This afternoon Daniel Marks of Dime Magazine published an article entitled, "10 NBA players who need a change of scenery." And not surprisingly Gilbert Arenas was on the list. There are many people who have talked about his "cancerous" impact on the team from Tony Kornheiser to Charles Barkley. However, few logically detail why they believe that he must go.
Marks seems to share many of the same viewpoints as others in the national media:
10. Gilbert Arenas — I think Arenas can return to be an elite player in the NBA this season, it just shouldn’t be in Washington. Arenas and John Wall would make a scary backcourt, but Arenas needs the ball in his hands a great deal of the time, which won’t happen with Wall there. Last year the Wizards broke up their "Big Three" by shipping Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison out of town, and Arenas is probably next. The move would be for the better for both sides, as Arenas was seen as a pariah in D.C. last year, and needs to restart his career somewhere else.
Here are the elements of his argument:
Gilbert can return to be an elite player this season… just not in Washington.
Barring an injury it is likely that Gilbert will at least match his statistics from last year’s suspension shortened season – 22.6 PPG, 7.2 APG, 1.3 STL. It is important to point out that he generated these statistics while struggling during his 32 game stretch with trying to become a true PG. If he is fully healthy and he can focus on being a scorer who can pass, it is very likely to think that his scoring numbers could increase to the 25+ range.
With that said, his value is low right now due to the questions about his health, some who are concerned about his "baggage" and it would not make any sense for a rebuilding Wizards team to trade him right now. If they were interested in trading him – which the Majority Owner, Ted Leonsis, President/GM, Ernie Grunfeld and head coach, Flip Saunders, have all said they were not interested in doing – it would benefit the team to let him prove his health and ability to perform. Doing this provides them with the best chance to get something of value in return for trading Gilbert.
What you don’t do is trade a guy who could once again a potential all-star level performer for a bunch of garbage in the off-season, just to get rid of him. That type of move may help some, mostly non-Washingtonians, feel better but would not benefit the franchise.
Arenas and Wall would make a "Scary backcourt"
How is this an argument to trade him? If the "extra rest" that Gilbert’s knee received during his suspension has allowed him to get close to what he was prior to the injuries (or even what he was last season), then the Wizards will have a scary backcourt on the offensive end. Even last year, Gilbert was able to prove that he was still quick enough to get past nearly every defender who was watching him. That would give the Wizards one of, if not the fastest starting backcourts in the league.
The bigger challenge is on the defensive side of the ball. Gilbert has never been mistaken for a "lockdown" defensive player will have his work cut out for him covering twos. He may benefit from having to guard SGs who are generally not as quick or fast as him. However, he will likely have to improve his defensive skills in the post as most of the taller twos that he will face will want to post him up on nearly every half court set.
Arenas needs to dominate the ball to be effective
I tend to put this argument in the category of "if you hear it enough then it must be true." I don’t believe that this is based entirely on what we have seen on the court. Gilbert has shared the ball handling duties with Larry Hughes, Antonio Daniels, DeShawn Stevenson and Earl Boykins. However, after Larry left in free agency Gilbert had to assume a majority of the ball handling responsibility.
Gilbert has often said that some of his best times were when he played with Larry Hughes. For example, in 04/05 Gilbert averaged 25.5 PPG, 5.1 APG and 1.7 STL and Larry averaged 22.0 PPG, 4.7 APG and 2.9 STL – pardon me but that is one hell of a combination and it appears to contradict the idea that he needs to dominate the ball.
During an interview last week in Las Vegas, Flip Saunders pointed out that some of Gilbert’s most productive minutes last season occurred when Earl Boykins ran the point and Gilbert was the SG. Gilbert has proven that he can play with and off of another talented player in the backcourt. This will be the first time that he truly has had the opportunity since Larry Hughes left. Except this time he will be paired with a true point guard and not another combo guard that will benefit Gilbert tremendously and he will benefit John Wall.
Since the Wizards traded there veteran players, Gilbert is likely next.
The Wizards did move every veteran player last year that they could in order to re-build while getting younger. Now that Gilbert is able to play this season it may make sense to eventually trade him once his value his high enough that return true value. At that time the goal will likely be to both remove his contract while simultaneously adding young prospects.
The Wizards may eventually trade Gilbert, but they have the luxury to make this trade on their timetable. They do not need to desperately jump at any offer that is thrown their direction. And once Gilbert proves that he can again play – which should not be too hard – they will likely have a few teams who are interested in taking his contract off of their hands.
Trading Gilbert benefits both parties as Gilbert was a "pariah" and he could use a fresh start somewhere else
Gilbert may have been a "pariah" in some people’s eyes nationally, but my feeling is that he never became that in the eyes of most Wizards fans. In many ways, this may be the best situation for him. Gilbert received a fresh start with the Wizards once Ted Leonsis assumed ownership of the team. Plus, while DC is a relatively large news market, it does not generally have the type of media who will attempt to drag out this storyline. Unlike those in the national media, most of the local media understand that there were many factors in the Wizards disappointing season and Gilbert’s suspension was not at the top of the list. The wheels were following off last season’s wagon long before his misguided attempt at humor in which he ultimately broke NBA league rules and more significantly DC law.
You also have to factor in that Gilbert is currently on a team with a player, John Wall, who will draw attention away from him – and at this moment that is a good thing. Not only was John the #1 pick in the draft, but he dominated the Summer League. In the early part of the season, much of the early talk will be about John Wall. For the first time in a long time, this will create a situation that will allow Gilbert to focus on basketball – well except when he is talking with someone from the national media.