This is going to be a circus when it's time for Gilbert Arenas to come back from his latest knee surgery. He's the guy making the most money and that gives him more freedom to do as he pleases. The reality is that they have a chance to get off to a good start because Arenas is out. They played their best basketball as a team without him last year. When he's not in the game, they're executing their offense better and sharing the ball more. That's why Brendan Haywood was better last year -- he was able to touch the ball sometimes.
When Arenas comes back, the dynamics change. He knows he's got the power because of his contract. I think his presence puts pressure on coach Eddie Jordan, whose offense is set up to be equal opportunity -- but he has to get past the first pass to do it. A lot of times, Gilbert breaks off stuff or dribbles out instead of making the pass. He makes plays for himself, he takes early shots. If they get off to a good start, it's going to be hard to have success without him and then try to plug him in. If Arenas would try to win and average only 19 points a game instead of 25, then he could be a beast because the defense would have to guard everybody on the floor. It's pretty slim odds that Arenas will score less, especially now that he's made himself into a blogger and opinon-maker. He makes himself into a character, and I think he needs the attention he gets from scoring those extra six points per game.
Another big issue is their defense. They don't have to be a poor defensive team, but they haven't got it done yet. Antawn Jamison is not a very good defender. Everyone else is OK, plus Caron Butler and Antonio Daniels are good defenders.
Not having Haywood, who underwent preseason wrist surgery, is going to hurt them. He was doing a better job of staying out of foul trouble and blocking shots and rebounding. The only good thing about it is that Haywood and his backup, Etan Thomas, don't get along at all, so they won't have to worry about the relationship until Haywood comes back.
As Jamison gets older, he should remain productive because he has the ability to shoot from the perimeter and the rest of his game is so unorthodox. He drives and shoots off the wrong leg and all of those other things he does. He should have a couple of more years where he can get 20 a game. The problem is that he has lot of trouble guarding whether he's on the perimeter or in the post. No matter what his matchup is, that guy has a chance to go at him and get points.
Butler is my favorite player on their team by far. As long as doesn't settle on the perimeter for threes or early shots, he'll continue to benefit from the offense to get shots for him in the post. A lot of small forwards can't guard him there. He's tough, he doesn't back down and he's a rebounder when he needs to be, as well as a good defender. He's a big key to why they've been in the playoffs in recent years. He is that tough guy they need, but there are also times when he doesn't seem like he's in the game.
Daniels is a really good third guard who will probably have to start while Arenas is out. Now they have Juan Dixon and Dee Brown coming off the bench and neither one has proved to be a guy who has an impact. Both are small compared to Daniels, so there will issues that way too. At least Dixon is familiar with the system and can make shots, so you have to guard him.
I don't think a lot is expected from DeShawn Stevenson -- which is good, because if you expect a lot, then you'll be disappointed. They'll need Nick Young [the 16th pick in the 2007 draft] to be more consistent than he was as a rookie. They might be a little disappointed with him considering the talent that was available at that stage of the draft.
Depth is a problem now. They can't afford to lose another one of their scorers while Arenas is out. Dominic McGuire could spell Jamison or Butler in their offense. Andray Blatche has be the power forward behind Jamison. Last year Blatche was good at the 5 because he could run and beat guys down the floor and face up, using his whole skill set. At the 4 he's talented, but he won't have as many clear mismatches.
Jordan has been a pretty good coach, especially considering all of the things he's had to manage. He coaches a diverse group of personalities and they have issues all the time, from their centers fighting to whatever Arenas is doing. He has figured out a way for them to be productive. But at the defensive end they need some work, and this is a big year for him personally to prove they can get to the second round. Maturity has been an issue for their players, and a lot of that has to do with the leadership they get -- or don't get -- from Arenas as their best player.
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