We are only a few games into the 2021-2022 season and I can already say this is the most I’ve enjoyed Wizards basketball in about 15 years. Sure, I enjoyed the highs of the John Wall era but for some reason or a other they never resonated with me quite the same way the mid-to-late 2000’s teams did. Maybe because they are further removed and nostalgia has set in I remember them more fondly.
Whatever the case may be, I’ve found myself comparing this year’s group to the Gilbert Arenas-era squads. I thought it might be fun to go through and identify the closest player comparison between the two groups.
This is by no means the scientific analysis Kevin Broom offers with his interesting doppelganger machine. This is simply who each current player reminds me of from Wizards’ teams earlier this century. Because this is personal player association game, you may come up with completely different names and I’d love to read those in the comments section.
With that, let’s start with the guards.
Bradley Beal: prime Gilbert Arenas
Both Beal and Arenas were the highest profile players on their respective rosters and responsible for carrying the scoring load. They’re a similar size and could beat defenders in a multitude of ways. Neither are particularly awe-inspiring on the defensive end. Both are multi-time All-Stars and made All-NBA teams.
Spencer Dinwiddie: young Gilbert Arenas
When Arenas first signed with the Wizards he was a talented guard who had yet to live up to the potential he’s shown flashes of. He was also recruited by his eventual backcourt mate who at the point was a more well-established contributor. Sound at all familiar?
I know Dinwiddie is older than Arenas was when he joined the Wizards but I can’t help but see some similarities. I’m not saying Dinwiddie will have the same peak Arenas did but I do think he can take his game up a level now that he will have more opportunities to shine.
I could also make a case that Dinwiddie has some in common with Larry Hughes, my Bleav in Wizards co-host. Both Hughes and Dinwiddie are 6’5 guards, can play on-and-off ball, have the length and athleticism to be pests defensively, and are not known for their perimeter shooting.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: DeShawn Stevenson
Caldwell-Pope’s swag is decidedly not as crazy as Stevenson’s but there’s still some overlap here. In four seasons with the Wizards, Stevenson averaged 9 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and shot 35.3% from three. For his career, Caldwell-Pope is averaging 11.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 35.5% from three. Both are out there to guard the opposing team’s best perimeter player and hit (hopefully) open corner threes.
Raul Neto: Roger Mason
Neto (6’1) is a considerably shorter than Mason (listed at 6’5) but both played largely the same roles as combo guards who provided floor-spacing. With the Wizards, Neto is averaging 8.8 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and shooting 38.7% from three on 2.5 attempts. In three season in Washington, Mason averaged 6 points, 1.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and shot 38.1% from three on 3 attempts.
Aaron Holiday: Incomplete
Holiday doesn’t really remind me of anyone yet, it’s too small of a sample size. If you wanted to go just by stats, you could make a case for guys like Juan Dixon or Chucky Atkins. For his career, Holiday is averaging 7.6 points, 1.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and shooting 37% from three on 2.9 attempts.
In one season in Washington, Atkins averaged 6.7 points, 1.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and shooting 35.9% from three on 3.3 attempts. In four seasons with the Wizards, Dixon averaged 7.5 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and shooting 31.2% from three on 2.2 attempts. Those are about as close as I could think of in the general timeframe we’re talking about here. Any and all suggestions are welcome for this one.
Cassius Winston: Awvee Storey
In 25 games with the Wizards in 2005-2006, Storey averaged 1.7 points and .2 assists. He was out of the league the next season before a brief stint in Milwaukee in 2007-2008. Unfortunately, Winston’s career seems headed in the same direction.
Joel Ayayi: Billy Thomas
Thomas was a 6’4 guard, spent four years at a big-time college program (Kansas), averaged 13.6 points, and was largely overshadowed by two teammates who went in the first round (Paul Pierce and Raef LaFrentz). Ayayi is a 6’4 guard, spent three years at a big-time college program, averaged 12 points, and was largely overshadowed by two who went in the first round (Jalen Suggs and Corey Kispert).
Thomas didn’t do much for the Wizards, averaging 2.2 points in 17 games. I do like Ayayi as a prospect and I expect he will have a longer NBA career than Thomas (53 games) but I wouldn’t expect much this season.