Over a two-week period, I will be breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of the Washington Wizards players. So far, I have evaluated the games of Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee and Josh Howard. Today's breakdown is Gilbert Arenas.
Gilbert Arenas is a 6'4" point guard, weighing in at 215 pounds. He is 28 years of age, but has only played in 47 games in the last three seasons. He had a knee injury that he never properly rehabilitated the first time around, and which caused him to lose the majority of the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.
Last season, he was suspended after a highly publicized and scrutinized gun incident in which he brought guns to the Wizards' locker room. Although he lost the final 50 games of the season to suspension, Arenas did play in every one of the first 32 games, and didn't show any lingering effects from his knee injury.
Gilbert Arenas' career averages are 22.7 points, 5.6 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. He is a three-time NBA All-Star who was considered to be a top-five guard in the league during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons. He is still relatively young, and by all accounts has regained the quickness, speed and explosiveness he displayed in 2006-07.
Gilbert Arenas' game has many strengths, including ball-handling, deep shooting range, excellent speed and quickness while handling the ball, great ability to finish around the basket, passing, rebounding and stealing the ball. Arenas also has the ability to hit clutch shots with time winding down. He has always been able to create his own shot, or set up a teammate for an easy look at the basket. With the addition of John Wall this offseason, Flip Saunders has moved Arenas over to the shooting guard position. This change may come easily for Gilbert, since he has always moved well without the basketball.
Unfortunately for Arenas, his game is suspect at the defensive end. Although he does have a keen sense of where the ball is going, and as a result tips a lot of passes and gets a couple of steals each game, he is a sub-par one-on-one defender, and is even worse if he has to chase his man through screens. I don't believe that this is a physical problem, as he is athletically gifted. His defense seems to lack a mental discipline and commitment that the great defenders all have. At times, he seems more concerned about his next offensive possession, and less about stopping the other team.
Now that he is no longer the main offensive option, with the arrival of John Wall and the improvement of Andray Blatche's game, Gilbert will need to work harder on the defensive end if he wants to improve his game and help his team get better.
The biggest concern for the Wizards organization, team and fans, though, is Gilbert Arenas' mental condition. Is he just a goofy guy who is misunderstood by the media, and will show everyone that he is still committed to playing great basketball? Or is Gilbert a selfish head case who will eventually implode and try to bring the team down with him?
I believe he is the former. He has a lighthearted sense of humor, which at times has gotten him in trouble. I am not going to downplay his decision to bring guns to the locker room, although this is not the first time that an NBA player has had a gun in the locker. However, his decision to make light of a gambling debt he owed another player was a terrible one, and to most Washington D.C. natives, not funny at all.
Arenas needs to grow up—for the team, but mainly for himself.
I don't want him to change his personality, or fun-loving humorous side, but to make mature adult decisions when it comes to the serious matters in his life. Put your team before you, rehabilitate your knee the right way and never, ever bring guns to the locker room. Gilbert will always be loved by the fans, but it is time for him to show that he is progressing, not regressing, in his journey through life.
The Wizards team will be better off with a happy, fun-loving Gilbert Arenas. The combination of Wall and Arenas at the guard positions could be the best 1-2 punch in the league for the next four years (the remainder of Arenas' contract in Washington). If Gilbert sees the error of his ways, and truly desires to move forward, he could be a great leader for this young team.
John Wall's ability to draw the defense to him should give Gilbert several open looks at the basket, which he didn't have while playing the point guard position. Gilbert should be able to average around 22 points, six assists and five rebounds per game, and return to the All-Star game.
I believe Gilbert will show us his best this season. Whether or not he is doing so to get traded, or if he genuinely wants to redeem himself in Washington, remains to be seen. Either way, Gilbert can and should return to the great scorer we once knew. His knee is no longer a question, and it looks as though he has regained his on-court abilities. Let's all hope that he is ready to move forward, because that is the direction the Wizards organization is headed.