Top 50: Antawn Jamison, no. 37
The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.
by Adam Fleischer
There’s some unclear combination of factors that leave Antawn Jamison out whenever discussions of the top power forwards in the game come up. Maybe it’s that he’s never been on a true contender. Maybe it’s because his game isn’t flashy and his athletic abilities have never been wow-worthy. It could be because his size and skill-set make him an atypical power forward. Or, maybe it’s just because he shouldn’t be in that discussion after all, and isn’t in that top tier.
Maybe not, but he’s damn close.
I’m uncomfortable trying to let stats tell too much of the story when it comes to players. But they’re always a part of it and worth noting. So let me throw some at you. Last season, the former Tar Heel ranked in the top 11 in the NBA in points per game (11th with 22.2), minutes per game (9th with 38.2), rebounds per game (10th with 8.9) and double doubles (9th with 38).
Yes, this was during the Wizards’ woeful season during which Jamison was forced to shoulder much of the load due to Gilbert’s knee and Caron Butler missing 15 games. But it proved that he could carry that weight. And, what’s more, he’s been doing stuff like this for years—injured teammates or not.
Jamison has had a steady career, averaging 19.9 points and 8 rebounds per through his eleven seasons in the league. And he’s shown his roles can vary: he averaged a tick under 25 per in his third year in Golden State, and then headed to Dallas a few years later and took home the Sixth Man of the Year Award during the 2003-04 season.
I knew all this, but I recently stumbled on something that caught me by surprise. It tells a piece of his last five years since that one season with the Mavs, all spent in Washington. During that span, only one other player besides Jamison has averaged at least 19.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. That player was Dirk. Neither KG, Timmy, nor anyone else can boast that. No, I didn’t make that up. It’s for real.
So now we’re talking serious consistency with no signs of yet falling off.
Since Jamison doesn’t rely heavily on his speed or athleticism, his continued journey into the land of the mid-thirties shouldn’t coincide with the kind of decline that it does for many other players. He’s different than basically every other guy at his position, and it shows. It shows in his stature and in his sub-par for a power forward field goal percentage of 46.8% last year and 45.6% for his career. It also shows in his abilities.
His is the rare type of game that allows to stretch the floor and present match up problems without sacrificing too much of what you’d be hoping to get from your power forward. Last year, Jamison hit one less three pointer than Rasheed Wallace but earned more than four times as many trips to the line, good for top 25 in the league in free throw attempts. It’s that kind of balance and threat as a scorer that makes him dangerous. And he’s willing to mix it up down low to wipe the glass, too.
This season, with a supposedly healthy Arenas and a stronger bench, the Wiz will expect Jamison to carry less of the load. That doesn’t mean he’ll be any less crucial to the team, though. No, he’ll be a key component of a team on the upswing fighting for playoff position in April.
Until then, you can keep overlooking him.
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’09-10 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Brett Ballantini, Russ Bengtson, Toney Blare, Shannon Booher, Myles Brown, Franklyn Calle, Gregory Dole, Emry DowningHall, Jonathan Evans, Adam Fleischer, Jeff Fox, Sherman Johnson, Aaron Kaplowitz, John Krolik, Holly MacKenzie, Ryne Nelson, Chris O’Leary, Ben Osborne, Alan Paul, Susan Price, Sam Rubenstein, Khalid Salaam, Kye Stephenson, Adam Sweeney, Vincent Thomas, Tzvi Twersky, Justin Walsh, Joey Whelan, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.