The most recent news around the NBA yesterday came as Antawn Jamison has decided to sign a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers. Jamison will sign for the veterans minimum as he pursues the first NBA Championship of his career.
And this may be one of the best signings of the entire offseason.
Of course, there have been plenty of bigger stars to sign new contracts this year, including Deron Williams, Roy Hibbert, and even the Lakers’ own Steve Nash. But this move has the potential to push LA to the NBA Finals in West and firmly plants them in the conversation for title contenders.
Before signing Jamison, the Lakers had a very strong starting squad that included Kobe Bryant, Nash, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum. However, that was mostly it. The rest of the team includes Metta World Peace, likely the fifth starter who, while strong on defense, is deficient on the offensive end, Steve Blake, Josh McRoberts, and a slew of rookies and sophomores.
Now, the Lakers have a very potent offensive weapon to come off the bench, which makes a strong team even more threatening.Not to mention the fact that this squad improves greatly if they are able to swap Bynum for Howard, a deal that is looking increasingly likely
Adding Jamison allows them to sit two of their stars at once while not having as much concern about a sharp drop in scoring. Bryant, Bynum, and Gasol add +9.1, +10.1, and +6.5 net points to the Lakers respectively when on the floor. When two of them are on the bench, the team’s scoring takes a considerable hit. Bringing in a player like Jamison, who averaged 17.2 points along with 6.3 boards on a meddling Cleveland team last year, punches up the bench scoring considerably.
Jamison comes at a cost of only $1.4-million for next season, significantly below what he could have garnered from other teams. Such is the benefit of a title contender courting a player who hasn’t been in the playoffs for two years and has never made it past the second round. Not to mention this is only a one-year deal, so if Jamison doesn’t work out for LA, they aren’t saddled with anything long-term.
This seems to be exactly the kind of low-risk, high-reward signing that can be a difference maker for a team. The question is, does it give the Lakers enough to get past the Oklahoma City Thunder?
The answer to that question is difficult. It would seem the Lakers top 5 players, Bryant, Bynum, Nash, Gasol, and Jamison, are superior to OKC’s top 5, Kevin Durant, Russel Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, and Kendrick Perkins. Not to mention the fact that Bynum and Gasol’s production should only improve with Nash running the point.
However, the age difference between the two teams is certainly a factor, with the average age of those Laker players at 33, while the OKC top 5 is only 23. Plus, while the Lakers advantage in the past has been their extensive experience in the playoffs, OKC is coming off their first NBA Finals this past season.
It’s difficult to say which is the better squad before the season starts, though based on last season the nod should likely go to OKC. But, whereas before the Jamison signing it looked to clearly be 1 and 2, the rankings now seem more appropriate as 1a and 1b.