Does anyone want Antawn Jamison?
We’re still more than two months from the trade deadline, but talk is going to heat up once we hit Dec. 15, the date after which free agents acquired in the offseason can be included in trades. We all know the names we’ll see in trade discussions: guys with expiring contracts (Tayshaun Prince, Eddy Curry, Troy Murphy, Samuel Dalembert, many others); guys tied to big-money, long-term deals that their current teams don’t want to pay (Andre Iguodala, Baron Davis, Elton Brand, Rip Hamilton, Gilbert Arenas, Brendan Haywood); guys on rookie deals who may not be in their teams’ long-term plans (O.J. Mayo?); and semi-interesting, low-salary players who can be used as convenient salary-cap filler.
And there’s Antawn Jamison.
Jamison will almost certainly be available, because the Cavaliers would seem to have little use for a 34-year-old power forward who is making $13.4 million this season and is due $15.1 million next season. His deal runs through 2011-12, meaning he’s neither a long-term salary-cap albatross nor an expiring contract — unless, that is, you’re anticipating that a lockout will chop off a decent portion of next season.
And he’s still a productive player. He’s putting up an above-average Player Efficiency Rating, and his per-minute averages — 18 points and eight rebounds per 36 minutes — aren’t far from what he was doing in his prime.
There really isn’t a player anywhere in the league in the same situation — old, overpaid but on a short-ish, big deal, available and still pretty productive. To top it off, the Cavaliers have a massive trade exception leftover from the LeBron James sign-and-trade with Miami, and they can use that to acquire a high-priced player without sending equivalent salary in return. With that in hand, the Cavs might be more willing than most teams to dump Jamison simply for cap relief.
But does anyone want him?
It would seem reasonable to disqualify any non-contenders interested in maintaining their current payroll situation for 2011-12. Even here, though, there are caveats: the prospect of a money-saving lockout, the fact that Jamison will be an expiring contract one year from now and his reputation as a respected veteran who could mentor young players.
Still, I can’t imagine a non-contender taking on a potential $15 million obligation next season for those reasons alone.
Which leaves contenders and teams who think they might have a chance to be an exciting playoff team. Does Jamison fit with any of them? Keep in mind that every likely playoff team, save for the Bulls, is at or over the salary cap, so they’d have to send out a minimum of about $10 million in 2010-11 salary to acquire Jamison. (And the Bulls are barely under the cap, so close-to-the-same rules apply.)
Most good teams don’t have $10 million worth of talent they’re willing to give up. And if they do, they’re the type of players the Cavs have little to no interest in acquiring. A Jamison deal would then require a third (or fourth) team to make the math work, with the likeliest candidates being sad-sack teams with a lot of cap room and a willingness to rent it out if they can grab a draft pick and/or cash in the process. There’s also a chance that Cleveland, which has about $5.5 million in cap room, could work its way into a supporting role in a Carmelo Anthony trade, in which case almost anything is possible.
So we came up with a list of potential suitors for Jamison, just for the heck of it. Unfortunately for the Cavs, most contenders/playoff teams have little need for a player in Jamison’s mold.
• Phoenix Suns
The Suns have a glaring hole at power forward, and though Jamison isn’t a power player, he’d immediately become the Suns’ best defensive rebounder. As a stretch-4 with a serviceable three-point shot, he’d fit nicely in Phoenix’s offense.
The problem here — as it will be elsewhere — is that the Suns have nothing to offer the Cavaliers, unless Phoenix is willing to part with Jason Richardson’s huge expiring deal (it’s not). The Cavs obviously aren’t taking on Hedo Turkoglu’s disaster of a contract, and so we’re left to search for a three- or four-team deal someplace. Dealing for Jamison would also eliminate the cap space the Suns could have in the offseason should they renounce their rights to Richardson and Grant Hill.
• Denver Nuggets
Denver is dying for stable front-line depth, and if the Nuggets are worried Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen won’t be able to stay healthy, they could in theory toss Martin’s expiring deal to the Cavaliers. Of course, Denver has much more important roster realities to confront first.
