Random Take: If Gilbert Arenas’ Career Started Four Years Ago He’d Be a First Ballot Hall of Famer

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Going back home to Vermont for the holidays always brings back memories from a life I left behind long ago. The old DVDs, the family photos, the clothes no one’s had the heart to get rid of yet. The archaic gaming systems in particular drum up some of the first takes I ever had about sports. When I got together with my high school friends and we fired up the PS2 and started playing some old NBA games, my mid-2000s NBA takes came flooding back. I couldn’t help myself and just started spewing them out: “If he was in a better system Kelenna Azubuike would have been an All Star.” “Kevin Martin will lead the league in scoring at least five times.” “Stromile Swift is the greatest athlete in pro sports history.” And, of course, “Gilbert Arenas is the best player in the NBA.” I loved Gilbert. He was my favorite player. I had his shoes! These ones here:

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I was the biggest Gilbert stan in the world. I put on for Agent Zero like random kids from Iowa put on for Kobe. When it all fell apart for him I was heartbroken. It just seemed so preventable. And when I thought about him a few days ago I told my friends “If Gilbert Arenas’ career started today he’d be a first ballot hall of famer.” We kicked around the idea for a bit, but quickly moved on. And I thought that was that. But then when I watched Isaiah Thomas come back last night (did you know he got traded in the offseason? And that he was unhappy about it? I just found out the other day. Crazy) and play well right away, it brought back the Gilbert thoughts. Isaiah can dominate in today’s game, couldn’t Gilbert? Couldn’t Gilbert have been even better today? Then I knew I had to dive in and make the case that Gilbert Arenas should have been an all time great.

I adjusted the take to “If his career started four years ago” because Gilbert’s short-lived prime started four years into his career. Now, Gilbert’s ascendancy to all star status had a lot of Isaiah-like variables: taken in the second round, traded after showing promise, kind of given up on. For the purpose of this, lets just assume all those things happen again so he has the same backstory and motivation. Anyway, from 2004-2007 he made three straight all star games, putting up 27.7 pts, 5.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds (I take it back. What point guard could be considered elite in 2018 only averaging 4 rebounds a game?), and 2 steals shooting .432/.361/.826. He shot over 7 threes a game in a time when threes were still considered poison. He got to the line over 9 times a game in a time where the only thing considered a foul was literal murder. He was one of the most talented scorers in the NBA. Take a look at some of these highlights.

Gilbert dominated playing the modern game in 2006! He would have feasted today. The game is so much more open these days, the driving lanes he had to create himself are now there naturally (that Wizards team was actually strangely ahead of its time with Antawn Jamison at the four, but in 2018 75% of the league’s big men are just as good, if not better, at shooting than he was). He won’t have such a speed advantage today, but James Harden isn’t exactly Usain Bolt and I think he’s okay at getting to the rim. Gilbert would have lived at the line. He averaged 10 free throws a year in 05-06. Do you know how hard that was? That was prime “back in my day, the game was more physical and we didn’t shoot these god damn three pointers!” time. You had to work for those calls. Now they give them away. Gilbert was so quick and had such a tight handle he might get fully erect seeing all the open space afforded him in 2018. And perhaps the important part? Notice all those long 2s he took? Those would all be 3s today. In his prime, he took about 7 3s a game. He finished first or second all three years in most three pointers attempted. If he played in a time that embraced 3s, it’s not like he’d shoot less. He’d be around 10 attempts per game, which is what the most active 3 point bombers like Harden and Steph Curry hoist up. So he’s taking three more 3s a game for that three year stretch, and, assuming he shoots the same percentage, is making at least one more per game. All of a sudden he’s averaging over 30 points per game over a three year period. His three point percentage would have only gone up, too. Coming to basketball maturity in a 3-centric time would have meant more time spent practicing 3s. He wouldn’t turn into Steph or Klay or anything, but I think he goes from shooting 36% to shooting 38-39%. It’s not a huge jump, but it’s probably another made three a game. So now he’s averaging at least 33 points per game over a three year stretch? That’s enough to get Kobe two jerseys retired.

