NBA Handicapping: Cavs land Jamison Instead of Stoudemire
by Trevor Whenham - 2/18/2010
We had heard for the last couple of weeks that the Cleveland Cavaliers were looking to make a significant deal to strengthen their chances of taking home the title, so it came as no surprise when they actually did it. What was very surprising, though, was that the principal player in the deal was Antawn Jamison and not Amare Stoudemire. The deal with Phoenix for Stoudemire had been talked about so long that it seemed inevitable, but for some reason - or more likely a combination of several factors - the Cavs lost patience with that deal and went with Jamison instead. This deal gives us a lot to consider, so let's look at it:
Cost of the deal - By any measure this is a massive success for the Cavs. The deal was a three-team affair that involved the Clippers as well as the Blazers. It essentially boils down to this - Jamison was free. The Cavs gave up three pieces, but none are particularly costly. The big one is Zydrunas Ilgauskas, the long time Cavs star, and now one of the better backup centers in the league. Losing him isn't ideal, but it seems very likely they won't be without him for long. It seems likely that Ilgauskas will be bought out of his contract by the Wizards - all they wanted was his big expiring contract to aid in their rebuilding efforts next year, and some luxury tax relief this year. That means that after 30 days Ilgauskas is free to sign with any team he wants, and since he is popular in Cleveland, effective in his role, and enjoys the city, it seems very likely that he'll be back for the playoffs.
Cleveland also lost Emir Preldzic, a 22-year-old Slovenian who the Suns drafted late in the second round last year. He's playing in Turkey now and shows no signs of being in a hurry to come over here. He's no loss for the Cavs. Finally, Cleveland shipped off their first round pick this year. That will be such a low pick that it won't likely offer a contributor, so it isn't particularly valuable. To simplify, then, the coast of acquiring Jamison was playing without Ilgauskas for a month. On top of it all, Cleveland also picked up Sebastian Telfair, a useful depth guy. Cleveland had to give up little from a team that was working very well, and that is likely what made this deal more attractive than the Stoudemire move.
Jamison vs. Stoudemire - You might not think it - I don't spend much time thinking about Jamison at all because of where he has been playing - but the two players are surprisingly similar statistically. They play the same position, and they are putting up almost the same numbers this year - Jamison has put up 20.5 points per game compared to 21.4 for Stoudemire, and he has 0.1 more rebounds per game with 8.8. The obvious difference is age - Jamison is 33, while Stoudemire is 27. Jamison counters that to some extent by being more consistently healthy - he has avoided serious problems, while Stoudemire has had surgery on both knees and on a detached retina.
Stoudemire arguably has more upside down the stretch and into the playoffs this year, but Jamison is certainly no slouch. Critics point out that Jamison has mostly played on lousy teams and has never really won anything. While that's true, Stoudemire doesn't bring a whole lot more to the table in terms of experience.
There was also the Shaq issue - Stoudemire and Shaq didn't play particularly well together in Phoenix, so there was the risk that that wouldn't be any better this year. Finally, there is the contract issue. Jamison is in the second year of a four-year, $50 million deal. That means that the Cavs are likely stuck with him for two years, and that means they give up on some contract flexibility next year.
On the other hand, Stoudemire is a free agent after this year. That means that they would risk being left with nothing to show for what would have been a costlier deal next year, and if they did keep Stoudemire it would have cost them a very large, long-term contract. I certainly thought the Cavs had made the wrong decision when I first heard about the deal, but the more you look at it, the more ways it seems the came out on top.
Chemistry impact - Until he has played a few games we can't know for sure how he is going to fit in. There are a couple of reasons to be optimistic, though. First, Jamison seems to thrive when he doesn't have to be the main man on the team. He can toil in relative obscurity behind two massive personalities in Cleveland, so that works. He's also a massive step forward from what the team had previously - primarily Anderson Varejao. Jamison can pretty much match Varejao in rebounding output, and is much, much better offensively. Teams almost never struggle to incorporate a player who makes them better, so I don't see any problems on that front.
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