The Cavaliers have traded Ilgauskas' expiring contract for Antawn Jamison. On paper, this move has to make them more dangerous -- they get a legitimate no. 2 scorer to pair with LeBron James, and they've given up almost nothing to acquire him. But how does the deal work in detail? And how does it affect the way they stack up against Orlando?
First of all, this is great news for Cleveland's offense. Jamison is one of the top post scorers in the league -- a guy who can usually maneuver his way into a good shot with or without the ball. Unfortunately, none of our defensive PFs really have the ability to contain a player like Jamison all that well... Rashard is a decent defender, but not a dominant one, and the post is not his best area. So Howard may need to keep one eye on Jamison and another on his man. (And a third on LeBron.)
On the bright side, Jamison also spends a lot of time on the perimeter... he's a good perimeter scorer, but this fact may allow the Magic to reduce the amount of post pounding our PFs take, and give them the chance to run out and use their speed. With their slow-paced game and lack of frontcourt speed, the Cavs are potentially vulnerable in transition.
It's also not entirely clear how Jamison's post offense works in the context of Shaq. The more the big man clogs the lane, the less room Jamison has to maneuver. (Alternately: the threat of Shaq down low gives Jamison one more option -- passing in the post -- and ensures that the Magic can't double-team either. This could go either way, and will most likely go a little of both.)
Defense, though, may be a problem for the Cavs. They may get Ilgauskas back if Washington waives him, but right now, their big man rotation consists of Shaq, Jamison, Varejao and Hickson. Of the four, only Shaq is a natural center, and he can only play 25 minutes or so. (He may be able to increase that number in the finals, but still, I can't see Shaq managing more than 28-30 MPG.)
Where does that leave the Cavs during the rest of the time? Well, neither Hickson nor Jamison is a viable center. So we'll probably see Varejao guarding the center position a lot. This is a potentially exploitable matchup -- Varejao is of course the focal point of their interior defense, but he's too small to match up with Dwight, and will have to rely on flopping to draw offensive fouls. If that doesn't work, he may pick up fouls himself, which compounds the Magic's problems. Meanwhile, shifting Varejao to the 5 leaves Jamison (or Hickson) at the 4, which is a downgrade. So Rashard and Ryan may be able to step up on offense. (Though of course LeBron is a threat to them as well.)
The only other lineup possibility to discuss is that the Cavs might try playing Jamison at the 3. He's too slow to defend that position at this point, but SF is not a major offensive position for the Magic. If they do attempt this, it's up to Pietrus and Barnes to use their athletic gifts against him.
Ultimately, this trade undoubtedly makes the Cavs the front-runners for the title, at least for now. Jamison isn't a perfect player, but he's definitely the best teammate LeBron has ever had. But that doesn't mean they're a lock for the title. It seems unlikely that a veteran like Jamison would create any chemistry problems in the locker room, but a trade like this always raises the risk of on-court miscommunication, as they're now working with a player who has not played in their system before. The Magic need to keep an eye on the Cavs, and if Jamison isn't rotating properly within the team's schemes, they need to exploit that.