One Digestion of The Gilbert Arenas-Rashard Lewis Trade | Wizards Blog Truth About

One Digestion of The Gilbert Arenas-Rashard Lewis Trade

Updated: December 19, 2010

Before a trade even went down, and as legitimate rumors made their infiltration Friday night, I somewhat contemplated the departure of Gilbert Arenas from the Washington Wizards. It was vastly incomplete, but my point was that in D.C., Arenas will be remembered for both good and bad, but mostly for the good.

As the trade became official while I was scrambling to get to the Verizon Center for the Wizards-Heat game on late Saturday afternoon, I spurted off several reactions on Twitter, but I don’t consider them as being anywhere close to complete either. The departure of someone who was so ingrained into modern D.C. basketball culture, much less franchise history, is difficult to contemplate, especially so soon. Surely many, myself included, will digest Arenas’ tenure in Washington plenty in the future … and then regurgitate and digest again.

But until then, below is one digestive attempt I made on the trade after Ernie Grunfeld’s press conference, which was held just over 100 minutes before tip-off. I had the opportunity to write this for’s TrueHoop blog, where you’ll also find a brief analysis of both of Orlando’s blockbuster trades from respective Magic and Suns bloggers in the TrueHoop Network. So, check out what I have to say below and be sure and get the full picture at TrueHoop.

Mr. Opportunity

In his news conference regarding the trade, Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld spoke of the opportunity that presented itself. “Opportunities don’t come along that often in the NBA,” Grunfeld said. He later countered with, “People in this league will always want talented players, and Gilbert is a talented player.” That “always” for Arenas was evidently a closing window Grunfeld had to jump through on Dec. 18, almost two months before the NBA’s trade deadline. So why the urgency?

“If you wait too long, something disappears, you might not have anything,” Grunfeld said when asked about the timing of this specific opportunity. The man in charge of rebuilding the Wizards according to Ted Leonsis’ plan earlier claimed that Orlando, “was the first team that aggressively wanted to make some changes.” As you can see, Grunfeld is hard to read. Opportunities evidently don’t always come up for players whose talent people will always want while Orlando was the first team that wanted to do something. Just a tad contradictory, I’d say.

But for Grunfeld, the exchange was all about his personal perfect storm. Moving on past the Gilbert Arenas saga? Check. Save a little money? Check to the tune of at least $24 million. Get a player presumed to be a better fit with John Wall as a stretch four who can open up the court? Check, theoretically.

Unfortunately in Lewis, Grunfeld adds another soft big man to a stable already with plenty to spare in that department (when the announced plan of the team has been to get tougher). He also further maligns a fan base already disenchanted with his seven-year tenure running the basketball operations of the team. Fans hoped for a return to the old Arenas, but seem content that it was time for him to go. But for now, as franchise savior John Wall misses his tenth of only 25 games on the year, only getting a slightly less bad contract for the bad contract of a fan favorite seems harder to sell than a consensus on health care in Congress.

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.

  • szr

    I’m having a hard time understanding this trade, except as a salary dump. Lewis has been bad recently, and REALLY bad this year. Arenas hasn’t been very good either, but he’s been much better than Lewis.

    Of course, as a salary dump, this isn’t a good one either. I’d prefer a dump on someone in the final year of their contract, like Vince Carter.

    Honestly, I’m still amazed Grunfeld has kept his job. I honestly don’t know what he needs to do in order to get fired.

  • Michael

    Your idea that Lewis is a “soft big man” I think is incorrect. As SVG noted during his press conference, Rashard Lewis is naturally a small forward and has been playing out of position in Orlando. While I realize he has been pretty bad in Orlando the last two seasons, I’m curious to see how he can do in his natural 3 position with the Wizards. And let’s face it, he can’t be any worse than Arenas.

    @szr- while I totally agree Grunfeld needs to be fired for the Wizards to have any chance of being competitive in the future, I have a hard time believing Orlando would trade VCarter for Arenas. That trade would make zero sense for Orlando. I think Lewis is as good as we can get and I’m fine with that.

  • Actually, Michael, I think the Magic have been playing Lewis at the SF more this year and his performance has been worse. Check these stats from

    48-minute production numbers:

    PER at SF = 8.1
    PER at PF = 13.5

    Opponent PER when Lewis is at SF = 18.3
    Opponent PER when Lewis is at PF = 10.3

    Lewis has a .411 eFG% when at SF and a .549 eFG% when at PF.

