Player Evaluation: Antawn Jamison


Previously:

Stats: Per-game: 38.7 minutes, 21.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 7.5 defensive rebounds.

Per-36: 19.9 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 7 defensive rebounds.

Percentages: 43.6 FG%, 33.9 3PT%, 76 FT%, 47.8 eFG%, 52.5 TS%

Advanced (explanations): 20.3 PER, 15.4 REB%, 23.2 DREB%, 6.6 TO%, 25.9 UsgR, 112 ORtg, 107 DRtg, 8.9 WSAA (win score above average).

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Pradamaster: Of all the loony things in John Hollinger's now-infamous 33-win prediction, the one that gets me the most a year later (as well as at the time) was the odd claim that Antawn Jamison was declining as a basketball player.  Because Hollinger is Hollinger, the comment led an exhaustive study on the subject by We Rite Goode (who the blogosphere misses dearly), but it really wasn't necessary.  By any measure, Jamison was aging just fine.  It's just that because he is such an unorthodox player and plays with two other all-stars, he never gets the recognition or positive attention that he deserves.  This has been happening since the very beginning of his Wizards career.  He was going to be solid no matter his age or his supposed decline.

Still, you have to be somewhat astonished at the type of season Jamison had this year.  Once and for all, he shed the soft tweenter label he's been stuck with throughout his career.  He posted easily the highest rebound percentage of his career, turning into one of the league's top rebounders despite his slight frame.  His defense, long a sore point of his game (and that's being nice) improved dramatically to the point where the Wizards were actually significantly worse defensively with him off the court.  In fact, he posted the fourth-highest adjusted plus/minus in the entire league, despite the fact that two of the team's best reserves play his position. 

It was almost as if everything we knew about Jamison's game was completely upended.  He was always seen as a potent offensive player, but while his defense and rebounding improved, his shooting percentages fell off.  He posted the lowest shooting percentage of his career and his lowest three-point percentage as a Wizard.  Clearly, his days of being a primary scoring option on a good team are over. Yet despite those struggles, he found other ways to make an impact and ended up being easily the most important Wizard in a season defined by surprises in the absence of Gilbert Arenas. 

This transformation is so incredible because it occurred at age 31 in a contract year.  Jamison knew this was his last chance at a big payday, and he knows that one gets his money by scoring, having secured an unnecessary max contract from Golden State earlier in his career.  It would have been very easy for him to have jacked up more ill-advised perimeter shots and played the same porous defense that had defined his career.  Instead, he did all the things that don't make money in this league, even though his body is not meant for them.  

It all goes back to the idiosyncratic nature of Jamison.  He has this reputation as a shoot-first gunner, yet he's made his most profound impact with the Wizards as a rebounder and third option that doesn't hold the ball much.  He's seemingly been labeled as being too small to man the power forward position, yet he had a higher rebound rate than Dirk Nowitzki, David West, Amare Stoudamire and Rasheed Wallace last year.  He's seen as being one-dimensional, yet in the past 18 months, he has played the role of efficient all-offense extraordinare (early 2007), go-to-guy on a bad team (late 2007, mid-2008), rugged rebounder, top three-point threat, default post-up man, top-notch help defender and team leader in the locker room.  If anything, Jamison may be among the most adaptive players in the league. 

I realize that the criticisms of Jamison's game will not end, even from those who know what they're talking about.  We'll continue to advocate benching him and give Andray Blatche more time.  There were plenty who wanted to use his huge expiring contract in a trade last year, even while he was so essential to the team, and there will be plenty looking to find ways to move him to the future.  And there will be plenty of opposition to his new four-year contract that will pay him a lot of money until he's 36 years old, especially if management doesn't make a big move to upgrade the roster.

Everybody's entitled to that, but I just caution everyone to not make the same mistake John Hollinger did last year.  There's simply no evidence that Jamison is declining, and there's no evidence yet to suggest that he is not going to be an incredibly important part of this team going forward just as he has been in the past.   He's the real glue guy of this team, the one who will do whatever is missing.  All good teams need somebody like that.

JakeTheSnake: I've had a bizarre (non-creepy, non-personal) love-hate relationship with Antawn Jamison during his career.  I liked him back in the day at UNC with Vince Carter (back when VC cared about things), I still found him enjoyable when he was in Golden State even though I didn't see him a lot, and I loved him in Dallas (even if he didn't love being in Dallas).  So naturally, I was estatic when I heard that he was coming to Washington 4 years ago.

