Photo by Fernando Medina
It’s fitting that Gilbert Arenas had his finest game in an Orlando Magic uniform last night against the Cleveland Cavaliers, putting up 22 points, 11 assists, five rebounds, and three steals. Why?
Because there’s two writers that cover the Washington Wizards and have been around Arenas long enough to provide insight to Magic fans on whether or not he is capable of providing the requisite firepower on offense that general manager Otis Smith is expecting from him after the trade.
It’s no secret that Arenas isn’t the player that he once was a few years ago when he made consecutive All-Star appearances and, looking back on it now, could have been inserted into MVP discussions considering his production and worth to the Wizards on the court.
That being said, what Arenas is Orlando getting?
Mike Prada of Bullets Forever and Kyle Weidie of Truth About It are here to answer that question and more. Part I will showcase Mike’s thoughts.
Will Gilbert Arenas’ knees hold up?
I think they will, in the sense that they won’t force his career to end in the next four years. These things tend to take time in recovering. However, due to all the time missed and the lack of rhythm, I doubt he’ll ever be healthy enough to approach his production from 04-07.
Can Arenas draw fouls at a higher rate playing in a different system on offense and with new teammates?
Honestly, I’m a little skeptical. Arenas used to be really good at jumping into defenders and creating angles for himself to finish around the rim. Now, though, he’s really not very good at that, due to a combination of lack of explosiveness and lack of confidence. He used to power through defenders on one-foot jumps, but we haven’t seen any of that since the injuries. I don’t think it’s a system thing. A different system can improve his ability to get to the rim, but his issue now is that he’s not the same player once he gets there. In this league, people are always going to meet you at the rim, no matter where you are. Whether it’s mental, physical or external (not getting star calls anymore), Arenas looks a bit lost once he’s at the rim.
What will Arenas’ individual and team defense be like?
Gil’s defense has obviously been a liability throughout his career, but he did seem to try a bit more this year at times. That said, I wouldn’t worry too much about this if I’m a Magic fan. Stan always figures out a way to account for bad defenders, and Gil won’t have to do as much offensively, which could give him more energy on defense.
Is head coach Stan Van Gundy the person that can get the most out of Arenas? Or does that ultimately fall on Arenas himself?
It’s a combination, but I do think Stan is the right guy to coach Gil. Gil is the kind of guy who needs someone to be in his ear all the time, giving him any sort of attention. I think sometimes the coaches here would almost be scared to coach him, because you never know how he’ll react, but really, he’s just looking for feedback. Stan won’t be afraid to challenge him, and while Gil may talk back, in reality, he’ll do what the coach says as well as he can.
I really liked how Stan left that note on his locker telling him to play his game – thought that was great coaching, since Gil does have such a fragile psyche.
With a new team, is Arenas capable of being a more efficient player offensively?
I think so because he’ll get better shots in better spots. One thing that’s a bit underrated about Arenas is his passing ability. He has good vision, and his issue in D.C. was often that his bigs weren’t ready to catch the ball. In Orlando, that shouldn’t be an issue. With his bigs able to catch for once, more teams will play Arenas to pass, which should give him more opportunities to get free off pick and rolls. He should also get more spot-up opportunities.
Thus far, obviously, it hasn’t happened, but I think it will eventually once he starts to find some comfort playing off the bench. He hasn’t really come in cold before like this, and in the past, he was a rhythm player that needed shots to get going. That’s something he needs to adjust to. But once he realizes that he’ll get better shots here because a) the bigs screen better, b) the roller/popper is a bigger offensive threat than what he had in D.C. and c) he’s playing with more talent around him, he’ll adjust. Just don’t expect it to happen overnight.
What will not happen, though, is him approaching his peak-level efficiency. That occurred because he got to the line so much, something I don’t think he’s able to do much anymore. I’m guessing it’ll be somewhere in between.
Stay tuned for Part II, where Kyle will chime in with his views.