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Free Agent Stock Watch: Antawn Jamison

Two years ago, Hoops Rumors readers overwhelmingly voted for Antawn Jamison as the best minimum-salary signee in the league soon after his decision to sign with the Lakers for what looked like a steep discount. A year and a half later, Jamison’s stock had plummeted, and he’s been out of the NBA since the Hawks waived him shortly after acquiring him from the Clippers at the trade deadline this past February. No one is immune to the ravages of age, but it’s tough to imagine that Jamison’s skills have eroded so quickly after he scored 17.2 points per game for the Cavs in 2011/12 that he’s become unworthy of a place on an NBA roster.

The 37-year-old Jamison told DeAntae Prince of The Sporting News recently that he has options in free agency, as we passed along, but the one-time No. 4 overall pick didn’t specify whether any of those options included offers from NBA teams. The Wasserman Media Group client has signed with teams that figured to contend for titles the past two seasons. Should the right NBA opportunity materialize for him this year, it wouldn’t necessarily matter if it involved going to a team without a reasonable chance of winning the title, as Jamison also told Prince.

Jamison was reportedly among the players the Knicks were considering in February, shortly after his release from the Hawks, but that was before Phil Jackson took over the team’s front office. The Wizards were eyeing him around that same time, and Washington GM Ernie Grunfeld was in place there for the entirety of Jamison’s five and a half seasons in the nation’s capital. Still, one report suggested Washington’s interest in a reunion was only “lukewarm.” The Hawks and Jamison appeared to share interest in parting ways with each other last season, so it doesn’t seem like he’ll be returning to Atlanta anytime soon, even if he’s more willing to consider teams outside the title picture. Reports have linked the former University of North Carolina star to the Hornets (then Bobcats) in previous offseasons. Charlotte has 14 guaranteed deals, as our roster counts show, and while the team appears to be reluctant to use the final spot on a center, that probably doesn’t apply to a stretch four like Jamison. Still, there’s been no chatter connecting Jamison to the Hornets this summer.

The Spurs were apparently another team interested in Jamison this past February, and they wouldn’t force him to give up his title dreams. However, San Antonio is carrying 14 fully guaranteed pacts and three partially guaranteed deals, and the team still has a qualifying offer out to restricted free agent Aron Baynes, so it doesn’t appear there’s room for Jamison there. The Bulls were also linked to Jamison in that same report, and while the team only has 12 players, Taj Gibson, Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and second-round pick Cameron Bairstow crowd the power forward position, so Jamison wouldn’t be a logical fit in Chicago, either.

Jamison took 17.5 shots per game in 2011/12 with the Cavs, matching a career high. His PER that season was 16.1, which set a career low at the time. That suggests that his high scoring average was at least in part the product of a stripped-down roster that gave then-coach Byron Scott few other choices for creating offense. Jamison’s efficiency has continued to decline over the past two seasons, coming in at a still-respectable 15.3 in his lone season with the Lakers before bottoming out at 7.8 in the small sample size of his 248 total minutes with the Clippers. There’s no doubt that Jamison is fading, but it’s debatable whether he’s any worse at this point than most of the players taking up space at the back end of NBA rosters.

He’s not going to win another Sixth Man of the Year award, as he did back in 2003/04, but the 6’8″ Jamison is not far removed from having nailed 36.1% of his three-point attempts with the Lakers in 2012/13, the third highest percentage he’s ever recorded. He’s been consistent from behind the arc, making 34.6% of his treys during his career, save for last season’s 8 for 41 performance in his brief stint as a Clipper. Last year might have soured the league’s front offices on Jamison, but in an NBA increasingly obsessed with analytics, I’m not sure his time with the Clippers provided an acceptable amount of evidence.

There’d be little call for Jamison to reprise the high-volume shooting role he played for the Cavs a few years ago, so even as he opens himself to signing with a non-contender, it seems Jamison is best suited to help teams that want to win now. There are plenty of teams with which he wouldn’t make sense, but it only takes one club that believes in him for the two-time All-Star to wear an NBA jersey again. Jamison said in Prince’s report that while he’s not ruling out retirement, he won’t know what he’s going to do next for at least another month, perhaps suggesting that he envisions signing with a team at midseason rather than going to training camp. Waiting a full year to return to the league would be risky, but when teams are allowed to issue 10-day contracts again in January, such a deal would allow Jamison to make at least small slice of guaranteed money while keeping a team’s initial investment minimal. There’s a strong chance that we’ve seen the last of Jamison in sneakers, but don’t bet on it.

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