    When at SF, Lewis’ opposition shoots a .530 eFG% and his opposition at PF shoots a .422 eFG%.

    So, clearly this season Lewis is faring worse at SF and he is defending worse too.

    Sure, these numbers are certainly influenced because Lewis was playing next to a dominant big man as a stretch-four.

    So all I’m saying is that the numbers are there to support that playing as a SF may not be all that suited for Lewis, i.e., “natural” … so then you say, well, the guy is 6-10, he can get some rebounds, right?

    No, he’s averaging 4.7 rebounds per 36 minutes this season … Cartier Martin is averaging 4.8 rebounds per 36.

    Again, a lot of these numbers are swayed by environment, but I still feel that Lewis a soft big man because he can’t really guard 3s (or 4s for all that matter).

  • Michael

    I’m not going to deny that Lewis has been pretty terrible this season, but if you look at his 2009-2010 stats, he was better both offensively and defensively as the small forward than he was at power forward.

    Offensive Per at SF- 21.2
    Opponent Per SF- 16.7

    From what I’ve seen of him, I still think he is better suited at the small forward position and I’d like to see what he can do in a Wizards uniform.

    As for the rebounding, I agree he isn’t much of a rebounder. Hence why I think he is better suited for the perimeter where you don’t have to rely on him to get boards for you.

  • Adam McGinnis

    I agree with SZR. How does Grunfeld keep his job? He is making up for mistakes that he made! It boggles the mind. Leonsis is a smart man but Grunfeld is not George McPhee and sooner he realizes this, the better.

  • Fair enough Michael…

    But does Lewis start at SF? I think you have to start Josh Howard… he’s going to surprise some people.

    Of course, Howard also becomes a valuable trade piece. I could totally see a team giving up a first rounder for him should a dire need for a playoff push arise at the trade deadline.

    Even more important, neither Lewis nor Blatche seems to be the answer at PF. Keep McGee, he’ll be fine on day. But I feel that Dray is another case.

  • Michael

    Personally, I’d start Lewis for now and use Howard as his primary back-up. See what both of them can do. Whoever plays better, let them get the bulk of the minutes and the starting job.

    If Howard plays well, it will increase his trade value. If Lewis is better, well, he is probably going to be on the roster next year and your paying him a ton of money so that works out too.

    Either way, it’s not a huge issue in my eyes because this team isn’t going anywhere this year so they can experiment.

    I agree with you on McGee, but I thought Washington basically threw in the towel for the season when they decided to make him the starter with no competent backup.

    As for Blatche, Ernie Grunfeld basically drafted 2 power forwards in the first round along with extending his contract. You would think maybe one of those guys will eventually push Blatche for a starting job if doesn’t play well enough. If not, another reason why Gunfeld has to go.

  • szr

    Right now, the Wizards have so many problems it is hard to know where to focus. Here are a couple things I think most of us can agree on:

    (1) John Wall is a very good player. He has been an above-average NBA starting guard as a rookie, which is just amazing. Usually very good rookies are still below average at their position. So this is a good thing for the future.

    (2) McGee is really moving into the upper tiers at his position. He is, right now, the best player on the Wizards. This is also very very good.

    (3) The rest of the roster runs from the serviceable to the truly awful. And I fear Grunfled keeps thinking of Blatche and Nick Young as keys. Neither one, I think, should be in the Wizard’s long-term plans. Blatche because he isn’t productive or a good defender.

    Which brings us to:

    (4) Nick Young. He needs to be traded. His value is unlikely to be higher than it is right now, but he needs to go. He plays like he’s the only guy on offense, which is REALLY silly, considering that he has better offensive players around him who are smart enough not to just jack up the ball every chance they get. Wall could also score 20 to 30 a night if he shot it every time he touched it like Young. And he would do it at a better percentage as well.

  • Anthony

    If it wasn’t for length of contract. Rashard Lewis probably would have made sense in PHX @ power forward since they have a plethora of small forwards.

    I would trade Josh Howard at the deadline for a 1st round pick, can always resign him in the offseason.

    I would normally agree to trade Nick Young as he doesn’t have very good feel for team game, but.. I don’t think he has much trade value at all. Maybe.. you could get O.J. Mayo for him. which I would do, otherwise might as well use the cap space next summer to collect assets like 1st round picks to take on expiring contracts. like Thunder..