• The NBA’s New Orleans Hornets
Jamison is a super-duper version of the Jason Smith/David Andersen pick-and-pop duo, and acquiring him would probably make Chris Paul happy. But the Hornets have already cashed in their prize expiring deal (Peja Stojakovic) and don’t have the assets to make this happen — unless, that is, they’re ready to give up on Trevor Ariza, which is not going to happen. New Orleans does have a $9.7 million trade exception from the series of transactions that went into the Stojakovic deal, but it is not big enough to absorb Jamison’s salary, and league rules prohibit the Hornets from combining it with their other trade exceptions.
• Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers are playing Dante Cunningham heavy minutes backing up LaMarcus Aldridge, and we all know the health status of the big man rotation here. The Blazers in theory have the kind of contracts that could work in a Jamison deal (Andre Miller’s non-guaranteed deal for next season, Joel Przybilla’s expiring contract and Marcus Camby’s mini-Jamison deal), but they have precious little depth behind those players. Plus, the Blazers will be looking for young players — not old ones — if their season goes south.
• Atlanta Hawks
Any team playing Josh Powell and a Collins twin heavy minutes could use another frontcourt player. But I just don’t see the pieces here for the Hawks to send out –to Cleveland or elsewhere — in order for them to legally absorb Jamison’s salary. The Hawks have Jamal Crawford’s $10.1 million expiring deal, but they need him. And there’s no way Atlanta is desperate enough for long-term payroll relief to swap Josh Smith’s contract, which runs one season longer than Jamison’s. If it is, it’s nuts.
• Indiana Pacers
I’ve been on the Pacers’ bandwagon for a while, and it would thrill me to see them pick up Jamison and put him right into the starting lineup in place of Josh McRoberts, even though McBob is playing the best ball of his life. Swapping the expiring contracts of Jeff Foster and T.J. Ford could work (and it would save the Pacers about $1 million this season), but they already have an aging stretch-4 (James Posey) set to make $7.6 million next season. That was the price Indiana paid for Darren Collison, and I can’t see a team of Indiana’s financial stature coughing up $23 million for Jamison and Posey next season.
• Milwaukee Bucks
They need scoring any way they can get it, but they have absolutely nothing the Cavs (or any other team) would want outside of their untouchable young stars.
Update (3:15 p.m.): I somehow forgot to mention that the Bucks have Michael Redd’s $18.3 million expiring deal to toss around in trade talks. The Bucks could build that into any number of theoretical Jamison deals, though I doubt Milwaukee has much interest in taking on more future payroll after inking John Salmons and trading for Corey Maggette.
• Dallas Mavericks
Only if Caron Butler takes a major plunge and they’re willing to dump his expiring deal on the Cavs. They’d probably need to find a separate taker for Haywood, too, though the Mavs probably need him to back up Tyson Chandler unless they think Ian Mahinmi is ready.
• Boston Celtics
The ultimate wild card here. The Celtics were reportedly interested in acquiring Jamison from the Wizards last season in a deal that would have centered on Ray Allen, but the team has consistently denied those reports. The nightmare scenario in Boston is that Jermaine O’Neal’s knee never gets healthy, Shaquille O’Neal disintegrates as the season moves along and Kendrick Perkins can’t get himself ready to play at a high level this season.
That would leave a frontcourt rotation of Kevin Garnett, Glen Davis and Semih Erden, and the Celtics are not going to war in the playoffs with that.
The problem (as usual) is that Boston just doesn’t have the assets to send out for salary-matching purposes. A Nate Robinson/Jermaine O’Neal combination barely works, and it would save the Cavs about $5 million next season. But I just can’t see this happening, unless Boston feels it can afford to part with Robinson — unlikely, considering Delonte West’s broken wrist.
And that’s really it, I think, unless Jamison becomes part of a monster deal I couldn’t even begin to fathom. It’s going to be hard for the Cavs to move Jamison, and if they manage to do it, fans shouldn’t expect a lot in return. The LeBron trade exception is probably more valuable.