On Sunday, the noise that the Los Angeles Lakers were reportedly considering signing Gilbert Arenas became louder. While last night’s win over the Minnesota Timberwolves kept the Lakers within one game of the division-leading Los Angeles Clippers, the organization still sits tied for eighth in the Western Conference. Below are several angles related to Arenas’ struggles over the last few seasons.
Effective Field Goal Percentage: Effective field-goal percentage adjusts for the value of three-point field goals relative to two-point field goals and shows Arenas’ lack of efficiency over the last few seasons. Of the 252 players in the NBA who have attempted 1,000 field goals since the start of the 2008-09 season, only 10 have worse eFG percentages than Arenas (44.4 percent). By comparison, Kobe Bryant’s effective field-goal percentage is almost five percentage points higher than Arenas’ since the start of the 2008-09 season (49.2).
Usage Percentage: Compounding his shooting problems, Arenas has used over 30 percent of his team’s possessions while he has been on the floor, as shown by his usage percentage since the start of the 2008-09 season, which ranks 17th in the entire NBA. While many of the other leaders in usage percentage over that time period include some of the best players in the NBA, Arenas is dominating the ball while also not being efficient, a troublesome combination, as he ranks just 160th in Player Efficiency Rating among those with at least 3,000 minutes played over that time span. When one considers that Kobe Bryant ranks 1st in usage percentage, there might not be enough basketball to go around.
Isolation Plays/Inside 5 Feet: In particular, Arenas has struggled on isolation plays. He was among the least efficient players in the league last season on those plays. On 75 isolation plays last season, he shot 30.5 percent and had 12 turnovers and 18 field goals.
Fewest Points per Isolation Play 2010-11 Season (min. 75 plays)
Arenas also had problems last season getting to the rim and converting when he got there. Of the 242 players who attempted 100 shots from inside of five feet last season, he had the third-lowest field-goal percentage (48.6) and the third-lowest percentage of overall attempts. Less than 15 percent of all of Arenas’ field-goal attempts last season came within five feet of the basket.
Overall Efficiency: While the Lakers undoubtedly need additional scoring punch, it’s unclear whether Arenas is that player. From 2004-05 to 2006-07, Arenas was a legitimate star, posting a cumulative PER of 23.0 and a field goal percentage of 43.2. From 2007-08 to 2009-10, Arenas battled injuries but was largely still a very effective player when he played, contributing a PER of 18.6 with a field goal percentage of 40.4. The wheels came off in 2010-11, as his PER was just 10.8 and a field goal percentage of 36.6, including an 8.6 PER in his 49 games with the Orlando Magic.
While Arenas brings name value, injuries and a decline in his skill set have eroded his true value over the years. If Arenas, as he stands now, is an inefficient player who dominates the basketball and struggles to score close to the basket or generate his offense through isolation - which the aforementioned statistics suggest - then it's fair to question what his signing would bring to the scuffling Lakers.