When Antawn Jamison was traded to Cleveland, he was supposed to be the missing piece that was going to help the Cavaliers win a championship and help keep LeBron James in Cleveland. Things didn't work out according to plan, as Jamison's play really dropped off, the Cavaliers lost in the playoffs and James bolted for Miami.
Jamison's play picked up a bit last year, but he still isn't playing at the same level he was during 2008-09, his last full year with the Wizards. Jamison was able to play much more efficiently back then. On the strength of a .549 true shooting percentage, Jamison was able to post a much higher 20.5 PER. Those marks dropped to .516 and 16.9, respectively, last season.
Where Did He Struggle?
When looking at the numbers and watching the tape, you start to realize that the Cavaliers weren't using Jamison in the best way possible. Jamison, who has never really been a good pick-and-roll player, served as the roll man 16.8 percent of the time last season. That ended up being his second most used play type, according to Synergy Sports. For reference, in his last year with Washington he was the roll man in pick-and-roll situations just 6.8 percent of the time. Jamison shot just 35.2 percent as the roll man last season, posting a PPP of 0.819 that put him in the bottom 20 percent of all NBA players:
Jamison simply isn't comfortable when asked to roll to the rim, and it really becomes apparent when watching the tape. Unlike most roll men, who make the catch as they are going towards the basket, Jamison likes to turn his back to the rim and point his chest at the ball handler as if he is trying to post up. The problem is that when you roll to the rim, you are trying to catch the defense out of position and you want to make the catch and go up quickly. If you are continuously catching the ball with your back to the rim on rolls, like Jamison does, you are allowing the defense to get over and contest your shot, which is exactly what happens to Jamison.
Despite Jamison's comfort level with the pick-and-roll being low, Cleveland continued to put him in a position where he had to run it, and that really hurt Jamison's productivity on the court.
Can He Bounce Back?
I think Jamison can bounce back if the coaching staff starts to use him a little better. If I am the Cavaliers coaching staff, I take all those pick-and-roll possessions and allow him to work in the post more. Despite not being as productive as years past in the post, Jamison scored 0.873 points per post up, putting him in the top 50 percent among NBA players. He is more productive and comfortable with the ball in his hands than rolling to the rim. There is no reason why Jamison should be the roll man more than he posts up, which was just 14.2 percent of the time last season. Jamison posted up 21.5 percent of the time during his final year with Washington. When Jamison posts up, he is a face-up guy who likes to use his quickness to create problems for the defense, which has proven successful.
If Cleveland start giving him more post touches, Jamison confidence rises, and he starts knocking down more jumpers as well. Also, if Jamison is scoring out of the post, this forces the defense to respect him and send double teams his way, opening things up for his teammates. So yes, if the Cavaliers start putting Jamison in positions where he is comfortable, he can return to his past success. However, if they are content with using him as a roll man in pick-and-roll situations, he will never return to the point he was at during his final season in Washington.
Sebastian Pruiti is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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