Now, averaging 33 points for three years would probably already be enough for enshrinement. It’s a running joke that literally everyone gets into the Hall of Fame. But what if it was more than just a three year stretch? At the end of the 06-07 season, Gilbert blew out his knee and was never the same. He played 47 combined games over the next three seasons because of the knee, various other injuries, and, of course, the infamous gun incident with Javaris Crittenton (shoutout to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for playing NBA basketball despite being in jail). The missed time, off-court distractions, and the weight of the massive contract he signed in 2008 effectively ended his career. Wouldn’t all of that be avoided today? Arenas missed two and a half seasons because of a torn MCL. Paul George missed less than a full season after his leg was severed in two. Modern medicine (and steroids) are so advanced Gilbert would have been back by the All Star break the following season at the latest, using the rest of that season to get his sea legs back. Unless he’s Derrick Rose, that would have been the end of it. He’d be back to getting somewhere between 28 and 35 points a game for another five years or so. Longer, even. LeBron doesn’t look close to being done yet, and, in this scenario, Gilbert is younger than LeBron. He’d pile up some scoring and shot attempt numbers that would make Russell Westbrook green with envy. The contract wouldn’t have been an issue, either. In those days, people were still outraged about contracts and acted like players should apologize that a team wanted to give them a bunch of money. JJ Redick signed a one year, $23 million deal this offseason and people said it was money well spent. I don’t think there would have been any kind of drama around Gilbert getting a max contract. So there’s two distractions out of the way. Lastly, Javaris Crittenton wouldn’t wind up on his team in 2021. So unless there’s another NBA journeyman who likes to bring guns to the locker room out there, I think we can safely say that scenario wouldn’t happen. By playing today, all the things that derailed Gilbert’s career are gone. I’m going to give a conservative estimate and say he would have averaged at least 25 points a game in nine seasons. That’s enough to put someone on the express train to Springfield. I won’t say anything to his team success because who knows what team he’d be on but since it wouldn’t be the Warriors odds are he’ll never win anything, but if he got the Conference Finals a few times and maybe got to the Finals once or twice I don’t see how anyone could say he wouldn’t be a Hall of Famer. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I think Gilbert Arenas is the biggest lost talent in NBA history. Long live Hibachi.

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Happy One Year Anniversary to Me

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Wow. As of today, it’s officially been a full year since I started The Brian’s Den. I know, I know. Congratulations to me and all that. Hard to believe it’s been 365 days since, a day after George Michael’s death, I decided to start this website. There’s been a lot of ups and a couple downs, but hopefully it was never boring. The world takeover hasn’t quite happened yet, but I still appreciate everyone who comes here to waste a few minutes every day. You’re all part of the the most exclusive club in the world, so don’t be afraid to puff out your chest a little bit and act like you’re better than everyone. You read the most educational website in the world, after all.

Now, were I a true professional, I’d have something special planned for my one year anniversary. Unfortunately, I’m not, so I don’t. So instead of forcing some content to materialize that undoubtedly won’t be good, I figured I’d just run back some posts that I know are good. That’s right, it’s the Official Brian’s Den clip show!

The Videos

Coors Field Concession Review

Denver Airport Conspiracy

Hot Dog Eating Contest

Episode 1 of my short lived cooking show (RIP)

How I Saved New York City

Can’t go too long without mentioning my (sort of) signature series, Burning Questions

Burning Questions Hub

The Food Takes

Which Fast Food Place Has the Worst Dressed Customers?

Fast Food Sauces Stink

Halloween Candy Power Ranking

Crab > Lobster

Why I Hate Lunch

The Grocery Store Rules

Best Pizza Chain

The Best #sports Talk

What’s up with JJ Redick’s tattoos?

The NBA’s Hidden Crime Syndicate

This is probably problematic but I still think it’s funny

Is Aaron Judge a True Yankee?

Pats Won the Super Bowl if you hadn’t heard

Entertainment News

Best Action Movie Characters

Stop Calling Die Hard a Christmas Movie

The Greatest Video Ever Made

Is The Weeknd a Virgin?

The Next Oscar Winner

The comprehensive list of Yu-Gi-Oh! takes

The Special Occasions

Countdown to 2017

Valentine’s Day

Eclipse 2017

Thanksgiving

Christmas (including Hawaiian Christmas)

So, what’s your favorite post? Did it show up here? Or do I have so many good ones that I overlooked some? What was my worst one (trick question, of course)? Let me know what you liked and would like to see more of. It was a good year one, and hopefully year two will be a big one.

Is Carmelo Anthony the Biggest Poison in the NBA?

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The Thunder stink. Everyone knows it, and anyone that watches them can only come away frustrated with their stagnant offense and waste of talent. They’re in the bottom third in the league in assists, field goal percentage, 3 point percentage, free throw percentage, and, to top it all off, lead the league in technicals. How is this happening? This team was supposed to challenge the Warriors, right? They added Paul George and #me7o. They already had the totally deserved, super legitimate MVP on the roster. They dumped a couple bums that weren’t contributing at all. How are they bad?

