Examining How Antawn Jamison Can Excel in Sixth Man Role for L.A. Lakers
Los Angeles knew what it was getting in Jamison—a volume scoring stretch forward with unlimited range and a rebounding conscience.
What the Lakers didn't know—and arguably still don't know—is how Jamison fits into their hybrid offense and how he'll fair as a second-unit fixture. Remember, Jamison spent an entire season coming off the bench in Dallas during the 2003-04 campaign, which aside from his rookie season, was the worst statistical crusade of his 14-year career.
So, while this doesn't seem like much of a transition for Jamison, it actually is. Los Angeles won't be asking him to do much more than score, but he's now in an unfamiliar city, assuming a not-so-familiar role and playing within a custom-built offense that, aside from individual elements, is new to everyone.
Simply put, acclimating Jamison to his new digs is going to be a project. But, as he himself admits to The Orange County Register's Janis Carr it's one that is already yielding progress:
Jamison said he’s getting more confident with the offense and Brown’s defensive schemes. But until he gets everything “under my belt” he won’t be happy with his play. Although Jamison’s passes might have lacked pinpoint accuracy, his positives outweighed whatever mistakes Jamison made in the Lakers’ game against the Utah Jazz at the Honda Center.
Jamison's refusal to be content is a surefire sign of an athlete committed to accepting and excelling in his role as the sixth man. But how can he ensure he reaches the point of excellence, how can he and the Lakers guarantee he is most effective within their complex system?
By tailoring the second-unit's offense to meet his needs.
We've already acknowledged that Los Angeles is implementing an adjusted form of the Princeton offense, one that allows Steve Nash and company to deviate from the specific blueprint that the Princeton dictates. And it's up to Nash, and Steve Blake and Chris Duhon, to ensure it's adjusted to fit the needs of their newest forward.
This will entail getting Jamison the ball off cuts to the basket and backdoor sets. More than 50 percent of Jamison field-goal attempts came outside of 16-feet last season, but he converted on just 35.6 percent—including a blisteringly awful 29 percent between 16 and 23 feet—of them.
By comparison, he shot 43.7 percent inside of 16-feet, a significantly more efficient rate.
What this essentially means is the Lakers cannot rely on him in the same way the Cavaliers did. He was expected and encouraged to jack up long distance shots, and while he shouldn't be deterred from doing the same in Los Angeles, more set mid- to inside range plays must be run for him.
And that means deviating from the Princeton offense slightly when the second-unit and Jamison are on the floor.
Because where the Princeton offense calls for the 4 or the stretch forward to be more of a buffer, a guy who frees up the rest of teammates on the perimeter, the Lakers must allow Jamison to play a two-man game with the system's pillar—the center.
When the point guard hits Jamison with the ball, he is immediately expected to dump it off to Dwight Howard or Jordan Hill in the low- or high-post. From there he is expected to set screens to create separation for his teammates.
And this is where it must differ. Allowing Jamison to initiate the pick-and-roll or backdoor cuts with his big at the time ensures that he is not a lost entity in the offense while also allowing him to receive the ball where he is most efficient.
Should his three-point prowess be tossed out the door? Absolutely not. When running bigger lineups, if the Lakers have the opportunity to allow Jamison to play the role of a shooting guard or small forward, and receive more open looks from the outside within the Princeton sets, they should jump on it.
But, for now at least, it has to be about getting Jamison high-percentage shots because his role no longer calls for him to be a volume shooter. His opportunities to score will not be as prevalent as they were in Cleveland, so both he and the Lakers must make the most of his time on the floor.
And simply using him as an offensive buffer won't suffice.
But ensuring quality over quantity looks at the basket will.
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