How Does Gilbert Arenas Fit Into the Lakers’ Plans?

The Lakers are interested in finding some scoring punch  to support their big three of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum.  According to reports, Gilbert Arenas could be the man for the job.  Last year, Arenas was brought into Orlando to come off the bench as a perimeter shot creator, which is similar to the potential role he would see on the Lakers.  Let’s take a look at how Arenas might fit into the Lakers’ plans, using his play from Orlando as an example.

The Lakers do not invest many of their possessions  in running the pick and roll, but the best part of Arenas’ game last year was his play in that area.  To be clear, his per possession numbers as a pick and roll ball handler were not great; he ranked 94th in the NBA in that situation, according to Synergy Sports.  Also, this was with the Magic, who have a great pick and roll roster, with Dwight Howard and Ryan Anderson as roll/pop big men and plenty of other shooters to space the floor.  However, one thing Arenas did well as a ball handler was run the pick and pop with Anderson.  If the Lakers are going to cater to Gilbert’s strengths by running more pick and rolls, someone like Troy Murphy could benefit from being the big man popping out to the three point line.  The clips below show how Arenas works with a shooting big man.

From a scoring perspective, Arenas’ performance was a far cry from his heyday in Washington.  His number of shot attempts at the rim was way down, and, in turn, his free throw rate dropped.  As a pick and roll ball handler, he had little desire to attack the defense; he instead settled for jumpers.  Coming off a pick, 74% of his shots were jump shots, a number that would rank among the league leaders this year.

Shooting all of these jumpers might work for a better shooter, but it is disconcerting to see Arenas pass up opportunities to attack a big man off the dribble.  Contrast this with someone like James Harden, who drives directly at the hedging big man, and you can really see the difference.  The following video shows his reluctance to attack the defense.  Even with a running start at the helper, he settles for long twos instead of collapsing the defense.

As an isolation scorer, perhaps something the Lakers want for their 2nd unit, Arenas was bad.  He averaged 0.64 points per isolation possession, good for 223rd in the NBA.  His problem, similar to the problem above, is his reliance on step-back and pull-up jumpers because he does not get all the way to the basket.  Arenas is still able to get some separation, but relying on two point jumpers is a fool’s errand.  The first few clips show step back jumpers, while the second group of clips show the struggles in getting to the rim.

Gilbert should have a tough time if he is on the court with Kobe, Gasol, and Bynum.  If they are dominating the ball, Arenas will be relegated to spot-up possessions, where he ranked 260th last year.  Much more of a scorer than a shooter, he only shot 32% on spot-up threes last year. Unfortunately, he also had problems beating the defense off of the dribble when they took away the three.  Coming out of spot-up situations, he attempted only one layup during his time with Orlando.  As a comparison, both Steve Blake and Derek Fisher have matched that number this season.  Arenas’ shooting percentages speak for themselves, so the following video show his struggles in getting all the way to the basket in spot-up situations, even with a defender running at him.

Looking at the Lakers’ offense this year, it is hard to see how Arenas fits either playing with the starters or leading the bench unit.  Arenas will probably never be the same player as the pre-injury version, but if he can regain just a little quickness, some of those pull up jumpers could turn into layups and more trips to the free throw line.


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