The Grizzlies have signed Gilbert Arenas to become the solution to their backup point guard woes. Since they traded Greivis Vasquez prior to the season, the Grizzlies have played Josh Selby and Jeremy Pargo as backups to Mike Conley. That experiment hasn’t quite worked out, as neither player has a PER over 5. In their push for a top seed, Memphis can’t waste time waiting for their young backups to develop. Their offense has struggled to produce without Mike Conley on the floor. Let’s take a look at how the veteran Arenas can fit in with the Grizzlies on offense.
The chart below shows each of the Memphis players’ points per possession in the most common types of possessions for Grizzlies’ point guards: isolation, pick and roll, and spot-up. In these specific situations, Arenas’ play last year was far superior than Pargo and Selby’s current performance. In fact, his numbers can be favorably compared to Mike Conley.
Pick and Roll
Selby and Pargo have been heavily used in pick and roll possessions; however, neither have been particularly successful. In a disappointing stint with Orlando, the pick and roll was where Arenas did his best work. While Arenas did not attack the rim like he did in his pre-injury days, or even as much as Pargo and Selby right now, his overall numbers in the pick and roll were better than what Pargo and Selby are producing. You can expect to hear more along the lines of how good Arenas looked in his workouts, but it remains to be seen how he performs in game action. Last year, he showed an inability to turn the corner on the pick and roll, which led to him shooting jump shots 74 percent of the time. The video below shows how he settled for jumpers instead of attacking a slower defender.
As a passer in the pick and roll, Arenas had some chemistry with Ryan Anderson when he popped out to the three point line. While Memphis does not have a big man with Anderson’s range, Marc Gasol has been a very effective pick and pop partner for Memphis ball handlers. He ranks 36th in the NBA in points per possession as a roll man, and three quarters of the shots he takes in those situations are jumpers. Again, he’s not Ryan Anderson, but Gasol is shooting well above league average from 10-15 feet and 16-23 feet from the basket. Gilbert and Gasol should form an effective partnership should Memphis choose to use it. The video below shows how Gilbert operated with Anderson popping to the perimeter.
Arenas’ ability in isolation is better than the other options the Grizzlies have at point guard, but it is not something that will provide efficient offense for Memphis. If it comes down to an isolation situation to create offense, Gasol, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, O.J. Mayo, and Marreese Speights have all been superior isolation options to Arenas. Last year, Arenas’ problems in isolation stemmed from his reliance on his jumper because he could not beat his man off of the dribble. He was crafty enough to get some space for his jumper, but relying on long contested jumpers does not a successful offense make.
With the established offensive options on Memphis, Arenas will likely have plenty of spot-up opportunities. Whether he capitalizes on these opportunities depends on his jumper. Over the past five years, his three point percentage has been below 30% more often than not. The talk of his improved jump shot is encouraging, but expected. Whether it has actually improved remains to be seen. Arenas shot only 32% on spot-up threes with Orlando, and he also had problems getting to the hoop, attempting only one layup in spot-up situations. The video below shows his struggles getting to the hoop in these situations. The good news is that even considering all of these negative attributes, he was still better than Selby and Pargo on a per possession basis.
While Gilbert Arenas took a lot of flak for his performance in Orlando, that version of Arenas would have been better than Memphis’ current backup options. If his jumper has improved or he has gained some explosiveness, then Arenas will be substantially better than the other backup options. Defense may be a different story, but pairing Arenas with a strong defender like Tony Allen could alleviate some of those concerns. Considering his veteran’s minimum contract, this is a low risk play for the Grizzlies.