NBA Trade Deadline: Antawn Jamison's Impact on the Cleveland Cavaliers

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NBA Trade Deadline: Antawn Jamison's Impact on the Cleveland Cavaliers
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The Cleveland Cavaliers finally made their move Wednesday evening, but it wasn't the one most people expected.

Instead of waiting for the Phoenix Suns to make their minds up on whether or not to deal Amar'e Stoudemire, the Cavs turned to the Washington Wizards and acquired 33-year old power forward Antawn Jamison.

In a three-team deal also involving the Los Angeles Clippers, the Cavs got the stretch PF they've coveted for years. The Wizards acquired Zydrunas Ilgauskas and his $11 million expiring contract and a first-round draft pick from Cleveland, and swapped Drew Gordon for Al Thornton with Los Angeles.

The Cavs also acquired point guard Sebastian Telfair from L.A., who is the final year of a two-year, $3.5 million contract, with a $2.7 million player option for 2010-11.

Earlier today, it was reported that the Suns were close in giving the Cavs an answer on a deal that would have sent Amar'e Stoudemire to Cleveland in exchange for Ilgauskas and second-year power forward J.J. Hickson.

However, the Suns wanted to wait as long as possible to see if other offers (specifically, one from the Miami Heat) would blossom and improve.

According to Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Cavs put the pressure on Phoenix to give an answer by Wednesday afternoon. When none came, the Cavs moved on to Jamison, who has been on their wish list since the beginning of the season.

On The Mike Brown Show (WTAM 1100, Cleveland), Windhorst also pointed out that the Cavs waited until the final minutes leading up the deadline last year for the Suns to decide whether or not the wanted to part with Shaquille O'Neal.

When they didn't, the Cavs were left with no deal, which ultimately hurt them in the Eastern Conference Finals against Orlando.

Enter Antawn Jamison.

The Wizards were originally steadfast in their demands, hoping to not only bring in Ilgauskas' expiring contract, but J.J. Hickson as well. Rumors swirling around the Internet yesterday had the Cavs sending Ilgauskas, Hickson, and swingman Jamario Moon to Washington in exchange for Jamison and Mike James.

But the Wizards trade of Caron Butler earlier in the week to Dallas, coupled with the Cavs interest in Stoudemire, forced the Wizards to somewhat lower their demands. Adding a third team in the deal allowed the Cavs to nab Jamison by only giving up Ilgauskas and a draft pick.

Ilgauskas' role on the Wizards is yet to be determined. One would assume that the Wizards want to see the current bigs on their roster get significant minutes down the stretch, meaning Washington could very well buyout Z's contract.

If that were the case, Ilgauskas could return to the Cavs in 30 days. Cleveland still has their bi-annual exception left, meaning they could offer Z about $2 million for the remainder of the season—more than most other teams around the league.

Moving back to Jamison...how does he fit in Cleveland's system?

Will he be the missing piece of the puzzle for the Cavs?

Let's breakdown Jamison's pros and cons and examine his potential role in finally bringing a championship to Cleveland.

 

Pros

 

An Athletic, Stretch Power Forward

If other Cavs fans are like me, then they occasionally are jolted awake in the middle of the night having vivid nightmares of Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu burying threes when the Cavs attempted to double-team Dwight Howard.

Now, the shoes on the other foot.

If you watched the Cleveland/Orlando game last Thursday, you saw Orlando double-team Shaq in the post and leave J.J. Hickson unattended. Hickson got most of his points rolling to the bucket and attacking the rim, but when he was left open for that 15-foot jumper, he couldn't knock it down.

That won't be the case with Jamison. An unorthodox power forward, Jamison has the ability to stretch the floor with his jump shot, and even has three-point range. Jamison takes about four three's a game and averages 34.5 percent from beyond the arc.

Breaking it down even further, from 10-15 feet, Jamison shoots 35.1 percent, and from 16-23 feet, he's at 38.0 percent (stats courtesy of HoopData ). Compare that to J.J. Hickson and Anderson Varejao, who have only knocked down a handful of jump shots outside of 15 feet all season.

I don't rely like to rely on stats (especially field goal percentage, considering Jamison has had to be relied on so much to produce offense for Washington), but you can figure out what to take from this: Jamison can make outside jumpers, while the Cavs' current power forwards cannot.

So when Orlando, or Boston, or Los Angeles, or whoever comes with a double-team on O'Neal inside, or throws multiple bodies at LeBron James, the Cavs can put any combination of Jamison, Jamario Moon, Mo Williams, Delonte West, Anthony Parker, or Daniel Gibson out on the perimeter.

That's a plethora of shooters to choose from.

 

Bench Role

I might be in the minority here, but I still think J.J. Hickson should remain in the starting lineup and Jamison should come off the bench.

Here's my reasoning: Hickson's productivity has skyrocketed since his insertion into the starting five. And with his name being floated around in about every trade rumor over the last week, he needs a vote of confidence from the team and coaching staff.

Jamison, on the other hand, should be able to handle coming off the bench. He'll still get about 25-30 minutes a night, and he'll be doing so against other bench players for a majority of those minutes while still working his way into the Cavs offense.

Imagine the Cavs current starting lineup, then having a bench consisting of Delonte West, Jamario Moon, Antawn Jamison, Anderson Varejao, and Daniel Gibson.

That's not even mentioning Leon Powe (could return tomorrow), Jawad Williams (another athletic power forward), and Zydrunas Ilgauskas (assuming he's bought out by the Wizards and returns).

The Cavs would legitimately have 13 players that can make an impact on a game. And if you're coming with the counter-argument that you only need eight guys or so in a rotation in the playoffs, the Cavs can pick any one of those bench players to plug in and get significant minutes, depending on the matchup.

