Antawn Jamison Will Be Sixth Man L.A. Lakers Need in Mike D'Antoni's System

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistNovember 26, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 13:  Antawn Jamison #4 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates his basket during the game against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center on November 13, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  The Spurs would win 84-82.  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 Harry How/Getty Images)
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Antawn Jamison has been a letdown at best for the Los Angeles Lakers. But that's all going to change under Mike D'Antoni.

When Jamison accepted the veteran's minimum to come play alongside Kobe Bryant and company, Los Angeles envisioned him being the force off the bench it had so sorely lacked for years. He was supposed to contend for the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award while instilling a sense of competency into a perpetually thin supporting cast.

As lofty as such a ceiling was, the 36-year-old swingman was supposedly more than capable of handling it. Age aside, he had put up 19.3 points per game for his career and excelled as the second offensive option only last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, posting an impressive 17.2 two points in 33.1 minutes per game. Surely he could continue to score at a high rate now that he would be a near afterthought while on the court.

Or so the Lakers thought.

No one expected Jamison to match—or even come close to matching—his career point totals. His playing time was bound to decrease, and there were a plethora of other offensive options to consider. Yet no one expected him to fair as bad as he did.

Through the first 12 games of the season, Jamison averaged 3.8 points on just 35.6 percent shooting from the field. He played 20 minutes or more just once and failed to post a double-digit point total even once.

Naturally, at that point, there was plenty of cause for concern. Only so much of his struggles could have been attributed to Mike Brown's misuse of him. D'Antoni had been in the saddle for six games by now, and we had not yet bore witness to the Jamison the Lakers believed they were getting.

Until now.

Over the past two games, Jamison is averaging 17.5 points and 11 rebounds in 28.2 minutes per contest. He's shooting a lights out 63.6 percent from the field and 43 percent from downtown as well.

Yes, Jamison's recent stylings stem from the smallest of sample sizes, but his performances are indicative of the player he can become, an example of the force he can be under D'Anotni.

Magic Mike isn't known for running a deep bench, but he appreciates and subsequently embraces at least one go-to scorer off the pine. Just ask Leandro Barbosa.

Right now, even amidst an excessive bout with shooting struggles, Jamison is the best scoring option off the bench, not Jodie Meeks. From the abundance of playing time Jamison has seen over the past two games, it's obvious D'Anotni has come to understand this as well.

What this essentially means now is that Jamison will receive the amount of playing time he was expected to and hoist the number of shots per contest it will take for him to establish an offensive flow.

No, he has never been the most accurate of shooters, but he has averaged less than 12 shots per game just twice in his 14-year career. Prior to his most recent explosion, he was jacking up less than four shots a night. Even Kobe couldn't develop any offensive continuity with such a small number of looks at the basket.

This is what D'Antoni's system will correct, though. It will create more shot opportunities for Jamison, which is all he needs. He's seen 11 looks per night during his two game tear, a number well below his career average, but a comfortable enough total all the same.

Expecting Jamison to contribute in any sort of significant capacity without providing him with at least 10 shots per game was not a solid blueprint. Players need a consistent number of shots to succeed, superstars included.

Take a look at Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. Howard has taken less than 10 shots five times this season and is averaging just 9.2 points when he does. Gasol has accomplished the same injustice four times, and is averaging 8.5 points during those games. Why should Jamison be any different?

He's not.

Jamison isn't going to receive 20 shots a night, not in an offense that boasts Bryant, Gasol, Howard and eventually Steve Nash. But getting him between 10 and 15 attempts is more than doable, especially within an offensive system that dictates you shoot first, ask questions later.

Prior to D'Antoni, Jamison was receiving a limited number of touches in a limited number of minutes per game. Even six games into the D'Antoni-coached era, it remained the same story, different coach.

Now, however, Jamison has been unleashed. He's receiving extensive playing time in an offense that dictates there be as many shots taken over the course of 48 minutes as possible. That, in turn, gives the Lakers more of an opportunity to spread the wealth on offense, leaving Jamison free to jack up at least seven or eight more attempts without breaking sweat.

That's what he needs; that's what the Lakers need. Not just for Jamison to have an unconditional green light, but to have it for more than 10 or 15 minutes per game.

And that's what D'Antoni has given him, leaving the path to success wide open for Jamison.

To the point where he will provide the offensive impetus he was supposed to in the first place.

All stats in this article are accurate as of November 26th, 2012.


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