Look at the Wizards!

The Washington Wizards are 3-1 since trading Antawn Jamison to Cleveland. They beat Minnesota, Denver and Chicago at home and lost to Toronto by five on the road.

How are the Wizards pulling this off without four (Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood) of their best players?

First, Andray Blatche is playing like an All-Star. In the last four games, he has averaged a healthy 25-10, and is shooting 59% from the field. Is he likely to keep this up? No, but 18-8 is certainly possible.

Al Thornton is averaging 16-4 (and shooting 53%) in three games since coming over to the Wizards as part of the Jamison trade. Those numbers seem reasonable if he starts getting starter’s minutes with Josh Howard sidelined.

Two guys that came over last summer — Randy Foye and Mike Miller — have each come up with big games during this four-game span. Miller drained all five of this threes in a 17-point effort against the Timberwolves and Foye is averaging 15 points and 7.5 assists in the last two games. In the one game where neither player cracked double figures (vs. DEN), the now-injured Howard posted 20 points on 8-11 shooting from the field. Miller has been one of the most efficient shooting guards this season, while Foye has been either feast (14p, 5a, 44% shooting as a starter) or famine (6p, 1a, 39% shooting as a reserve), depending on whether or not he’s in the starting lineup.

Truthfully, the Wizards are probably just sneaking up on a few teams. The Nuggets were coming off a big road win against Cleveland the night before and were outscored 34-15 in the fourth quarter by the well-rested Wizards. The Raptors were also coming off a road game the night before. (Granted, it was against the Nets, but still.) Chicago? Well, they don’t have an excuse.

The Wizards upcoming schedule should be telling. Now that they’ve bit a few teams in the butt, it shouldn’t be difficult for Memphis, New York, New Jersey and Milwaukee (twice) to get up for this new-look Washington team.

Are they going to make the playoffs? Hell no. But they might spoil a few other postseason runs.

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Cavs land Jamison in three-team trade

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports that the Cleveland Cavaliers have swung a three-team trade for Antawn Jamison.

Cavs get Jamison and Telfair, Clippers get Drew Gooden and Wash gets Illgauskas, Al Thornton and Brian Skinner and Cavs 1st round pick.

So the Cavs essentially landed Jamison at the cost of Ilgauskas, taking on Telfair’s contract ($2.7 million next season), and their first round pick, which will be very late in the first round. This is an even sweeter deal than the Hickson/Z-for-Jamison swap that has been rumored for weeks. The proposed Amare Stoudemire deal with the Suns either 1) fell through because the Suns wouldn’t pull the trigger quickly enough, or 2) the Wizards willingness to take a pick instead of Hickson convinced the Cavs to trade for Jamison instead. Either way, the Cavs got a good player in the deal. He’s 33 and has a bad contract (2 yrs, $28.4 million), but he’s playing at a high level (21-9, 45% shooting) and gives the Cavs the “stretch 4” they’ve been coveting for months. He’ll be a nice matchup for both Rashard Lewis and Kevin Garnett because he’s comfortable playing defense on the perimeter.

The Suns were holding out for a better offer, but now the only suitor left standing appears to be the Heat. It’s going to be interesting to see if Stoudemire is moved before the deadline tomorrow. The team has reportedly told Stoudemire to suit up to play tonight, so no deal is imminent.

The Clippers will save $5.5 million on their 2010-11 payroll, so they’ll project to have more than $16 million* in cap space this summer (or enough to sign a big-name free agent). They are now legit threats to sign a star like Joe Johnson, who would look very nice in a lineup of Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin and Chris Kaman. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s a savvy move by GM Mike Dunleavy.

And finally, the Wizards will trim $10.6 million from next year’s payroll, giving the team around $9 million* in cap space (with Gilbert Arenas’s deal still on the books). They also get Al Thornton, who has struggled thus far in his career. While he did average almost 17 points last season, his PER has never risen above 13.00, which means he’s not a very efficient player. GM Ernie Grunfeld continues to make perplexing trades. He has moved Caron Butler and Jamison and all he has to show for it are a couple of borderline starters (Josh Howard and Thornton), a late first round draft pick and some cap space.

* assuming a salary cap of $50 million

Update: Brian Skinner is not a part of the deal, according to Ric Bucher.

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Heat also interested in Jamison?

Yes, according to the Washington Post‘s Wizards insider Michael Lee

I’ve been told that the Cavaliers aren’t the only team interested in Jamison. Miami has also expressed interest of late, according to a league source.

When I played basketball for Bo Ryan at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, there was a player there who always was scrunching up his face when he was upset. Bo would ask him why he looked like he just ate a sour pickle. Why did I just tell you that? Well, when I heard this rumor, I made the “pickle face.”

Even with Dwyane Wade’s player option on the books, the Heat will have $20 million in cap space this summer. Without it, they’ll have $37 million to spend. Why in the world would they invest almost $29 million over the next two years in a 33-year-old power forward?