 

Lineup Versatility

The Cavs were already one of the more versatile teams in the league.

Guards Mo Williams, Delonte West, and Daniel Gibson can all handle the ball at the point position, or they can be used as outside shooters when LeBron is attacking off the dribble or Shaq is working in the post.

Guard/forwards Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon are athletic enough to keep up with smaller, quicker guards, while long enough to bother smaller power forwards on the perimeter.

And then there's LeBron James, who can play any position on the floor (yes, he could play center in the right lineup if necessary). Not since Magic Johnson has the NBA seen a player that can fill any spot on the floor.

Adding Jamison only adds to the Cavaliers' depth and versatility. Like I previously stated, they now have 13 guys that can step on the floor and make an impact.

They can play any style they want, or any style an opponent wants. They can have a small lineup, a big lineup, an athletic lineup, a scoring lineup, a defensive lineup, a rebounding lineup, a passing lineup...there's no end to their dynamic.

This might not seem like a big deal, but remember that the only reason the Cavs didn't make the finals last year was their inability to match up against Orlando.

This year?

They can trot out any sort of lineup against any opponent.

How about a traditional, balanced lineup of Mo Williams, West, James, Jamison, and Vareajo against an up-and-coming, defensive-oriented team (see: Bobcats, Charlotte)?

Or a small ball lineup of Mo Williams, West, Parker, James, and Jamison/Varejao against a team with quick, athletic, scoring guards (see: Hawks, Atlanta).

Or a combo of Mo Williams, James, Moon, Jamison, and O'Neal against a bigger team with prolific scorers (see: Lakers, Los Angeles).

Or a defensive juggernaut of West, Parker, James, Varejao, and O'Neal against an explosive scoring offense (see: Magic, Orlando).

One of the NBA's deepest teams just got a bit more versatile.

 

Character

To me, one of the biggest red flags in the Amar'e Stoudemire deal would have been his character and his ability to handle a new role in Cleveland.

He was the feature point of Phoenix's offense and took the most shots in the team; he wouldn't get anywhere near that in Cleveland. How would he respond?

How would he be able to adjust defensively, banging bodies against the likes of Pau Gasol and Kevin Garnett inside, while chasing more athletic guys like Josh Smith and Rashard Lewis?

And would he be able to handle a stretch of games where he wasn't on the floor at the end of the game simply because he wasn't apart of the Cavs best lineup that night?

With Jamison, you don't have any of these issues. A seasoned veteran and consummate professional, Jamison has been to the playoffs many times and knows what it takes to succeed at that level (even though he's never played in an NBA Finals). He's represented his team and city so well throughout his entire career.

He's also been on losing teams the last couple of years, and at age 33, he knows he doesn't have a bunch of years left; he wants to win now.

Expect to see an inspired and rejuvenated Antawn Jamison in Cleveland, a guy that, not to sound cliché, will do whatever it takes for his team to reach the ultimate goal.

I don't think Cleveland's chemistry will have any problems incorporating him into the mix.

 

Cons

 

Defensive Adjustment

Fortunately for the Cavs, there aren't many negatives to this deal (aside from potentially losing some serious karma points for trading Ilgauskas, who has been a fantastic representative of the organization, even in the dark, pre-LeBron years).

However, one thing that immediately jumps to mind is defense. Throughout his career, Jamison has never really been looked at as a "defensive specialist." While he's a prolific scorer, he's been known to give up his share of points on the other end as well.

He's also never really been on a team that's emphasized defense. He played on Don Nelson's 2003-04 Dallas Mavericks team with Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki, and the Wizards haven't exactly been the epitome of good defense over the last three to four years.

How will be able to adapt to a team that primarily gets their identity from playing tough, grind it out defense?

At age 33, it's asking a lot of him to be able to go one-on-one against other great power forwards in the league, like Kevin Garnett, Rashard Lewis, Josh Smith, Pau Gasol, or Lamar Odom, who are all potential opponents in the playoffs.

Jamison's adjustment defensively will go a long ways in determining how far the Cavs will go in May and June.

 

Contract

The Cavs got Jamison because they were one of the few teams in the league willing to take on his contract for the next two years.

Already in his 30s, Jamison has two years remaining on his contract after 2010, accumulating $27 million over that span. The Cavs do shed quite a bit of payroll after this season, but acquiring Jamison virtually eliminates any small possibility they had of inking a free agent in the summer to go along with LeBron James.

Or (I know, Clevelanders, but I have to bring this up), if, if, if, if, IF LeBron James is not in a Cavs uniform next year, the Cavs will be paying Jamison the aforementioned $27 million.

Along with shelling out another $10 million plus for Boobie Gibson during that span, the Cavs will be without a draft pick and be crippled with some bad contracts, which isn't exactly a great draw for potential free agents.

As a Cavs fan, it's something I don't want to think about; but as a realist, it's a possibility worth addressing.

Overall, the Cavs got the better end of the deal for this year. While acquiring Stoudemire and giving him an extension would be better for the 2010s, Jamison gives the Cavs their best chance to win now.

The Cavs have gone all out for LeBron James. They've shown they'll do absolutely anything to keep him happy while fielding a team that can compete for a championship. With James on this roster, the Cavs can compete for a title any year, and they've shown they have the testicular fortitude to make whatever deal necessary to compete.

So now, it's just time to suit up and play ball. Cleveland has all the pieces it needs to win a championship.

Will the Curse of Rocky Colavito continue to haunt the city, or will it finally do the unthinkable and win a ring for the King?

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