The Wizards may have won tonight, but the significantly bigger story is that Antawn Jamison hurt his knee on a fast break, is definitely out for tomorrow's game against the Raptors, and probably longer. Commenter Josh mentioned that Eddie Jordan told ESPN Fastbreak that Jamison could miss "significant" time, and it's possible that he'll be out until the all-star break.
So now is obviously going to be the time where skeptics such as John Hollinger will be validated. This injury, combined with the Wizards lack of depth up front, will correspond to a drop in the standings, a drop the Wizards were simply delaying with their luck in close games. Without Jamison, the Wizards high-powered offense will struggle, and they don't play enough defense to make it up. Right? Right?
Honestly, I don't buy it.
This isn't just because I'm blinded by my euphoria. I really believe Jamison's loss won't be that big of a deal.
Will the Wizards miss his perimeter shooting? Certainly, no doubt about it. Will they miss his rebounding? Probably. Will they miss his veteran leadership? Probably, if such a category actually exists.
But you'd probably be surprised to know that there's a significant gap in the plus/minus numbers between Gilbert Arenas/Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. In fact, Jamison's average plus/minus per game is fifth on the team, behind both Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas. Don't believe me? Look it up.
A closer look reveals that, while the Wizards offense suffers tremendously when Jamison doesn't play, the defense actually gets significantly better. The Wizards' score 115.1 points per 100 posessions when Jamison's in there, compared to 104.9 when he's not. However, the Wizards also allow 113.3 points per 100 posessions when Jamison plays, compared to 106 when he's out. The net difference is +3.0 points, which indicates that Jamison's presence certainly helps, but is not incredibly essential. By contrast, the net difference with Gilbert Arenas is +30.3 points, the net difference with Caron Butler is +14.1 points, the net difference with Brendan Haywood is +9.5, and the net difference with Etan Thomas is +4.7. I don't think you'll find people saying that Antawn Jamison is the fifth most important Wizard, but these numbers back it up.
Going beyond the numbers, Jamison's production can be replaced for the short term. His main offensive value is spotting up off Arenas passes and hitting floaters in the lane. Against bigger power forwards, the Wizards will miss Jamison's quickness. But let's think about this one by one. Jamison's perimeter shooting can be made up by DeShawn Stevenson, who had an excellent game tonight. Stevenson's proven that he can hit the perimeter shots Jamison makes. Jamison's explosivness can be replaced by Caron Butler, who has the ability to be more assertive. Finally, Jamison's rebounding can be replaced by Thomas, who should (key word, should) be getting more time with Jamison out.
Essentially, what I think we're going to see is a less productive offense combined with a more productive defense, leaving the Wizards with essentially the same production. If Eddie Jordan can wise up and try playing Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood together (please, just try, the other options suck), the Wizards should be better defensively and stronger with post scoring. Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler are good enough to carry the offense, and with Jamison out, that will mean there's one less defensive liability on the court. It's not an ideal situation, but it is one the Wizards can overcome.
An injury to Arenas or Butler would have been catastrophic. An injury to Jamison? Just a blip on the radar.