There comes a point in time when one has to realize that a mistake has been made. The sooner this realization is made, the quicker the damage control can begin and corrective actions put into motion.
2008 served to be a year in which the Washington Wizards’ management made a mistake. The blunder was to tie up all future money in Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison.
Both are All Star players that have put the Wizards back into the realm of respectability. However, Arenas is coming off of extensive knee surgeries while Jamison is a 32 year old forward that is likely in his final season of “prime” basketball. That's not championship team building material.
There is no question that Arenas is a top ten NBA player when he is on the court. The problem is he hasn’t been on the court (13 games played since the 2006-07 season to be exact).
Antawn Jamison is the best player currently on the 2008-09 squad. Despite his consistent output of points and effort, the Wizards are awful. The team is in complete disarray with no clear direction for the future. The roster is shuffled so often that it is nearly impossible to know who is on the court for tip off if you don’t watch night in and night out—a complete turn of events from recent years.
Though it is true that Arenas-Jamison-Butler along with former Head Coach Eddie Jordan lead the Wizards to the most success that they’ve experienced in over 20 years, the fact remains that the furthest they got was one second round appearance. They have been eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers three times in a row.
In essence, the mix of Arenas-Jamison-Butler peaked. They could, possibly, improve if they signed better talent. Only problem is they spent all their money so what you see is what you get. You can't make your car faster if you don't have money for new parts. Unfortunately, with many teams in the east getting better, the Wizards haven’t been able to keep up. The light is green but they're still at the starting line.
The one glimmer of hope that they have going for them in their potential for fixing a major mistake is the play of Antawn Jamison. He has performed at a very high level, averaging nearly 21 points per game and 9.4 rebounds (both numbers a slight drop off from last season). His value is high—higher than any other Wizard, including Caron Butler.
Note to Washington Wizards' Management: Trade Antawn Jamison while you still can.
The window to make the move is short. One injury or an extended dropoff in performance the rest of the season, with it goes any chance for the Wizards to remedy their situation. There are teams that would love to have Jamison’s services.
He is a valuable commodity as he brings versatility and instant offense at the small and power forward positions. The Wizards need to understand that their current mix will not work and should be wise enough to move Jamison, try to free up cap space to make a run at free agents in 2009-10, and once again become competitive.
An example of a trade that works financially and for both teams would involve the New York Knicks. Head Coach Mike D’Antoni is fond of a fast-paced, offensive oriented team much like the one he put together in Phoenix. He has already begun to put the wheels in motion and has a blueprint for success. Of course, New York will be gearing up to free up as much cap space as possible to acquire LeBron James or Dwayne Wade in 2010, but they need to have a competitive roster—not just cash.
There has been word that Shawn Marion would be interested in reuniting with D’Antoni in New York, but his price tag would likely be too high, and definitely greater than Jamison’s. Jamison is similar, and in depending on who you ask, a better overall player than Marion.
A trade that would work for both teams:
Antawn Jamison - $9.92 Million, four Years Remaining - 20.8ppg, 9.4 reb
DeShawn Stevenson - $3.6 Million, two Years Remaning - 6.9 ppg, 2.3 reb
Juan Dixon - $797 Thousand, one Year Remaining - 6.9 ppg, 1.8 reb
Nate Robinson - $2.02 Million, one Year Remaining - 16.6 ppg, 4.3 reb
Malik Rose - $7.64 Million, one Year Remaining - 1.6 ppg, 2.0 reb
Jerome James - $6.2 Million, one Year Remaining - 3 ppg, 1.5 reb
How exactly does this benefit both teams?
The Wizards acquire three expiring contracts from the Knicks that would free up cap space for the upcoming 2009-10 season and beyond. The basis for having Nate Robinson in the trade is that he would likely walk at the end of the 2008-09 season, as New York will be unwilling to dish out the big bucks to sign him (Resigning David Lee is the first priority).
Malik Rose and Jerome James both have expiring contracts. Washington would send an All Star forward, Jamison, along with DeShawn Stevenson and Juan Dixon (expiring contract) to New York. Stevenson has shown that in a fast paced, high octane offense, he can be effective (Averaged 11 ppg in last three seasons). His ability to play decent defense when motivated is like getting a poor man’s Raja Bell—another parallel to the successful D’Antoni Phoenix teams.
To recap, Washington gets expiring contracts while New York gets a close replica of the Phoenix Marion-Bell combo by acquiring Jamison-Stevenson.
Of course, this is just one of many possibilities. This is a simple combination a bystander can put together on the ESPN NBA Trade Machine in less than five minutes.
The point is that a trade is possible. The point is a correction to a mistake is possible. The point is that Washington has to make some sort of move with Jamison while they still have the chance, or be prepared for the worst.
2008 was a year to forget. Here’s to hoping the Wizards don’t give us another decade, or two, of the same.