Before everyone goes crazy here, I realize that there's very little chance Antawn Jamison actually gets traded. Abe Pollin will do what he has to do to win that title while he can, but I can't really conceive of too many plans that involve trading a player Abe himself once called "the closest player we've had to Wes Unseld" (and you know how Abe feels about the Unseld family). It also doesn't help that Jamison's contract -- three more years for 11.6 million, 13.4 million and 15.1 million, respectively -- isn't exactly the most cap-friendly contract in the league.
But let's say a Jamison trade does present itself. What exactly is fair value for Antawn Jamison? It's a question I've really struggled with, particularly with the Amare Stoudemire rumors gaining so much credence among Suns fans so long as Jamison is the major piece coming back. Is Jamison really a valuable piece for most teams, even with his contract and his reputation as a poor defender? Or is he underrated because of his unique offensive game (en vogue now with the success of Rashard Lewis in Orlando) and his adjusted plus/minus success?
The answer is probably in the middle, which is why there are four different types of situations where Jamison might get traded. Keep in mind, I don't necessarily endorse all these possibilities, nor are any on the horizon at this moment. But I figure I'd analyze each of the four as we sit right now.
The "for an upgrade" trade
This refers to Jamison being dealt as part of a package for someone better that plays a similar position. This strikes me as the most realistic and unrealistic scenario at the same time, if that makes any sense. It's realistic from the standpoint of the Wizards' front office. It's clear Abe and company love Jamison, but this city loves stars and you know this organization would be happy to part with Jamison if it meant bringing in one. In another sense, however, it's unrealistic because it's hard for me to imagine teams wanting Jamison at his age with his contract. Then again cap space isn't all that when the team acquiring Jamison likely won't be able to attract a better player than Jamison with that space. Plus, in the case of the Raptors, if cap space is really what they are after, they could just let Chris Bosh's contract expire.
I'd have said this possibility was completely unrealistic about a month ago, but with so many opposing teams' fans pumping up Jamison's strengths, I might have to change my tune.
Examples: Jamison in a package for Amare Stoudemire. Jamison in a package for Chris Bosh. Jamison in a package for a sign-and-traded Carlos Boozer. Jamison in a package for Elton Brand.
The salary dump trade
This refers to Jamison being dealt for shorter contracts, with on-court talent not coming into play much. This type of trade certainly isn't going to happen today. The Wizards already rejected a trade deadline deal that would have sent Jamison to Cleveland for Wally Sczcerbiak's expiring contract, and all indications are that the Wizards are looking to add salary right now. But let's say the Wizards do far worse than expected this season and find themselves outside the playoff picture by the trade deadline. Abe Pollin might not be too keen paying the luxury tax after all, and keeping Jamison in that case probably means losing Brendan Haywood, whose contract is up after next season.
Examples: Jamison and Darius Songaila for Ben Wallace's expiring contract. Jamison, Songaila and DeShawn Stevenson for Tracy McGrady's expiring contract. Jamison for Mark Blount's expiring contract and Chris Quinn.
The "multiple pieces" trade
This is a catch-all category that refers to several different possibilities. One is to trade Jamison for multiple players that can serve roles right away. This would mean trading for another power forward and a bench player or two, whether that is a backup small forward, a bona fide big man reserve or even a backup point guard. Another possibility would be to trade Jamison for prospects. Finally, Jamison could be traded for a combination of the two, such as a functional role-playing power forward and a mid-tier prospect.
I'd think you see this type of deal happen for one of two reasons. One purpose of a "multiple pieces" trade involving Jamison would be to extend the Wizards' contending window. Jamison is going on 33 years old, after all, and a trade for a couple younger players might help in the long term while not severely damaging the short term. I could also see a trade like this happening if the Wizards believe they could fix multiple weaknesses with a Jamison trade. Jamison is an excellent player, but his offensive skills are replaceable and his defensive weaknesses are problematic against teams with strong power forwards. It is much more difficult to hide three bad defenders (Arenas, Jamison, Butler) than two, and it is very difficult to build a good defense with Butler and Jamison as your forwards. Not impossible, mind you, but difficult. The Wizards may decide it's not worth the effort and trade Jamison or Butler for better defensive players.
To recap: a "multiple pieces" trade has the potential to extend the Wizards' window of contention while also bringing in players that better address the team's weaknesses.
Examples: Jamison to Charlotte for Boris Diaw and whoever Charlotte drafts with the 12th pick. Jamison to Miami for Udonis Haslem, Dorrell Wright and Daequan Cook. Jamison to Oklahoma City for Nick Collison and Thabo Sefolosha. Jamison to Portland for Joel Pryzbilla, Rudy Fernandez and Martell Webster.
The "comporable salary at different position" trade
Here's a thought: why not trade Jamison to fix our problems at shooting guard? Or to bring a lockdown perimeter defender? The problem with this approach is obvious: we don't have a starter-quality power forward on the roster to replace Jamison. But if this deal is made in tandem with another to bring a decent power forward, then it makes a whole lot of sense once you consider what is out there.
There are a lot of wings with similar contracts to Jamison that can be a big help. Our backcourt sans Gilbert Arenas was one of the worst in basketball last season, after all. DeShawn Stevenson is an unknown because of the back problems, and Nick Young and Javaris Crittenton are not ready to be full-time starters in this league. Dominic McGuire showed he could play a bit last season, but he's still a below-average player that is an offensive liability until he develops a better shot. He has strong defensive tools, but hasn't yet learned how to put them to use consistently to be a lockdown defender. Caron Butler could shift to shooting guard, but he didn't do so well with that last season. Finding another wing with Jamison's salary slot certainly goes a long way toward fixing the problems in the backcourt, provided, of course, that a replacement for Jamison at power forward can be found relatively cheaply.
Examples: Jamison for Gerald Wallace. Jamison for Kirk Hinrich, #16 and #26. Jamison for Jason Terry. Jamison for Rip Hamlton. Jamison and filler for Michael Redd. Jamison and Mike James for Vince Carter. Jamison and Etan Thomas for Andrei Kirilenko. Jamison for Jason Richardson.
Truthfully, none of these possibilities excite me greatly. Unfortunately, I think they're a pretty accurate guess as to Jamison's true trade value. It probably doesn't make a great deal of sense to trade Jamison if these are the packages that come back.
However, circumstances could change, and if we're going to move a member of the Big 3, Jamison is it. It might be worthwhile to take back less overall talent in a trade if it means finding a way to fix our team's weaknesses. The Jason Richardson/Raja Bell/Boris Diaw trade last year is just the latest example of a team getting rid of the best player in the deal and still coming out ahead in the long run. Jamison's salary, age and game fit the profile of a player who may be the best overall player in a trade, but one whom could be dealt for pieces that fit better.
That's not to say I advocate a Jamison trade, but it is to say that Jamison should hardly been seen as some sort of untouchable.