Giving out grades: Antawn Jamison

July 27th, 2011 by John Krolik

So the time has come for this.

I think Antawn Jamison is a very nice man, and a very skilled basketball player. He’s always gracious to the media and fans, and has clearly worked very hard on his offensive game to have been an effective scorer well into his thirties.

That said, I loathe Antawn Jamison very, very much. People often say they have an “irrational hatred” for a player. I believe that I have a very rational hatred towards Antawn Jamison. To borrow a line from Broadcast News, Antawn Jamison, while being a very nice man, is the devil.

Offensively, Jamison’s only notable skill is the ability to create shots. That means that he is able to heave the ball in the direction of the basket at a greater rate than most players who play is position. He is a decent finisher at the immediate rim. That much he has going for him. Everything else is overrated.

Jamison favors an array of unorthodox flip shots and floaters from the paint instead of simply trying to power his way to the basket and draw the foul or finish hard. When they go in, it’s very pretty, and the broadcasters will inevitably comment on how unusual and impressive that part of Jamison’s game is.

However, there is a reason why nobody’s mid-post game looks like Jamison’s — those shots don’t go in very often, and he’s prone to forcing them at inopportune times. Jamison made 46.2% of his shots from the 3-9 foot area, and his free-throw rate was miserably low.

As an outside shooter, Jamison is overrated as well. Jamison made 30% of his shots from 10-15 feet, 37% of his long twos, and 34.6% of his threes. He finally started shooting a lot more threes than long twos this season, which is good, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that he’s a ball-stopper with those outside shots and not nearly as effective of a shooter as he thinks he is. Oh, and he finished 59th among power forwards in assist rate.

Then there’s the defense. Oh lord, the defense. The Cavs were terrible at both offense and defense last season. The offense is understandable — the player the offense was built around left, and the Cavs didn’t have the talent to put up points on a regular basis. The defense, on the other hand, was embarrassing and inexcusable. It was disappointing to watch the Cavs’ offensive futility. It was infuriating to watch the Cavs give up wide-open layups and threes to any team that wanted them on a nightly basis.

When the Cavs had a truly horrible defensive breakdown, which was often, I’d rewind the DVR to see what happened. A shockingly high percentage of the time, Antawn Jamison was at the root of the problem. When he’s involved in a play defensively, the Cavs played 4-on-5 in 2010-11. He’s not a post defender, he can’t stop guys off the dribble, and he’s horrifyingly bad in the pick-and-roll.

The last point was particularly glaring — he’d glide over the screen like he was thinking about showing, allow the ball-handler to go past him without offering resistance, and jog back to his man, creating a four-on-five situation. It happened over and over and over again, and it was excruciating to watch. Words cannot describe just how bad Jamison’s defense was. At mid-season, I wrote that I’m not sure if Jamison could successfully defend a woman’s right to vote. It was easier to get penetration against Antawn Jamison than it was against Jenna Jameson. I joke, but it was truly awful and team-crippling, especially when the guy is supposed to be a locker-room leader. How is a team supposed to play defense when their supposed best player clearly couldn’t care less about it?

I believe successful teams are built around defense and efficiency, especially when they don’t have a superstar. Jamison was not efficient, and his defense was an insult to all that man has achieved since the discovery of fire. And all of this happened after Jamison got abused by Kevin Garnett so badly in the 2010 playoffs that he legally must name his next child Big Ticket Jamison.

That said, Jamison did make nearly three-quarters of his free throws this season after shooting a Shaq-like percentage during his first season with the team. CATCH THE FEVER!

The good news is that Jamison has a big expiring contract. Maybe some team will be foolish enough to take it on. Lord knows it’s happened before. For now, we can only hope.

2010-11 Grade: D Minus

Outlook for the 2011-12 Season: Please, please trade him. I can’t watch him play basketball any more.