While I never doubted that the Jamison for Stackhouse/Harris trade was a coup for us, over the years I'd gotten a little more aggrevated with him every year.  It's those things that you don't pay attention to when you root for the player but don't have a vested interest in the team's performance that started to stick out like his defense, or how he thought he got fouled every time he shot the ball.  Eventually it got to the point where II was suggesting that we use him in incredibly lop-sided trades with Charlotte.  It was bad.

Then, like a modern-day Ponce de Leon with a funky scoop shott and a penchant for swatting Italians, Jamison found his fountain of youth this season.  When the Wizards needed to turn to a steadying force, he was their Gibraltar.  If they needed someone to take down a collection of 19th century ships, he was the Perfect Storm.  When it came time for him to knock down some open shots against Cleveland he...

Well, I guess he didn't have a perfect season, but a very, very good one that should be commended.  As we've detailed before, a big part of Jamison's output this year was connected to Haywood.  With BTH taking up space in the middle, it allowed Jamison to rebound more effectively this season.  He's always had the hands and the quickness to rebound but he's never had the frame for it.  Having Haywood in there allows him to pull down more boards and save his body from the pounding that goes on down-low, a win-win situation for a guy in his 30's.

Even though some of his value is tied in with his Tarheel teammate, he's still a guy that I like having around, no matter who he's playing with.  His ability to score inside and outside make him a match-up nightmare, he's a leader in the locker room, and he can still surprise people with his athleticism every once in a while.  I highly doubt that he'll be able to have another year like he did this season, but he's been able to stay productive for quite a while.  I don't see a cliff-like fall in production in his future.

Truthaboutit: The 2007-08 season was unquestionably Antawn Jamison's best as a Wizard. He stayed healthy when others could not, appearing and starting in 79 games while playing more minutes (3,060) than anyone on the team, almost 500 more minutes than runner-up DeShawn Stevenson. All this burn for the second oldest Washington Wizard, who would've thunk?

At times, I've tried to refer to Jamison as "The Gentlemen," but for the Wiz, he's "Mr. Everything." AJ led the team in points scored and points per game (21.4), was second in steals (106), first in total rebounds and per game (10.2, also good for 10th in the NBA), and third in three-pointers made (120).

In fact, I'll go ahead and say that 07-08 was the best of Jamison's career. Sure he averaged more points per game twice when he was with Golden State, but he's never averaged a double-double before. And the only year in which his PER (20.3) was higher was when he was 6th Man of the Year with Dallas in 03-04 (21.2), and in that year, he averaged 9.7 less minutes per game.

And sure, AJ's eFG% was only the 5th best of his career, but he went above and beyond the call of duty in shouldering a majority of the scoring load while leading a injury depleted team to the playoffs for the 4th straight year. Jamison's shot selection was also questionable at times in '07-08, but you really can't argue with the second best TO% in the NBA (6.6).

In case you don't get the message that AJ is the model of consistency, 82games tells us that against "good" teams, AJ averaged 20.1 ppg and 9.1 rpg. Against "average" teams, he pulled down 20.4 ppg and 10.9 rpg, and against "poor" teams, Jamison got 23.5 ppg and 10.4 rpg.

Seemingly for the Wizards as a team, making a strong showing coming out of the half in the 3rd quarter was always crucial in terms of wins and losses. Well, that's when Jamison averaged his most points per game, 8th in the NBA scoring 6.6 points per 3rd. But perhaps the best sign of Jamison's importance was his net +14.2 points when he was on the court, second only to Steve Nash. Oh, and Jamison's +9.1 Roland Rating, an overall measurement of player production/performance, was 14th in the league.

Pointing out all these numbers would not mean much if we didn't already know how important Jamison was to the Wizards franchise with his intangibles, team leadership, and community presence. It's no coincidence that in his four years in DC, the Wiz have made the playoffs in each. Could Jamison's karma be some sort of reversal of the Curse O' Les Boulez? Who knows......if you even believe in curses. In the least, AJ's arrival purged disappointments Jerry Stackhouse and Christian Laettner, and brought joy to fans in need of something to cheer about. All Wizards fans should be glad that he's back, whatever the cost may be.

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