Is it because of Paul George? Probably not. He seems to be the only member of the Big 3 comfortable in his new role, and is at least shooting well from 3, something no OKC player has been able to say since Durant left. He seems to be a decent locker room guy (although he did break up the Pacers by sleeping with Roy Hibbert’s fiancee. People don’t forget, Paul) who people respect. I think we can pass the buck.

Is it because of Carmelo Anthony? In a word, yes. But not 100%. I’d say he’s at least 50% of the reason this year’s Thunder are terrible. He’s at least 50% of the reason why all of his teams are terrible. Absolutely no one knows how to take a dump in the Kool Aid faster than Melo. It’s really amazing how he can ruin any situation. Sure, prime Melo is one of the best pure scorers ever, but his true talent is his ability to sour locker rooms. The Knicks are somehow a fun team this year, and the only difference between this season and last season is Melo (and D-Rose, who is now contemplating retirement). The fact that he still carries himself as a true superstar (and the fact that anyone out there actually believes him) in 2017 is mind-numbing to me. He’s a worse version of Andrew Wiggins at this point, and the internet will gladly tell you Wiggins stinks. The NBA today is all about ball movement, player movement, creating space, and open shots. Guess how many of those boxes getting the ball at the elbow, jab stepping five or six times, dribbling the air out of the ball, and taking a contested 12-footer check off. If you answered zero, you’d be correct! The Thunder pass less than any other team (to be fair, they pretty much always do), and Melo’s iso fetish is a huge part of it. If he doesn’t have the ball, he’s pretty much just a statue, and asking him to move the ball is like trying to heard cats. Because of him, Westbrook isn’t even averaging 10 assists. Do you know how hard that is? No one has ever chased stats harder than Westbrook, and even he can get double digit assists passing to Melo. If he just embraced being a complimentary player and realized that no, you’re not, and never have been, better than Russell Westbrook, he could be a seriously good wingman. Everyone fantasized about Olympics Melo when he was traded to OKC, where he did this arcane, possibly mythical action known as the catch and shoot (I read about it in an ancient spellbook one time, so who can say if anyone ever actually accomplished it or not) and dominated. Just accept that you’re not that guy anymore, Melo. It’s less work and your scoring will probably go up. There’s no downside. Plus, people might, might, stop making fun of you for never leading your teams to anything. Who wouldn’t want that? Unless he’s just seriously self-loathing, which I can respect.

Of course, I did say Melo wasn’t entirely to blame. There’s this other guy on the team that ruins team chemistry and is averse to efficient offense. I’m speaking of course about Alex Abrines. Guy stinks! But they also have the biggest ballhog in the league in Russell Westbrook. I hate to be the guy who says I told you so (just kidding), but yeah, I told you so. In the wake of Kevin Durant’s departure, the Thunder decided that, instead of getting better or worse, they would just let Westbrook go on a giant revenge tour and instruct everyone on the roster that getting him triple doubles was all that mattered. And now they’re stuck with the results. Remember Steven Adams? After the 2015 Western Conference Finals, he looked like he could be a DeAndre Jordan type All Star. I haven’t heard his name since. I was really bummed out when Domantas Sabonis, who I loved in college, was a bust in the NBA. Welllllll, funny how he’s been really good this season on a supposedly barren Indiana team. Victor Oladipo was mocked mercilessly for sucking on OKC. He was left for dead. And now, away from the league MVP, the person who, above all else, was supposed to make everyone around him better, he’s finally putting it all together and capitalizing on his immense talent. So you’re telling me people get better when the leave the Thunder and get worse when they join? Hmmmm. Color me shocked that no one actually enjoys playing with a point guard with a 41% usage rate. Once you tell Westbrook to go full Westbrook, you can’t really expect him to dial it down now that he’s got shiny new teammates. Nothing can stop him from showing the world that he’s better than Durant. And his hero ball routine isn’t even working this year. Outside his rookie year, he’s never shot worse from the field. If he didn’t have the second highest turnover total of all time last year, his 4.7 TOs per game would be rightly seen as horrifying. He’s mysteriously shooting his worst percentage ever from the foul line. He still stinks from 3. He’s just a grossly inefficient player on a grossly inefficient team. It doesn’t help that Billy Donovan is just a patsy that lets Westbrook walk all over him rather than actually draw up real plays. On the surface it seems like the Thunder’s issues are easily fixed: just move around a little more and get more people involved. But when your team is built around Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, that’s a lot easier said than done.

Is it Safe to Call The Process a Success?

