Antawn Jamison to Los Angeles Lakers Would Increase the Need for Dwight Howard

Ethan Sherwood StraussNBA Lead WriterJuly 16, 2012

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 30:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic attempts a shot over Ian Mahinmi #28 of the Dallas Mavericks during the game at Amway Center on March 30, 2012 in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
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Charlotte Observer beat writer Rick Bonnell is reporting that the Lakers will sign Antawn Jamison.

At first glance, this looks like a good move for the Lakers. They need spacing, and Jamison can shoot the three while playing the 4. He should be L.A.'s poor man's Lamar Odom. Or, with the way Odom's been downward spiraling, Jamison can be L.A.'s rich man's Lamar Odom. 

There's one small catch, though: Antawn Jamison is a horrendous defender. Truly terrible. I don't wish to impugn his character or to insinuate that he loafs. Some guys are as professional as they come, but they simply can't react with the split-second assuredness it takes to guard the opposition. 

His negative impact on the defensive end is remarkably consistent. Per basketball value numbers, with Jamison on the court, the Cavs were 9.09 points worse on defense in 2011-2012, 5.37 points worse in 2010-2011 and 3.90 points worse in 2009-2010.

This tends to be a noisy statistic, but there is enough of a track record here to doubt that Tawn' can be anything but a vacuum in the defensively crucial role of power forward. 

The Cavs learned this the hard way back when Jamison was supposed to be the finishing touch on a championship squad. For all the attention LeBron's Game 5 Boston meltdown received, few noticed that the Jamison addition merely unsettled a stingy Cleveland defense.

Offensive contributions are nice, but offense is only half the game. It's quite difficult to win a playoff series when your power forward is letting Ray Allen get to the cup, then ceding an easy dunk on the dish.

This is not to say that the Lakers will suffer for having a one-dimensional bench scorer. It just means that the need for Dwight Howard is ever greater.

L.A. has added two main cogs this offseason, and they both have defensive flaws. Steve Nash is at least replacing other bad defensive point guards. But Tawn' must be compensated for some other way, as frontcourt D matters more than point guard D (there is a reason why Gary Payton was the last PG to win Defensive Player of the Year, back in 1996).

Dwight Howard is one of the few players who can make up for a Jamison-addled defense, thus allowing for Tawn's offensive contributions to truly matter. Andrew Bynum is a good defender, but a flawed one. Drew plays capably, but he lacks the mobility to cover an area at the first sight of its opening.

While I have high hopes for Andrew Bynum's future, Los Angeles has a brief championship window. Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant are both riding out the end of their primes. Kobe will make more than $30 million in the final year of his contract, making his salary unmovable and restricting L.A.'s ability to improve in the short term. 

The Lakers are built—or forced—to win now. Last year, their defense was mediocre, finishing tied for 13th in the Hollinger efficiency rankings.

There is little in the way of reasonable expectation to believe this aspect will improve without Dwight Howard's addition. If the Lakers are to add offensive players, they need to address a flagging defense.