Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
On Saturday, the Orlando Magic acquired Gilbert Arenas from the Washington Wizards for Rashard Lewis. For months, the Magic and Arenas were linked to each other in trade rumors for several reasons but the main reason was because of general manager Otis Smith‘s relationship with the former superstar that dates back to their days spent with the Golden State Warriors. Smith has known Arenas since he was 19. After all the drama that Arenas went through with ‘Gungate’ and being suspended by the NBA for the remainder of the 2009-2010 season after appearing in 32 games, coupled with the fact that he’s had three knee surgeries in the past several years, and has a max contract that lasts through 2014, it seemed like the artist formerly known as “Agent Zero” was damaged goods and would be stuck with the Wizards. However, once it became clear that Arenas was healthy entering a new year and Orlando’s need for a shot creator became known following the failings of Vince Carter in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals, the rumor mill began to churn slowly but surely in the offseason. And with each Magic loss, the chatter surrounding Arenas grew louder until it reached its breaking point during the weekend when Smith pulled the trigger and dealt for him.
Was the deal inevitable?
Orlando acquired Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu in a separate trade to address their need for shot creators and perimeter scoring. Arenas, of course, was traded for the same reasons.
What should Magic fans expect from Arenas?
It’s tough to figure out, honestly.
Before going further and breaking down Arenas’ potential impact with the Magic, it needs to be stated that this isn’t the same player that was a three-time All-Star from 2005 to 2007. Arenas’ athleticism and explosiveness has deteriorated, in large part because of multiple operations to his left knee, so it’s pointless to browse YouTube videos of him at the peak of his abilities. Arenas isn’t going to attack the rim, draw fouls, and go to the free-throw line a lot like he used to. Once in a while, Arenas will have a throwback game (like he did against Orlando a few weeks ago) and display flashes of the utter brilliance that captivated NBA fans years ago. But when that’s not happening, Arenas is going to do what he does best — score.
How is Arenas going to generate his points? Jumpshots, mostly.
Via Synergy Sports Technology:
|2010-2011 regular season||Time||Poss.||PPP*||Rank||Rating|
|OVERALL OFFENSE||100%||431||0.84||30%||Below Average|
|P&R Ball Handler||23.2%||100||0.84||62%||Good|
Arenas should mesh well in the Magic’s schemes offensively because he can execute the pick and roll, as well as spot-up on the perimeter, and come around screens for jumpers on occasion. In fact, given that Orlando is — by far — the most talented team Arenas has been a part of and he gets paired up with Dwight Howard, it’s not outlandish to suggest that he can become more lethal in pick and rolls and spot-up opportunities while also doing damage in screen and curls.
Also, even though Arenas is a shell of his former self, he can still create his own shot and make plays for others. A playmaker, if you will. The Magic need that.
Arenas is inefficient in getting the job done but at this point, Orlando needs someone that can get the job done in some way, shape, or form. It’s fine to praise Carter for being an efficient player offensively but when the Magic needed him to put points on the scoreboard by any means necessary, he couldn’t do it. It was impossible to point to Carter and tell him, ‘get me a bucket’ and have the utmost confidence that he was going to deliver the goods more often than not. That’s why Carter is gone and Arenas is with Orlando. Ultimately, the Magic hope that Arenas can be the guy to get them points when the offense stagnates. The same can be said for Turkoglu and Richardson. That’s their sole purpose. To score.
But back to Arenas.
There are a few questions that are being asked about Arenas.
What will his role be?
Fortunately for head coach Stan Van Gundy‘s sanity, Arenas said he’s “ecstatic” to accept the sixth man role for Orlando. That bodes well for the Magic because they need someone to take the reigns of the second unit. Too many times, when the reserves are in the game for Orlando, they give up leads because of their inability to generate offense consistently. Arenas’ arrival should, theoretically, alleviate that issue. Not only that but presuming Arenas is the back-up point guard, that allows him to be utilized at his best — with the basketball in his hands. Arenas won’t get that luxury every second that he’s on the court but for 20+ minutes a game (a rough estimate), he’ll have the comfort of running the Magic’s offense to his delight.
That means no more minutes for Chris Duhon, which is good for Orlando because he’s been dreadful this season.
Lastly, it also provides a chance for Jameer Nelson to play off-the-ball when he’s paired with Arenas on the floor. There are some that wonder if Nelson will be content relinquishing ball-handling duties to Arenas. But that shouldn’t be a concern at all because it’s something that Nelson is comfortable doing.
Defensively, it’ll be interesting to see how that alignment works out.
Will he be comfortable in his new environment?
Most likely, yes.
An underrated aspect about acquiring Richardson from the Phoenix Suns is that he has a friendship with Arenas that dates back to their days with the Warriors.
Likewise, Smith has been a mentor to Arenas for years.
Arenas hasn’t been shy about displaying his happiness for being traded to a team that he’s admired from afar. It’s no secret that Arenas needed to get away from Washington because he was reminded of his past on a daily basis. Now Arenas gets something he desperately needed — a fresh start. Ultimately, the support structure is there for Arenas to revitalize his career.
It’s up to Arenas to redeem himself like Ron Artest did last season.
Will he play defense?
To be determined.