Ball Don't Lie - NBA

This looks like a fine deal, right now. I don't know how these teams will feel about this trade down the line, because there might be a whole lot to regret.

Earlier this evening, Michael Lee first reported that the Wizards had agreed to send Antawn Jamison(notes) to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Adrian Wojnarowski later fleshed out the details:

Washington picks up Zydrunas Ilgauskas(notes) and his expiring contract, a first round pick from Cleveland, the well-traveled Brian Skinner(notes), and Clippers forward Al Thornton(notes).

The Cavaliers pick up Jamison, and some point guard depth in former Clipper Sebastian Telfair(notes). The Clippers take in Drew Gooden(notes), likely to be bought out by early spring.

And I take in an iffy feeling.

To start, though I've been begging for this deal for a while, the idea that the Cavaliers could have picked up Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) for close to the same package is a little unnerving. Antawn Jamison is a fine player, he stretches the defense, can rebound, can stay out of the way, and he rarely turns the ball over. But Stoudemire is an offensive powerhouse, the leading scorer on the league's best offense, and someone who could run a devastating pick and roll combination with LeBron James(notes) for years.

Questions about Amar'e's character, his apostrophes, his defense, and his impending free agency no doubt gave the Cavs cold feet. His injury history may have hurt, the Cavaliers may not have wanted to let go of J.J. Hickson(notes), and it's possible that Phoenix's interest in making a deal with Cleveland - despite the long-standing friendship between the GMs (Danny Ferry in Ohio, Steve Kerr in Arizona) in both cities - may have been overstated.

But Cleveland should have tried harder. You have to try. Because that's your guy. Amar'e Stoudemire is the sort of guy that you set out to get when you decided to clear all this 2010 cap space alongside LeBron's impending extension some years ago. This is your number two. Not Antawn Jamison. Certainly not Antawn Jamison. I wouldn't be shocked in the slightest if Antawn Jamison contributed 20 and 9 in a Finals-winning cause this June, but this is not what you want moving forward.

Not when you could have had Amar'e Stoudemire.

So this clearly is a win-now move for Cleveland, because there is a very good chance that Jamison falls on his face following this season. He turns 34 in June, and though his floor-bound game tends to translate well to middle age ... he turns 34 in June. And he's due to make a lot of money, more than $28.4 million combined over the next two seasons. He's now LeBron's guy. His clear number two.

Are you cool with that, Cleveland?

You should be, for the time being. Jamison can stretch the defense, score on his own, put teams in the penalty, and fill in the blank spaces with efficient scoring. But this is a build up that's taken years, and while Cleveland (with or without Jamison or Stoudemire) was a rightful championship contender as it stood entering Wednesday evening, the future has been mapped out. LeBron, Jamison, and Mo Williams(notes). The untradeable core; untradeable for three different reasons ("why would you want to," "makes too much money," "too much of a bargain at his price.")

Washington badly needed to dump salary, the team wasn't going anywhere even with Gilbert Arenas(notes) on board, so dumping Jamison (and, last weekend, Caron Butler(notes)) makes sense. And while I can appreciate the need to bring in warm bodies to close out the remnants of a miserable year, I don't get the add-ons.

Why do you need Al Thornton? For the rest of this season, I understand, but in a summer that is probably going to see your franchise work like mad to use up all this existing cap space, Thornton's $2.8 million salary is going to be rather annoying. Tradeable, sure, but why do you need him? He's certainly worth the money he makes, but unless he's fodder for a mid-July sign-and-trade, I don't get it.

And why do you need the 30th pick in next June's Draft, a guaranteed contract for a player that usually doesn't deserve it?

Unless the Wizards aren't rebuilding, this summer. They might want to let it ride, and choose savings over winning. They might want to lower payroll after throwing huge gobs of money at underwhelming talent for, well, decades. Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld, with the team's ownership in flux, might not even have the go-ahead to spend with this cap space. Which is a shame, because if Arenas' contract is voided, all options are declined and cap holds are to be ignored, the Wizards could be sitting on just over $40 million in cap space this summer, on top of a high-end lottery pick.

Is it possible that all that could go to waste? I wouldn't blame whoever signs the checks, but man, this team is set up to not have to sign many checks this summer. This is a re-do that most GMs dream of, but rarely have the cojones to try.

The Clippers? They're in it to save money. A fine deal for them, losing Telfair's salary next year, losing Thornton's salary for next year, adding to an already-impressive cadre of cap space, and possibly saving some cash this year as Gooden gets bought out and moves on to his 29th team. Gooden has been with Memphis, Orlando, Cleveland, Chicago, Sacramento, San Antonio, Dallas, property of Washington, and now the Los Angeles Clippers. The guy's been in the league since 2002, and that's a pretty impressive trek. Hell, he could pull off the Texas Triangle in a year's time.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas has been on one team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, since he was drafted in 1996. And if he isn't bought out and signed back up with the Cavaliers in the next 30 days or so, I will take to doing terrible things to Danny Ferry's lawn. There's only one corner of the world where I give karma even a passing scintilla of belief, and the Cleveland GM is messin' with it.

In all, a sound deal for all parties at the moment. I worry about Antawn Jamison making over $15 million two years from now, and I worry (as always) about going the safe route. Jamison could mean a championship this year, but Stoudemire could have meant a dynasty.

Of course, Shaquille O'Neal(notes) and Jamario Moon(notes) for Amar'e works cap-wise. Do you have the stones, Cleveland?

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