If a potential deal included Michael Beasley and Daequan Cook, the net increase in payroll would be around $6.3 million, effectively reducing the Heat’s cap space to around $31 million, which would theoretically be enough to re-sign Wade and another superstar free agent. The Heat would then build around Wade, Jamison and the superstar in question (LeBron, Bosh, Stoudemire). Under these circumstances, it would seem that the Heat would simply rather have Jamison than Beasley, thinking that Jamison at 35 would still be better than Beasley at 23.

I’m not so sure about that.

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Butler, Jamison for Ray-Ray?

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports says that the Wizards and Celtics are discussing a blockbuster deal.

In a dramatic move that would resuscitate their fading championship hopes, the Boston Celtics are discussing a deal with the Washington Wizards for forwards Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, league sources told Yahoo! Sports on Friday.

The proposed deal would send the expiring contracts of Ray Allen, Brian Scalabrine and J.R. Giddens to the Wizards, a move that would signal the start of Washington’s rebuilding process.

The trade isn’t imminent, but talks have progressed and Celtics GM Danny Ainge has positioned his organization to make one of the boldest trade deadline moves in years. For the Celtics, ownership would have to agree to take on an additional $24 million in salary next season between Jamison and Butler. Jamison makes more than $15 million in 2011-12, but most owners are discounting those salaries because of an assumption that there will be a labor lockout and some, if not all, of that money will never be paid to the players.

For his part, Celtics GM Danny Ainge denies the rumors:

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Friday he has not discussed trades involving the Charlotte Bobcats or Washington Wizards.

“There is no truth to either one of those,” Ainge said. “I have had conversations with a lot of teams but those have never been discussed. There are a lot of things I would like to do but I don’t feel a need to do something. I am always looking to upgrade the team, if possible.”

Have you ever heard a GM confirm a trade rumor? They always deny, deny, deny. So there’s no telling if there’s any truth to it, though Wojnarowski is a respected NBA writer.

Obviously, this trade would be a coup for the Celtics in terms of talent. Ray Allen isn’t playing horribly (16-3-3, 45% shooting), but he’s shooting a career-low 34% from long range and is 34 years old. Caron Butler (29) and Antawn Jamison (33) are both younger, and are both All-Star caliber players. Wojnarowski mentioned that the contracts are a concern (especially Jamison’s), but if the two players gelled in the Celtics’ lineup, it would push the franchise back into serious title contention.

However, it would be difficult to get the C’s five best players on the court. Paul Pierce and Caron Butler can play on the wings, but for Jamison to play PF, that means Kevin Garnett would play center. Against certain teams (say, Atlanta), this wouldn’t be a problem, but KG would get beat up down low against Shaq and Dwight Howard. Offensively, this lineup would allow the C’s to spread the floor and post up Pierce, Jamison and Butler in favorable matchups.

For Washington, this trade would confirm what we all already know — the Wizards are rebuilding. If I were running things, I’d hold onto Butler (since his contract is affordable) or at least wait for someone to offer a good young piece. The deal, as outlined, is simply a salary dump. The Wizards would be giving Jamison and Butler away for cap flexibility. With this trade, the Wizards would have approximately $20 million in cap space this summer, and that assumes Gilbert Arenas is still on the payroll.

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LeBron claims he hasn’t lobbied for Jamison

After the Cavs’ 115-106 win over the Magic on Thursday, LeBron James denied ever lobbying that his team make a deadline trade for Antwan Jamison, or any other player for that matter. (Chris Sheridan, ESPN)

Do the Cavs still need what’s known as a “stretch 4,” a power forward such as Antawn Jamison who can play inside and outside, another pricey piece to add to the puzzle in an effort not only to win a championship but also to convince LeBron James to stay in Cleveland past July 1?

It’s such a good question, we went ahead and asked it of James after the power forwards currently on Cleveland’s roster, J.J. Hickson and Anderson Varejao, both had huge games in Thursday night’s 115-106 victory over the Orlando Magic.

“I never said we needed one,” James said, immediately putting himself at odds with what is being whispered around the league — that James has made it known that he wants the Cavs to find a way to acquire Jamison. “I think our team is built to win a championship, and with the group of guys we have here, if we continue to get better we’re headed in the right direction.”

“So I haven’t really thought about the trade deadline or what guys are on the board or whatever, so we’ll continue to play the way we know how to play,” James said.

Hickson and Varejao combined for 36 points and eight rebounds Thursday night, outplaying the Magic’s PFs Rashard Lewis (19 points, 4 rebounds) and Ryan Anderson (5 points, 2 rebounds).

That’s all well and good, but this is eerily similar to the pre-deadline position that the Cavs found themselves in last year. They were playing well and looking strong, so they elected to stand pat at the trade deadline. We all know how that turned out.

I’m not saying that trading Hickson would be the right move. We just don’t know. But in Jamison we’re talking about a two-time All-Star who is averaging 20.5 points and 8.8 rebounds, even at 33 years old. I think it’s safe to say that he’s going to be better than Hickson for the rest of this season and next.

The Cavs could just be posturing, hoping to get themselves the best possible deal next week. But if they lead another deadline pass without making a move, and this season ends the same way, it isn’t going to be pretty.

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