acquiring him, doing the needed things right away.

In addition, Crawford felt that he could fit with the Wolves young stars and “go through the wars with these guys”.

Also, Crawford said it’s more gratifying to help a team go from being whipping boys to champions, unlike joining the Cavs or the Golden State Warriors, who both have already won championships. “That’s the challenge. That’s what so fun about it. It’s exciting because nobody really knows what we can be,” explained Crawford.

Crawford part of three-team trade

Crawford landed with the Hawks after he became a part of a three-team trade that brought Danilo Gallinari from the Denver Nuggets to the Clippers. The Nuggets, for their part, got a 2019 second-round pick from the trade. The Hawks obliged to Crawford’s request to be released, buying out the remaining $28.75 million on his contract with the Clippers.

The move paved the way for Crawford to become an unrestricted free agent.

It was reported that the Cavs planned on signing Crawford to their mid-level exception worth $5.2 million but they opted to use it on Turkish star Cedi Osman, their draft pick in 2015. The Timberwolves, for their part, came out of nowhere to sign Crawford to a two-year deal worth $8.9 million.

Crawford to add more firepower to Wolves

Aside from signing Crawford, the Wolves made significant moves in the offseason, trading for three-time All-Star Jimmy Butler on Draft Night and acquiring free agents Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson. The four will join forces with young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins as the Wolves try to end a 13-year playoff drought.

An eighth overall pick by the Chicago Bulls in the 2000 Draft, Crawford bagged the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award during the 2015-16, 2013-14 and 2009-10 seasons. At age 36, he was the oldest winner of the Sixth Man award during the 2015-16 season after averaging 14.2 points and 2.3 assists in 26.9 minutes in 79 games with the Clippers. In 1,182 games, he averaged 15.3 points and 2.3 rebounds.