Antawn Jamison is a Cleveland Cavalier. Let it sink in. What does it mean? Is it the move that will finally put the Cavaliers over the hump in the Eastern Conference?
Well, according to most, they didn’t need to make a move because they were already the heavy favorites in the East. That was also considered true last year when the Orlando Magic “upset” the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals, so anything is possible, especially with the Big 4 in the East being very competitive.
Still, there is something to be said for not being satisfied with the best record in the league and being on pace to break last year’s franchise record for wins in a season. Danny Ferry and Mike Brown (and really LeBron, lets not kid ourselves, he has more pull than the Sun in the Cavs organization) know that it takes a complete team to win a championship, not just a solo star.
There was talk of acquiring Amar’e Stoudemire from the Suns in exchange for JJ Hickson and Z. Clearly, those talks soured to the point that the Cavs didn’t even bother waiting until the trade deadline and pulled the trigger on the Jamison deal. That was the critical part for the Cavaliers, besides getting Jamison, keeping Hickson. He has really improved this year beside Shaq and getting easy buckets opposite LeBron and his athleticism has the Cavaliers thinking potential excellence in the future.
Jamison is the supposed “stretch 4” that the Cavaliers have needed, able to score independent of LeBron and guard opposing big men lurking on the 3-point line. He is primarily an offensive weapon, averaging over 20 PPG for the Wizards this season despite all of the locker room hoopla surrounding Washington. He can score from beyond just the paint, but he isn’t afraid to back the right opponent down.
More than anything is the intangibles that he brings to a team. He is the consummate professional, not squabbling about playing for a defunct team or having to deal with a rumored superstar who is now gone for the year for infeasible acts of stupidity and immaturity. No, he kept quiet for the most part, went out and did what was required.
That is commendable. So, most figure that he will fit in well as a possible third or fourth option in Cleveland (obviously behind LeBron, maybe Mo Williams or Shaquille O’Neal given the circumstance). He is a veteran. He knows that the possibility of success in this league is fleeting at best and he isn’t exactly youthful anymore.
And I have no reason to doubt his willingness to fit in and play his part. But what will his part be? And more importantly, will his addition be a net positive for the Cavs?
Let’s address the first: his part. As stated above, he will be the stretch 4 (I don’t know when that term was popularized but I hear it all the time now) for a team that has realistic championship aspirations. He isn’t much of a defensive player or presence, mainly sticking to the fun side of the ball. However, decent defensive players can look a lot better if they commit to playing within a good system (which the Cavs certainly have when not over-rotating).
He certainly has the athleticism to be a competent defender. It is strange and telling that neither Jamison nor Stoudemire play good defense, yet it was generally only mentioned as a negative for Stoudemire. It says more about the respect everyone has for Jamison than it does for Stoudemire.
He has established himself already in this league outside of the scope of LeBron, which is important. How will Mike Brown incorporate him into the offense? Does he work up more plays for Jamison besides Shaq? What about when Mo Williams comes back? He does certainly give the Cavs more flexibility with their lineups, allowing for one of the other offensive concentrations (LeBron, Mo, Shaq) to rest or at least take the entire onus off of them (which will happen from time to time when LeBron takes an ever so brief breather).
But what happens to the power forward position with the addition of Jamison but no subtractions? JJ Hickson and Anderson Varejao already split the minutes rather effectively, now Jamison is added to the mix. And don’t neglect one of the big additions for the Cavaliers in the offseason in Leon Powe. Depth is good, but four power forwards is a bit much. There are not enough minutes in one game for 4 power forwards. Of course, you want to talk about a big lineup the Cavs can sport one of the best (Shaq/Z, Varejao/Hickson/Jamison/Powe, James/Jamison/Moon, James/Williams, James/Mo/West).
I feel that Powe will not be given proper minutes because he hasn’t been worked into the minute system yet and won’t have the opportunity with the necessity of working Jamison into it. He could play some spot duty, but what is the need? If Z were to sign back with Cleveland as is expected, they have too many big men. Of course, if he doesn’t then Varejao is slid over to backup center and Powe is now the third option at power forward.
The second part of the line of questioning is now at hand: is it a net plus for the Cavs to make this move?
The general feeling was that this move was the safe move for the Cavaliers, Amar’e being a little too explosive for their compact chemistry. Jamison is the guy who wont rock the boat under any circumstances, regardless of the strength of the tide and the height of the waves.
He brings a new dimension to the offense (a big man with an outside shot, but not like Z, more fluid and dangerous for opponents because he can also drive to the hoop if need be). He likely takes touches away from the other players, but they wont complain because they just won’t. He is a locker room guy who gets along with everyone. He relegates JJ Hickson to the bench, possibly for scrap time minutes after Z is re-acquired. He isn’t playing ahead of Varejao, and he isn’t there now during crunch time. So in some ways, this move is for now and the future.
Will he disrupt the flow? The Cavs are in the midst of a thirteen game win streak, most of those victories coming without the help of Delonte West and Mo Williams (the starting and backup point guards for those of you keeping score at home). It has been attributed to team chemistry, something more valuable than precious jewels for sports teams, especially a game so based on relationships as basketball is.
It would be foolish to think that Jamison’s presence would be a detriment to the Cavaliers, right? Nobody can reasonably claim that Jamison can hurt that team, especially if Z comes back. If he gets the approval of LeBron (something he has reportedly had for years now), then there is no need to worry.
But now expectations are through the roof. Perhaps foolish and myopic, but now many Cleveland fans and national spectators assume that this addition, the so-called missing piece, is all that was holding Cleveland from at least making an appearance in the Finals. It wasn’t unreasonable before the move, and now you add a legitimate two-time all-star who still can score at a position where the offense used to be dependent upon the defense focusing on LeBron.
So, I guess this move was good. I mean, we’ll know by March whether or not this trade is working out (that is enough time for the team to adjust to Jamison and for Jamison to adjust to the system). I would guess that it will work out, plus Jamison is now going to play with LeBron, who has improved almost everyone he has played with (except Larry Hughes), so everything points to everything working out well. After all is said and done, they still would have to beat the Lakers. Good luck.