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After last night’s resounding/six point win against the stalwart/hapless Los Angeles Lakers, in which Joel Embiid, the human embodiment of Sam Hinkie’s hopes and dreams, put up an absolutely absurd statline, the Internet became saturated with takes and thinkpieces, most of which revolve around one central question: did the Process officially work? And while it seems pretty foolish to ask this after a November game against one of the worst teams in the NBA (who happens to start the league’s worst player at point guard), the Sixers’ relative success this season is certainly reason enough to take a look at the Process’s early returns. Due to the nature of everything the Process entailed, evaluating it in the moment seems a little counterintuitive. Considering that Sam Hinkie, a man the Sixers replaced almost two years ago, looks better by the day should imply that we won’t be able to give a final grade on the Process until the Sixers’ current core players are out of the league.

In my mind, the Process was always going to be a success, because the Process was conceived to escape the vortex of mediocrity that traps so many NBA teams and stockpile assets that could be used to acquire top-end talent, and they were certainly no where near mediocre. When viewed through that lens, with the exception of Jah Okafor, pretty much everything Hinkie did worked. Shedding bad contracts and veterans on long-term deals in order to game the system got them Joel Embiid, in many ways the most tantalizingly talented player maybe ever and Ben Simmons, the clear Rookie of the Year and someone on the road to superstardom. They kept acquiring more and more picks from other teams that couldn’t wait to get rid of them, with the end result being Markelle Fultz, who, while easy to point and laugh at, has obviously been injured for the entirety of his very short career and probably shouldn’t be legitimately judged until next year. Robert Covington was in the D-League and is now a vital part of their rotation. Ask anyone- a rebuilding plan is only as good as the players you draft. Embiid was the first Process draft pick. Anyone who ever watched him play agreed he was awesome. And because he gets hurt a few times and he shut him down for the good of the Process, Hinkie gets fired? Huh? That was so head-scratching to me at the time, and it’s only gotten worse since. How are you going to fire a guy for losing too much when his whole plan, that everyone seemed to be on board with, by the way, was to lose every game to maximize their opportunity to land a franchise-altering player. They now have two because of the Process. If you have Embiid and Simmons, if you just fill the roster out with average to above average role players, things will probably work out. I really can’t understand why they didn’t let Hinkie see his baby all the way through. If you want to blame him for Okafor, that’s fine. Jah stinks. But you better give him credit for trading two second round picks to the Kings for two first round picks. That trade alone should get him in the Hall of Fame.

I think this question needs to be split into two different questions. One is Did the Process work? The answer to that is yes. By intentionally losing and acquiring assets, the Sixers now have four top-three picks on the roster, two of which are going to be All Stars for as long as they remain healthy, one could easily get to that level if he gets head on straight, and one will be out of the league in a year or two. That’s a pretty good hit rate. The point of the Process was to use all the valuable picks they piled up to get great players, and they’ve done that. So, yes, the Process worked. The second question is going to be Was the team the Process built a success? It’s obviously too early to tell. The full team has played, what, three games together? While they still have the Kings’ 2019 first round pick, the Process is over. Now that they have a roster filled with actual NBA players, the Result is in the players’ hands. I’m very curious to see what they do with it.

LeBron Should Thank His Lucky Stars that Fights in the NBA Don’t Actually Happen Anymore

In case you missed it, during last night’s surprisingly entertaining Cavs-Knicks game a bit of a brouhaha broke out between rookie Frank Ntilikina, LeBron, and Enes Kanter.

Love me a good NBA fight, especially when someone steps to LeBron. Some quick background here: LeBron recently made made by saying the Knicks should have drafted Dennis Smith, Jr. in an attempt to troll Phil Jackson, but really all it did was throw Frankie under the bus. And then, in the build up to the scuffle, LeBron dunked then tried to assert his dominance by staring Frankie down and standing over him, as if Frankie was in position to stop the play, which he wasn’t (does LeBron secretly hate French people? Might be worthy of an investigation…). Kudos to Frankie for going against his natural instincts and not backing down, but once Enes Kanter came in from out of nowhere, he stole the show. LeBron got into his “Angry LeBron” act where he just moves his jaw really fast as he waits to someone to break it up. I hesitate to to say this because, as we know, LeBron is a father of three, but if this fight actually came to blows, I’d be writing a LeBron obituary right now.

Hey, LeBron, Kanter sort of spent time in a Turkish prison! I know he broke his hand punching a folding chair, but he’s still got that “Turkish prison tough” thing going. Turkish prison has to be in the top five of scary prisons (along with Russia, China, Thailand, and any Central American place) you can spend time in, and LeBron, even though he is a father of three, wouldn’t stand a chance. You’re telling me the person that did this:

is taking someone who (sort of) lived through this?

