Yesterday may have been the worst game Antawn Jamison played as a Washington Wizard. Not only did he fail to score in double figures for the first time since December 8, but he allowed his man, Mehmet Okur, to score a career-high 38 points and hit key shots down the stretch. If it wasn't for Gilbert Arenas, Jamison would have been the goat of the Wizards' third consecutive loss. He was that bad yesterday.
More and more, it's becoming clear that Jamison is as much a liability on defense as he is an asset on offense. We talk in great length here about Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas' inability to defend, but those frustrations happen merely because each has the athletic ability to become competent perimeter defenders. With Jamison, however, there really is no hope for improvement. He was always too weak to defend post-up power forwards, but it seems recently that he's now even too slow to defend perimeter-oriented big men. Okur is simply the latest example; stars like Chris Bosh and Elton Brand have torched the Wizards recently, and even role players like Ruben Patterson and Trevor Ariza have scored at will. It says something that Eddie Jordan was forced to ask Jarvis freaking Hayes to defend Okur at the end of the game yesterday. When you're forced to ask Jarvis Hayes to defend a powerful perimeter-oriented 7 footer, then you know you're in trouble.
Yet another example of Jamison's hard-nosed defense
With Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler emerging as the leaders of the team, it's time to consider just how valuable Jamison is to the team. According to 82 games, Jamison has only the fifth-highest Roland Rating on the team, and it behind both Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas. When he's on the court, the Wizards' defensive efficiency is 113.6; when he's off the court, that number falls to 104.6. The difference in offensive efficiency when Jamison is on the court is just as big, indicating that the Wizards play the same way with the same production whether Jamison is on the court or not.
In terms of opponents field goal percentage, the difference is even more staggering. When Jamison is on the court, the Wizards allow opponents to have an eFG% of 52.7, which would rank dead last in the league. When Jamison is off the court, however, that number falls to 45.3 percent, which would rank second in the league. Offensively, the Wizards eFG% is 4.5 points higher with Jamison on the court, but that pales in comparison to the 7.2 point difference in opponent's eFG%.
If you're confused by the numbers, the basic conclusion is that the Wizards as a team are no better with Jamison on the court than off it. In many ways, especially defensively, they're actually worse. Yet Jamison still averages 39 minutes a game, 11th in the league. Some of the players behind Jamison include Dwayne Wade, Elton Brand, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, Chris Paul, Chris Bosh, and Carlos Boozer. Injuries may explain why some of those guys are behind Jamison, but there's no way that Jamison is as important to the Wizards as those guys are to their own teams.
I'm not here to say that Jamison has no value on this team. He's an extremely important player to the Wizards, and his 15 million dollar salary ensures that he's not going anywhere. But it's time for Eddie Jordan to stop pretending that Jamison is as valuable as Arenas or Butler to this team. Instead of playing Jamison 39 minutes a game, the Wizards should limit his minutes to the 28-32 range. Those leftover minutes should go to Andray Blatche and, when healthy, Darius Songaila. I'd also like to see Eddie try to play Haywood and Thomas together at times, especially when they're playing a team like the Clippers that utalizes two low-post players.
Either way, Jamison's minutes need to be cut. He's no more than a third option at this point, and the Wizards would be better suited to giving him more rest and utalizing their backup power forwards more.