Editor's Note: Here's Part III of the roundtable. Apologies for the site being down earlier this morning. SB Nation was having technical difficulties, but we should be okay from this point forward. -PM
A while back, I polled several prominent Wizards bloggers/internet personalities, asking them to answer some key questions facing the Wizards this offseason. Eventually, many of them got back to me, and now, their answers to each question will be posted here over the next few days.
- Kevin Broom, Real GM
- Jamie Mottram, Yahoo! Sports and Mister Irrelevant
- Jake Whitacre, Bullets Forever and Gilbertology
- I Watch the NBA, My Swog is Phenomenal
- Bobtimist Prime, DC Optimist
- Truthaboutit, Truthaboutit and Bullets Forever
- Kingly-1, Les Bullez
- Me, Bullets Forever
Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here. Here's the third question, and I imagine discussion will be heated:
This was certainly a strange season for Gilbert Arenas. Has your opinion of him changed at all? How do you feel about the notion that "the Wizards are better without him?" If he does indeed opt-out of his contract, would you hold onto him, and for how much?
Answers below the jump...
Kevin Broom: The big question with Arenas has to be the health of his knee. If he's going to be 100%, then he should be re-signed for whatever the market requires. Unfortunately, that "will he or won't he be healthy" question will have to be answered by the Wizards' medical staff, and I have little confidence they'll get it right. Assuming Arenas will be healthy, I'd take him up on his offer to take less to keep Jamison around, and sign him for less than the maximum salary. I'd also try to get him to take a declining salary (rather than increasing each year) to help out with future luxury tax and other player acquisition issues.
Jamie Mottram: Playing at the end of the year right before what should be the biggest contract of his career was an incredibly risky, brave and probably stupid thing to do. And it made me love and respect him now more than ever. As for the Wiz being better without him, I don't care to find out.
Jake Whitacre: He hasn't changed in my eyes too much, but that comes with the territory I suppose. I think he might have jumped the shark in the eyes of some, but that's a result of not being healthy for over a year now. Does he still have areas that could use improvement? Of course, but that doesn't take away from all the ways that he improves this team when he's fully healthy. If he opts out, I'd probably re-sign him somewhere in the $10-14 million dollar per year range.
I Watch the NBA: My opinion on him as not changed. I think everything he has said and everything he has done has been perfectly in-line with that which I understand to be Gil's personality. The Wizards are not better without him. When he's not 100% and not up to normal game-speed, like the playoffs, sure, the Wizards might be better off, but that would happen to any team. If he does opt-out, which I believe he will, then I would hold on to him for whatever was smart for the franchise. I haven't had a chance to really look at the numbers, but I do not think Gil would put the Wizards organization in a position to have to choose between him and hurting the team currently in place. I think Gil does want what's best for the Wizards and I think he will look for the best win-win situation possible.
Bobtimist Prime: I will always love Gilbert. He has done innumerable amounts of good for both this team, the NBA, the internet, etc. He needs to remain here for that reason. I lived and died with his every move, lauded his signing, lauded his play even during that baad 04-05 season, and bought and saved every one of those swag-filled pre 06-07 season lovefests from the media. (full disclosure: My extremeskins handle: arenasisgod) The only thing that has changed about my opinion of him this year is that I am not sure he will be able to return from that knee injury, jeez I dunno, ever. I mean, he had a whole offseason to rehab, took 70% off of this season to rehab some more, but was still not the same guy. The only game that he was truly Agent Zero-ing in was that home game against Miami where they gave out the Phil and Buck bobbleheads. He was lacing absurd passes to guys, hitting half court shots, basically being the guy that I have swooned over for all of these years in DC. But I look back and think he was that way because he had to guard nobody-white people from the rec center, or whoever that guy was on the Heat. I think he could progress into Chauncey Billups (a person he never really is compared to, despite Billups being exactly what Gilbert could/should be) if he hangs around, and truly rehabs that knee. He is still quite young, and I thought his pointguarding was always wrongfully dismissed as inadequate. He'll get better, he will stop chucking, I am positive of it. But will he stay healthy? That I don't know. I just wish he would stay with this deal for ONE MORE YEAR, amongst all of the uncertainty that was 07-08. The team is NOT better without him. I mean, AD was a completely different player in game five, and he sat on the bench for, what, ten minutes?
Truthaboutit: Well, we always knew the guy was quirky, but I figured that what he has been through in life made him mature beyond his years. I think I was wrong.
As he's frustrated me at times this past season, I can say that my opinion of Gilbert Arenas has definitely been altered. In my mind, he has lost some of the goodwill and bulletproofness (I know, not a word) created by his 06-07 "Pre-Takeover" season.
That's being said, I still like the guy and I still want him around because he makes the Wizards significant and relevant. I think a 6 year contract between $100 and $110 million would be reasonable.
Kingly-1: My opinion of Arenas did change for the worse when he announced he was opting out of the last year of his contract; especially when he reinforced that notion even after re-injuring his knee. However, his subsequent statements that he would be willing to take a pay-cut in order to keep Jamison on the team were encouraging. The Wizards can obviously survive in the Eastern conference without him, as evidenced by making the playoffs this season, but I do not believe they are a better team without him. I do believe that he is playing out of position and is more suited for the shooting guard role; especially after injuring his knee repeatedly. I would like to see him begin the transition to the shooting guard position, similar to the way Mitch Richmond did it back in the 90s as he got older. Assuming he is willing to be flexible in terms of playing the SG position, I would re-sign him to a deal which included some playing time incentives in order to protect the organization in the event of another catastrophic injury. I am no cap-space expert so I don’t know how much the contract would be worth, but I would also remind him of his willingness to take less pay to keep Jamison on the roster and factor that in as well.
Me: The overreaction of those who really believe this team is better without Gilbert is astonishing to me. This team got a career years from Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood and Caron Butler (before he got hurt), got a completely out-of-nowhere season from Roger Mason, learned that Antonio Daniels still has something left, and still finished just two games better than last season, when they were leading the Southeast Division until injuries set in. To Wizards fans, is that the future you really want to see? Be careful what you wish for.
At the same time, this season did prove to us that there are more weapons on this team than Gilbert, and they can be effective if they get their chances. I'm not going to argue that Gilbert stunted anyone's growth, because that's stupid, nor am I going to argue that "ball movement" went down, because Truth effectively debunked that myth the other day. I also won't say that it's Gilbert fault whenever Princeton-ball bogs down into Gilbert-ball, because it's as much the fault of the other player not moving as it is Gilbert's. What I will say, though, is that we might need to see a Isiah Thomas-like transformation from Gilbert going forward. Isiah was still a tremendously effective point guard in his championship days, but his usage went a bit downhill as the Pistons transitioned into a half-court team. He sacrificed shots to keep others happy, but when it mattered, it was Isiah's time. I'd like to see something similar from Gilbert going forward, but we must understand the undeniable fact that such a transition is gradual and extremely subtle.
As for the question, no, we can't let him go no matter what. I wish he'd just not opt-out, but it might be a blessing in disguise for us, as we'll be able to sign him for less than market value and watch him transform while regaining his swag. But with the knee history and the state of the Wizards doctors, a max contract is out of the question. Letting him go, however, would be even worse.