Yesterday I completed the analysis of every team in the Eastern Conference with a posting on the Washington Wizards. In the course of reviewing the Wizards in 2005-06 I made what I thought was a fairly obvious observation – Gilbert Arenas is a very good player, but not one of the NBA’s elite. This position was based on the observation that the productivity of Arenas – although quite good – was not quite the same as what we observe from players like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. To be honest, I did not think this was a particularly controversial observation.
Wages of Wins has gotten around to its Washington Wizards summary and reaches an unorthodox conclusion. The ‘Zards, in Dave Berry’s view, had a strong supporting cast (”Only Boston, Dallas, Indiana, Miami, and San Antonio managed to have this many above average performers”) but Agent Zero himself isn’t especially good (”Of last year’s playoff teams, only the Sacramento Kings and Milwaukee Bucks were led in Wins Produced by a less productive player”). This sort of seems like one of these conclusions one could reach if and only if one had never actually . . . watched the team play or seen the Wizards offense go to shit without the professor of Gilbertology on the floor.
Yglesias argues that Arenas must be a great player because the Wizards do not play well when he is not the court. Not sure what to make of this comment. Arenas was not often on the bench for the Wizards. And if we look at the Wizards roster we see one reason for Arenas to stay on the floor. One of the other point guards was Chucky Atkins, a player who is not – and never has been — very productive. In fact, other than Antonio Daniels, none of the other guards the Wizards employed were above average. Hence it is not a surprise that the team suffered when Arenas was not there.
All that being said, I would repeat the observation that Arenas is a very good player. He is an efficient scorer who is quite good at getting to the free throw line. He does turn the ball over a bit much and neither rebounds or generate steals at an exceptional rate for a player at his position. Still, despite these unexceptional aspects of his game, he is very good. Last year only twenty-five players produced more wins than Arenas. And only four point guards – Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Chris Paul, and Chauncey Billups – were more productive.
Unfortunately, although Arenas is very good, for a team to contend for a title it needs more than a very good player to lead the way. As I argued yesterday, it needs a player who can generate a very high number of wins by himself. And Arenas simply does not look to be that kind of player.