Who do you want your offense to run through with the game on the line? Counting down from 30th to 1st (one per team), I’ve ranked the League’s go-to guys…
GILBERT ARENAS, Washington Wizards
For a star basketball player who became rich and famous thanks in large part to his mastery in the art of hype and promotion, Arenas is very aware that he’s not The Man in D.C. Call him what you want, but Arenas is smart enough to realize his actions and injuries over the past three years — coupled with the intriguing new-ness that inevitably trails a No. 1 overall draft pick — have put him below John Wall on the Wizards’ marquee.
But while Wall is the future, Arenas is still the present, at least in terms of who gets the ball in their hands when it’s time to win a ballgame.
Before his sense of humor and later sense of hubris ended his 2009-10 season, Arenas was on his way back to All-Star form, averaging 22.6 points and 7.2 assists per game. When the Wizards still had Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison on the roster before their trade-deadline bailout, Arenas had reclaimed his spot as the go-to guy in crunch time. He was rusty — like when he got picked by Tyreke Evans on a crucial possession in a national TV loss — but other times was reminiscent of the fourth-quarter killer who once had the Wizards masquerading as a dark horse Easter contender when they really had no business being dangerous.
According to 82games.com, Arenas averaged 27.6 points per 48 minutes of “clutch time” last season, highest on the Wizards. There was a comeback win at Toronto where he scored 12 in the fourth quarter. And there was a win at Golden State where he dropped 45 points and 13 dimes. “There was some talk about him not being at his best because of his injury but stats don’t lie,” Stephen Curry told reporters after that one. “He dominated the game from start to finish.”
However, Arenas shot just 36% from the field and 63% from the line in those clutch moments — 4th quarter or overtime, 5 minutes or less on the clock, 5-point margin or less — plus a paltry 12% from three-point range.
Despite what those numbers suggest, Arenas is an elite shooter. With Wall asked to handle the point guard duties while Arenas moves over to the two — he has yet to play this season due to an ankle injury — Gilbert will get more catch-and-shoot opportunities and could hit a few Ray Allen-type buckets coming off screens or torching defenses who collapse on Wall. But Arenas excels when he’s creating his own offense. Only seven percent of his clutch-time buckets last year were assisted; Brandon Roy (9%) was the only go-to guy to even approached those numbers as a self-starter. Even Kobe Bryant received an assist on 18% of his clutch shots.
Arenas isn’t the face of the Wizards anymore. He knows that, is allegedly OK with that, and has said all the right things to those wondering how he’ll deal with it. Maybe he can say the right things because he knows that, while Wall might be getting the spotlight, he’ll be the one in charge of the team’s fortunes.
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17. Amar’e Stoudemire (Knicks)
18. Monta Ellis (Warriors)
19. Danny Granger (Pacers)
20. John Salmons (Bucks)
21. Rudy Gay (Grizzlies)
22. Stephen Jackson (Bobcats)
23. Baron Davis (Clippers)
24. Ben Gordon (Pistons)
25. Andre Iguodala (76ers)
26. Yao Ming (Rockets)
27. Mo Williams (Cavaliers)
28. Brook Lopez (Nets)
29. Andrea Bargnani (Raptors)
30. Michael Beasley (Timberwolves)