Not a chance. I’d even go so far as to say that if LeBron was a father of four he wouldn’t be able to handle Enes. He combines Turkish strength, which, not to generalize here, is pretty formidable with having a name that sounds like penis. I don’t know what the Turkish word for penis is, but if it’s close to Enes then he was probably bullied mercilessly as a youth. Builds an internal rage that you’re just waiting to unleash on the first father of three you see. LeBron would be a dead man walking.

The postgame comments were exactly what you would expect. Kanter, who lives to chirp everyone that moves, went with the impossible-to-come-back-from “mixing up the guy’s nickname” bit. Got everyone fired up, got the people excited for a Knicks team with some fire, everyone was happy. Then LeBron, being LeBron, completely dismissed the entire thing, because he’s LeBron and is so above every other player in the league. This might be my least favorite LeBron personality trait. In his mind, because he’s the best player in the league (which he is), he’s totally exempt from criticism and no mortal player can ever challenge him. Like Kanter has a decent case, here. You trashed his rookie in the press then tried to embarrass him on their home court. Kanter has a right to stick up for him a little bit. But no, it’s all just Kanter acting crazy and there’s no chance any of this is LeBron’s fault. And that he is, in fact, a father. I love that more and more players are going at LeBron. Absolutely no one respects him unless they’re in the Banana Boat or are on the Cavs and have to pretend they like him. At some point, someone like Marquese Chriss or Kelly Oubre is going to take a swing at the King, and it’s going to be glorious. Because I bet his teammates will wait a second or two before jumping in to stop it.

Will the Celtics Ever Lose Again?

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No. No they won’t.

When the Celtics Express comes rolling down the tracks, you’d better get out of the way or you’re getting steamrolled, plain and simple. Yes, this season was always going to be bittersweet when Gordon Hayward went down, but after seeing what the rest of the East looks like after ten games, there’s really no reason to think they can’t do what they set out to do in the preseason and make the Finals.

Obviously, they’ve had horrible, horrible luck with injuries. Hayward is out for the year. Al Horford got a concussion and they’ll hopefully be very cautious with him. This isn’t 1990, it’s okay if he sits out some November games. Marcus (Markieff? I honestly have no idea which one they have) Morris is just now getting back after starting the year hurt. Jayson Tatum needs an MRI on his ankle. But outside the injury bug, absolutely everything has been coming up Celtics (and particularly my boy Danny Ainge). Tatum has been a revelation as a secondary scorer and ballhandler who looks like someone who’s going to be averaging over 20 points per game sooner rather than later (while Markelle Fultz looks absolutely lost and injured). Jaylen Brown has morphed into a combination of Andre Iguodala and DeMar DeRozan overnight, at least at home. I was never a “Jaylen sucks!” guy and thought that anyone claiming a 19-year-old rookie who hadn’t found his place in the rotation was somehow a bust was a complete idiot, but I definitely wasn’t expecting such a big leap forward. He just looks so much more confident than last year. And for a guy with his natural talent, that could make all the difference. Aron Baynes-Semi Ojeleye might be my favorite Celtics duo since Gerald Green and Justin Reed (R.I.P.), and my 1-2 picks in a “who do I want to have my back in a scrape” draft. Kyrie Irving has been as advertised and more. His shot is still warming up, but, freed from the oppressive shackles of LeBron, his ball movement and, most surprisingly, his defense have been way better than they ever have before. He’s actually trying on defense, now! It’s incredible. Maybe he’s just trying to make a good first impression, but if Brad Stevens can get a full 82 of Defensive-Minded Kyrie, he should get Coach of the Millennium. Or Tyronn Lue and LeBron should just get the Anti-Coach of the Year award. Either way, I’m officially throwing out all of my old Anti-Kyrie takes. I’m sure it’s a load off his mind. Lastly, Al Horford has just been jamming on h8trz all year long and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve always been #teamal. I loved the signing when it happened and understood what his game was coming in. The Boston media was quick to turn on him for “not rebounding,” but, in my opinion, anyone who doesn’t get why Al is the most important player on the Celtics you’re either just not watching or don’t know what you’re talking about. His passing is the cornerstone of the offense. He’s the anchor of the best defense in the league. According to Basketball Reference, seven of the top fourteen players in defensive rating are on the Celtics, and Al controls all of it. He’s an underrated post scorer and a dynamite pick-and-pop guy. I love Al and can’t wait until he makes an All-NBA team this year and forces everyone to eat their words. Just imagine how good they’d be with Gordon! Aaaaaaaaand now I’m depressed again.