On the Wizzy Wiz roster, which ESPN projects as competing for but failing to secure a playoff spot, Gilbert Arenas’s top sidekicks will be John Wall and Josh Howard.
With Wall, the #1 pick, the question is whether he will struggle like Rondo or dominate like Tyreke Evans out of the gate. Howard, a one-time All-Star, is capable of scoring 20 points a game even if he isn’t the best player on the roster, but he has injury rust. Those two are decent, but no one will pick Arenas/Wall/Howard over Pierce/Garnett/Allen or especially James/Bosh/Wade in a 3-on-3 game.
To truly predict the success of this year’s ‘Zards we should look back at the star-crossed career of the gun-slinging Arenas and see who his best teammates were, and how the squad fared (likely, not that well. He’s only been out of the first round once). Note: I only used each player once, otherwise everyone would be different iterations of Antawn Jamison. What fun would that be?
5. Danny Fortson, 01-02 edition: Yup, this will give you an idea of how hurting Arenas’s teammates have been.But on the 01-02 Warriors (21-61), Fortson was somehow a beast. Someone has to get rebounds. He averaged over 11 points and 11 rebounds (fourth in the league) per game for this terrible team, which also featured young versions of Larry Hughes and Antawn Jamison. Safe to say we would take Josh Howard over this guy.
4. Troy Murphy, 02-03 edition: Ugh. 11-10 for the 02-03 Warriors (38-44), but that’s about it. 45 percent from the field for a big man is bad, especially considering he wasn’t really taking 3-pointers at this point in his career. But he is better than other iterations of Arenas teammates Jerry Stackhouse and Jason Richardson, who both scored but did little else. At least Murphy rebounded, but I am grasping at straws. Again, Howard is better than him.
3. Larry Hughes 04-05 edition: Larry Hughes is generally the worst, but in 04-05 (45-37), incidentally the only year an Arenas-led team advanced to the second round of the playoffs, he had his best year ever, and is the first player on this list I would consider “good,” if only for this year. He averaged 22/5/4.7 but most importantly shot .430, his second-highest career mark while playing almost 40 minutes per game. Hughes is an AWFUL shooter, inspiring a website dedicated to his bad shot selection, but that year he was a relative marksman and played lockdown D. I would rate him as Howard-esque.
2. Caron Butler, 07-08 edition: The first of two players from the 07-08 Wiz, which trucked along to a 43-39 record mostly without GA. These players are still instructive, because Gil could get injured again, and this team still played well without him; would the 10-11 Wiz do the same led by Wall/Howard? Butler scored almost 20 points a game, grabbed two steals per game, filled it up with rebounds and assists (6.7/4.9) and shot well (.466) from the field. Still fairly Howard-esqure, but Butler is a superior defender, or was at this point in his career.
1. Antawn Jamison, 07-08 edition: The 07-08 Wizards are better than the 10-11 Wizard will be, but by how much? And what will Arenas bring to the table? Jamison is by far the best teammate Arenas has ever had, whether in Golden State or in Washington. He can score efficiently (considering all the jumpers he takes) and rebounds really well for a player his size. He also has a nice 3-point shot and can create his own offense. This year he averaged a 20-10. Enough said. Until Wall is in his prime, this is the best player Arenas has ever played with, and he is remarkably consistent (despite his stinker against the C’s this year, his playoff numbers are close to his career numbers).
GA has played on some really bad teams. His best teammates are all guys that could NOT carry a team by themselves. This is both encouraging and disappointing. It means if Wall/Howard play relatively well and if GA has no injury/gunsmoke rust, the team could compete for the playoffs, especially given what the Jamison/Butler team did in 07-08. But that’s two big ifs. If either Howard or Arenas get hurt, this team is going straight to a nice lottery pick, because dumping it to Javale McGee in the post will not cut it.
In conclusion, 07-08 Jamison/Butler>10-11 Howard/Wall. But what will Arenas add? We’ll see in November.