We have three of the top 36 players in basketball

...or so says Tom Ziller of Sactown Royalty and AOL Fanhouse.  He's been ranking the top 50 players in the league, and our own Antawn Jamison comes in at number 36.

For a Tar Heel, an old college superstar with a made-for-TV game, Antawn Jamison sure doesn't get much pub these days. It's all Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler ... which is understandable; Gil and Caron are more important, younger, a bit more boisterous and quirky. But it relegates 'Tawn outside the mainstream consciousness to an unfair degree, because this dude's a fine, fine player.

Ziller also mentions the fact that Jamison almost never turns the ball over, which is something we neglected to spell out in our player evaluation.  Last year, Jamison's turned the ball over on just 6.1 percent of available possessions.  The only players who posted lower ratios in the league last year were Ronnie Brewer, Kasib Powell, Michael Finley and Peja Stojakovic, but the thing is, none of those players had a usage rate that even approached Jamison's.  The ability to use many possessions without turning it over is a huge reason why Jamison can be so effective offensively despite so-so shooting percentages.

But there was one line in there that caught my eye on the first read.

I'm not sure Jamison is the perfect four for Washington -- the 'Zards desperately need a shot-blocking presence there, and Jamison has never been that. As its best last season, Brendan Haywood filled the void. Maybe that's enough, and Jamison can perform in all his exotic Otherness as an offensive-minded PF.

I reiterated this in the player evaluation, but it's always been my claim that Jamison is actually the perfect four for this team, at least offensively.  His ability to play both inside and out opens the lane for Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler, but he possesses enough of a low-post game to prevent the offense from being one-dimentional.  If you're going to build your offense around two wings like Arenas and Butler, Jamison's the perfect third wheel.

More to Ziller's point, though, what about defensively?  Surely, it would be ideal if Jamison was taller and more of a man-to-man ace, but if you think about it, is it really necessary for him to be a shot-blocker?  Many top interior defenses are built around a shot-altering type and a rebounding ace.  Boston, the number one team in defensive rating last year, has Garnett to force misses and Kendrick Perkins to bang bodies in the paint and grab boards.  Houston, who finished second, has Yao Ming to force misses and Luis Scola/Chuck Hayes to grab boards.  To a certain extent, San Antonio, who finished third, has Tim Duncan to do a lot of the man defense and Kurt Thomas to bully people inside.  Point being, while the correlation isn't always perfect, one only needs one shot-alterer, a term I prefer to shot blocker, to patrol the paint.

Haywood may not be an ace shot-blocker, but he alters enough shots with his length to force misses.  Meanwhile, Jamison, while not beefy, still grabs defensive rebounds about as well as any power forward in the league.  He's doesn't look like a bruiser in the mold of Perkins, Scola or Thomas, but he produces like one on the glass, which is mostly how we measure one's "bruiser-ness." 

Now, obviously, Jamison has to keep up his defensive energy level this season.  He devoted himself more to rebounding this season, and that has to continue.  Otherwise, he's only an above-average rebounder, which isn't good enough when Haywood's defensive rebounding is a weakness.  But even though he's getting older, what reason do we have for Jamison falling off on his rebounding?  The only thing that could derail him would be Haywood playing fewer minutes, and that would derail Haywood even more.  Hopefully, it doesn't happen, but as long as Haywood plays well, it shouldn't happen, based on the confidence Eddie showed in Haywood last season.

So really, as long as Haywood is around, Jamison strikes me as being pretty close to the perfect four on this team.  And that's on both ends of the floor, believe it or not.

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