The Jamison Trade: Pros and Cons

February 17th, 2010 by John Krolik

Let’s put this at the top of the post: Amar’e was not available. The Cavs offered their best package, waited on the Suns, and ultimately got turned down. The Cavs would not have done this deal if they had a realistic shot at Amar’e. Jamison-Amar’e comparisons may as well be Jamison-Howard comparisons.

So it happened. For the second time in three years, the Cavs have made a major trade at the deadline. While they went for Amar’e hard late, Jamison was the target the Cavs had their eye on almost all season long, and they bagged him. Let’s break it down, pros and cons style:

Pros:

1. The Cavs fixed their biggest weakness.

JJ Hickson has come on strong these last few weeks. He couldn’t have done much more for his value at trade time. He’s got tons of talent, and could be a very good forward in this league for many years to come.

Overall, though, JJ was somewhat of a weak link. It would be nice to think that JJ can keep up his current level of play for the rest of the year. However, JJ’s strong games were preceded by some weak months.

JJ’s been playing significant minutes. During those minutes, he has been perhaps the team’s worst rotation player. The Cavs’ starting lineup has been one of the team’s least effective 5-man units. JJ was the reason why. As of February 15th, the Cavs have been +0.8 points per 100 possessions when Hickson is on the floor. The next-lowest mark among Cavs rotation players belongs to Shaq. The Cavs are a full 4.6 points per 100 possessions better than their opponents when Shaq’s in the game. In addition to that, Shaq’s vastly improved play in the last month or so is a return to what he’s been doing for over a decade. JJ’s improvement could well be a flash in the pan.

I will always remember the days of Hicksomania fondly. That being said, getting a reliable veteran to replace most of JJ’s minutes was the right move to make.

2. The Cavs got to keep Hickson.

I don’t love the prospect of Hickson playing major minutes this season. However, his value as a piece down the road is considerable. JJ is 21, he’s tall, he’s athletic, he’s played major minutes for the team with the best record in the league, and he’s shown flashes of skill in almost every area. He’s far from a finished product, and has held the starting lineup back at times, but keeping him was the right move for the future.

3. Jamison helps keep the chemistry.

Amar’e may have been too big for this team. He’s been the high scorer on the Suns for most of his career. He would’ve demanded to start. He would’ve demanded major minutes. You’ve got to build an offense with him in mind. And so on down the line. I think Amar’e would have been worth that risk, but he wasn’t available.

The good news is that Jamison doesn’t have Stoudemire’s alpha dog ego. Jamison’s been a third option in Washington before, and thrived in the role. He’s toiled in Golden State and on some bad Wizards teams. He doesn’t need to be the focus of an offense. He’s always willing to adapt his game. He’s never been a prima donna. Jamison’s upside isn’t sky-high, but he’s an extremely low-risk upgrade for the rest of the year.

4. He should fit next to Shaq and Varejao.

Jamison can shoot. He has to be guarded beyond the three-point line, and is comfortable catching and shooting. Even if he’s not on fire, he’ll provide Shaq with space in the post and Andy space to cut. He’s also crafty off the ball, and should be able to find cuts and angles to receive an interior pass from Shaq or Andy when Antawn dives to the rim. When he gets it near the hoop, he has great patience and can finish from a variety of angles. Jamison’s been in the league for a long time. He knows how to score from everywhere on the court. He’ll be able to make it work on offense in ways that pairings of Shaq/Hickson, Shaq/Andy, or Andy/Hickson weren’t able to.

5. Jamison can create his own shot.

The Cavs have been offensive juggernauts early in the game. However, they’re prone to going through some stagnant stretches in the second half. The third quarter has been a serious problem, even though they start it with the same players that start the game. It’s odd. The team stops moving, and looks at LeBron or Shaq to bail them out. It gets frustrating to watch. As good as the Cavs have become offensively, they still don’t have many guys who can create their own shot. Jamison can, and is capable of creating his own offense with a dribble-drive or a quick, unorthodox shot from the post. Jamison will help the Cavs give teams more to deal with offensively, particularly later on in games.

6. Jamison can be trusted with the ball late.

Jamison knows how to score, he makes good decisions, and he almost never turns the ball over. Who would you rather have with the ball late — Jamison or Hickson?

Cons:

1. Jamison’s reputation as a shooter is ahead of his accuracy.

Yes, Jamison can make threes. However, his 34.5% mark from beyond the arc isn’t setting the world on fire. The theory is that he’ll get better looks next to LeBron James, but all of his threes are already assisted. He’s also a fairly poor shooter from midrange. He’s only making 35% of his jumpers from the 10-15 foot range, and 48% from the 16-23 foot range. Over 80% of those jumpers have also come off of assists. His percentage from 10-15 feet is right in line with his marks over the past few years, and his 38% mark from 16-23 is actually the best one since HoopData started charting those shots. Teams will have to guard Jamison on the perimeter, but it’s not the worst strategy to dare Jamison to beat you from the outside.

2. Jamison’s defense is a question mark.

Jamison could be an effective defender in the Cavs’ system. Shaq shuts down the paint, and Varejao is an effective interior defender. This should leave Jamison free to show and recover on the perimeter, which he has the quickness to do well. Additionally, LeBron could spend some time guarding fours, leaving Jamison to guard threes.

The issue is that I have trouble signing off on Jamison as a defensive player when he’s been on some horrible defensive teams. Over the last few years, the Wizards give up around 112 points per 100 possessions when Jamison is on the floor. That’s really bad. I was concerned about Stoudemire’s defense, and the Suns have historically given up around 108 points per 100 possessions with Amar’e on the floor. A big reason for getting Jamison was because of how bad Hickson has been defensively, and the Cavs give up around 109 points per 100 when Hickson plays.

The Wizards have never had a decent defensive system, but neither have the Suns. Jamison seems to always show effort defensively and could benefit tremendously from being part of a team that focuses on defense. However, his defensive history is a red flag, especially considering that the Wizards have never been better on defense when Antawn plays.

3. Jamison may be given to forcing shots.

Jamison takes 17 shots a game. Not all of them are good, and his TS% is only 53%. The Cavs don’t have a lot of players who can create their own shots, but they’ve been one of the league’s most efficient offensive teams because the shots the role players do create are good ones. Jamison’s ability to create shots will help this team when they go stagnant. The other side of that coin is that Jamison taking bad shots could hamper the Cavs’ offense when they get on a roll.

4. Jamison presents some risks long-term.

Jamison is 33, and he’s owed major money through the 2011-12 season. If Jamison flops this year, he could become an albatross.

Ultimately, this move presents an upgrade. It was the best move the Cavs had available to them. If Z gets back with the team, the Cavs won’t have given up any on-court assets to get it done. It’s not a complete slam dunk, but it was the move that gave the best chance at getting that elusive championship.