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Midterm Evaluation Thread: Antawn Jamison

As all college students probably know, "midterm" isn't necessarily synonymous with the exact "middle of the season/semester."  With that in mind, since we've reached a convenient stopping point in the NBA schedule, let's discuss the performances of the key players on the teams.  First up: Antawn Jamison.

First instinct: Antawn has been a rock all season, and well-deserving of his all-star selection.  He's been a tremendous leader, both by example and through words.  Whereas in the past he spent a lot of time hanging around the perimeter and passively playing defense, this year, he's getting to the glass more, scoring inside, and showing a renewed commitment to the defensive end.  Sure, he'll never be confused with a bruising power forward, but in a contract year, he's reverted back to being more of an inside guy.

A deeper look: All that's written above is true, though it's come at a cost to his shooting efficiency.  Granted, he's become much less efficient since Caron Butler got hurt, so that might explain things.  Still, it's clear Jamison has become a more rugged player.

Here are some notable numbers for Jamison this year.  All data is from Basketball Reference, 82 Games, and Knickerblogger.

Jamison is shooting less efficiently from the field, but is still improving because he's contributing more in other areas.  In particular, his rebounding is much improved.  His rebound rate is the highest of his career, which surprised me only because he's always had this reputation as a "20/10" guy.  The lowering shooting percentages don't worry me too much, because without Butler, he's the only guy who can create his own shot, which puts a really unfair burden on his shoulders.  I haven't broken the numbers down further, but my guess is that his efficiency has gone way downhill in these last eight games, just as his usage has increased.  With everyone totally healthy, I see his percentages rising as his usage slides.  

So offensively, he's a different player, but I think that's partly by necessity.  But what about his defense?  Here, I'm absolutely stunned by his transformation.  No, Jamison has not become an elite defender, or even an average one, but he's hardly a liability anymore.  

Consider this: Last year, the Wizards had a defensive efficiency of 113.1 when Jamison was on the floor last year.  That would have made the Wizards the third-worst defensive team in the league last year if he played all 48 minutes (they were anyway, but that's besides the point).  This year, however, the Wizards are surrendering only 107.7 points per 100 possessions with Jamison out there, which would place them 14th in the league if Jamison played every minute.  That's an improvement of 5.5 points/100 possessions and 14 places in the rankings.

But what about his individual defense?  Here, it's harder to get a real picture, but last year, opposing power forwards had a PER of 18 against Jamison last year, whereas they only have a PER of 16.5 this year.  Counterpart data like this is misleading because of the number of switches that occur on every defensive possession, but it still shows in some way that Jamison's defense is much-improved.

Most importantly, Jamison himself recognizes that his defense was subpar last year, based on this quote.

"Certain individuals on this team, including myself, were the reasons why the defense has been poor" ... I think we got fed up with that and wanted to do everything possible to make it work. We really listened and even when it didn't feel like it was the right thing to do, we did it. ... When Gil went out, we knew we couldn't be the same kind of team."

The last part of the quote makes me worried that things will change once Arenas gets back, but it's striking to see a 11-year veteran in a contract year admitting to a serious flaw in his game.  That, more than anything, tells the story of Jamison's season this year.  Anyone who tells me he isn't an all-star isn't paying attention.

Jake's thoughts: Maybe it's just the pessimist in me, but every time I see his crazy rebounding stats I can't help but see the dollar signs. I'm not trying to suggest that he's just playing for a contract this season, I think Jamison has proven that he's not some kind of guy that only shows up for contract years, but I think when you couple that with his age and I don't see him having another year quite this good after this one.

With that pessimism aside, Jamison is still a tremendous player and he deserves whatever money he gets this off-season (barring a bizarre Rashard Lewis-like deal). Hopefully, Grunfeld has seenw what we've all seen this season and does what it takes to keep him this summer.

Your thoughts: Post away in the comment section.