(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Prior to joining the Orlando Magic in a December trade, Gilbert Arenas had played in just 68 games over the last three-plus seasons. His subsequent 49 games in Magic pinstripes reflected that long absence, due to operations on his left knee and, infamously, a 50-game suspension for bringing a handgun into the Washington Wizards' locker room last season.
Orlando ostensibly acquired Arenas to improve its flagging offense, but the knee surgeries and poor conditioning robbed him of the explosiveness that made him the league's third-leading scorer just five seasons ago. Without that quick first step, he couldn't create separation from defenders or turn the corner on pick-and-roll plays. As a result, he typically dominated the ball on the perimeter, hardly ventured inside the lane, and took long twos off the bounce. Sometimes, he'd force the issue and sneak into the lane, but he struggled to finish or draw contact. He was a disaster.
|Points Per Game||Assists Per Game||Turnovers Per Game|
|Points Per 36||Assists Per 36||Turnovers Per 36|
|PER||Assist Rate||Turnover Rate|
All statistics in this table from Arenas' player page at basketball-reference. Career-best statistics highlighted in gold; career-worst statistics highlighted in silver.
Arenas' problems are easy to diagnose. I like to think I pretty tidily summarized them above the fold. Here's a reserve point guard using more possessions than everyone on the team except superstar center Dwight Howard, yet missing almost two-thirds of his shots and committing sloppy turnovers. We haven't even mentioned his defense yet.
He showed he can still be effective, particularly in the Magic's Game 4 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, in which he scored 20 points in 22 minutes, albeit on 18 (!) shooting possessions. He and Howard expertly ran the high screen-and-roll time and again in the late third and early fourth quarter of that game, and Atlanta struggled to contain it. Arenas tried to find the rolling Howard if the opportunity was there; if not, he drove all the way to the rim and tossed in a shot.
I hasten to refer to that sort of offering as a layup. Arenas can't elevate like that anymore. Those drives and finishes weren't especially elegant, but they were nonetheless effective. That's what the Magic need from Arenas. Not the settled-for long twos and threes. The carnage:
3.7 threes per game, at 27.5 percent, for Orlando this season. On long two-point jumpers--from 17 feet out to the three-point arc--he shot 38.1 percent. On jumpers from 17 feet and closer, he shot 35.3 percent. This according to Synergy Sports Technology.
He didn't fare better at the rim, as Hoopdata indicates he converted 46.2 percent there. From no area on the court did he score at an acceptable rate. And he tried to score often.
Defensively, Arenas has problems as well, as his diminished athleticism makes it tough for him to keep up with quick guards. If he doesn't improve there, Orlando may have to find ways to hide him, matching him up against offensive non-entities and having someone else handle the opposing team's point guard. They didn't take that step this season, but it's something to monitor going forward.
What stats don't adequately reflect is the pace at which Arenas runs the team. No Magic player pushes the ball better in transition than Arenas, whether he's chugging up the court with his head on a swivel or rifling a long outlet pass to a spot-up shooter.
Further, what may not be obvious initially is that Arenas gets great results passing out of pick-and-roll sets, which Synergy says he does just 40.2 percent of the time; in other words, he looks for his own shot on 59.8 percent of pick-and-roll plays. Those passes produced scores 55.6 percent of the time and 1.348 points per possession. You can maybe see how, down the line, he can become a better offensive player by looking for his shot less and passing more in these situations.
That's about the best we can say for him this season. Anything higher than an
is simply too generous. He's an inaccurate, turnover-prone, volume-shooting guard who disappointed to a dramatic extent.