    I wonder if we could get Anthony Randolph, he could end up peaking late like Lamar Odom.

  • Patrick

    I’m really getting tired of Wizards fans trashing Andray Blatche. He may have made some youthful mistakes early on in his career, but since Jamison’s departure he’s really stepped up. He just got 20 and 11 against the most heralded team in the league. Ditto for Nick Young, who is finally living up to his potential.

    A lineup of McGee, Blatche, Howard at the 3, Wall and Young–with Armstrong, Kirk, and Thornton coming off the bench–seems at least competitive to me. I don’t see where Rashard Lewis fits in, but I don’t think he’s going to be here long.

  • szr

    Patrick, I’m not sure how you define “competitive” but given that this is essentially the line-up that has given us 6-19, I don’t agree, I also don’t agree with regards to Blatche and Young for very concrete, measurable reasons.

    They both shoot the shot at a low percentage compared to the average player at this position. They both rebound less well than the average player at their position. They both contribute fewer assist (especially in Nick Young’s case) than players at their position.

    They’ve both been in the league long enough that we know this is the production we can expect from them. Andray has been in the league for 5 years, and Nick for 4. They aren’t likely to get better.

    The only reason you think they are better is they’re getting a lot more minutes now. But their productivity per minute hasn’t improved any. And this is why those guys need to go, or at least moved out of the starting line-up, and replaced by players who are at least average at their positions.

  • Michael

    @szr- I’m not sure why you keep bashing Nick Young. He’s the leading scorer in the league of people coming off the bench and is shooting 47%.
    This statement with regards to Nick Young is just flat out incorrect, “The only reason you think they are better is they’re getting a lot more minutes now. But their productivity per minute hasn’t improved any.” He has a PER of 17.1 this season which is higher than it has ever been.

    The guy is playing extremely well this season considering the circumstances and is definitely worthy of keeping around as a scorer off the bench.

    And btw, I also completely disagree with this statement as well, “Wall could also score 20 to 30 a night if he shot it every time he touched it like Young. And he would do it at a better percentage as well.”

    John Wall is a poor shooter. He is only shooting 41% from the floor and 33% from 3 point even though every team sags off him because they know he has no jumper. Young is a superior shooter right now and will always shoot it at a better percentage until Wall gets a jumper.

  • szr

    You’re right Michael. Nick Young has, statistically, improved. I’m not sure what I was looking at earlier today.

    I still wish he’d throw the ball around, but I was too hard on the guy.

  • aaron

    Do you know why Nick Young’s PER has been higher this year? Because a player’s PER improves and is impacted by scoring in general, not the efficiency that a player scores. Nick Young has been shooting more and therefore has a higher PER. That being said, he doesn’t play defense, assist or rebound. According to WP48, Nick Young negatively impacted the Wiz last season. So yes, Young can score, but he can’t do anything else. And that hurts the wizards.
    I wish we could keep Wall, JaVale, Heinrich, Thorton and then get rid of everyone else for a quality rebounding defensive big, a back-up PG, an efficient 3pt shooter, and then some good role players.

  • Kris

    Grunfield got Arenas to come here to begin with, that was a great acquisition.
    Getting rid of Kwame Brown and getting Caron Butler was another steal. Acquiring Jamison was brilliant. He was patient to see if the core players could get to the finals. He blew up the team when he saw it couldnt, and got good players and draft pick. When Arena’s untradeable contract prevented a trade he traded him anyway. He brought in a top level coach, and needs to fire him because he doesn’t fit this team, he was hired for another type of team. Ernie Grunfeld is one of the shrewdest GM’s in the business. No other GM could have taken apart the mess that was left after Gilbert made that mistake, and still had pieces for the future.

  • Michael

    @aaron- I really don’t think you know what a PER is. It means “Player Efficiency Rating” so yes, it calculates a player’s efficiency. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that his shooting percentage right now, 48%, is the highest it has ever been in his career and therefore his PER is the highest it has ever been.

    And frankly, when Nick puts his mind to it, he can be a very good defender. His opponent PER is second best on the team behind Al Thornton. So to say he doesn’t do anything but score is false.

    And I realize I’ve been defending Nick Young in my last two posts, and while I’m not a huge Nick Young fan, he has clearly been our best player the last few games (and frankly second best on the team behind John Wall) so to bash him without any evidence to back it up is a little ridiculous.