For a brief period of time, few players in the NBA could score like Gilbert Arenas. Over an 11-year NBA career, Agent Zero averaged 20.7 points per game with four different teams. His prime was highlighted by a three-year span from 2005 to 2007 where he averaged 25.5, 29.3, and 28.4 points for the Washington Wizards.
While Arenas‘ time as an All-Star was short-lived, he more than made up for his second-round selection in the 2001 NBA Draft. However, the 39-year-old revealed how and why his draft stock fell the way it did 20 years ago.
Gilbert Arenas was projected to go early in the first round of the draft
Arenas had a short but successful college career with the Arizona Wildcats. In two seasons at Arizona, Arenas was a full-time starter averaging 15.8 points on 46.6% shooting. He earned Pac-10 All-Freshman honors for the 1999-00 season, and then followed it up with a First Team All-Pac 10 selection in 2001.
Gilbert was also winning games in addition to putting up great stats. In his sophomore season, he and future NBA players Richard Jefferson and Luke Walton helped lead the Wildcats all the way to the National Championship, where they fell to the Duke Blue Devils 82-72. Shortly after the title game, Arenas announced his decision to go pro.
As one of the best players in his conference and a prominent player for the national runner-up, Arenas was gathering interest from a number of suitors. One of them was the Boston Celtics, who owned picks 10 and 11 in the first round and had their eyes on using at least one of those picks on a guard.
Arenas claims the Boston Celtics spread a rumor that caused him to fall in the draft
Arenas joined the All The Smoke podcast to discuss, among other things, the draft process and his subsequent slide into the second round. Agent Zero explained how precautionary measures for an injury led to the Celtics creating a false narrative about the talented young guard.
“It was [head coach] Jim O’Brien of the Boston Celtics,” Arenas told hosts Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes. “I had a two-day workout there. Killed it in my first one, and then they wanted me to stay for my second day. But I hurt my Achilles, and then I was like, ‘If I don’t heal it, I’m going to miss the rest of my tryouts.'”
“He [O’Brien] put the rumor out there that I’m too immature, I’m not taking it serious, I’m not a player. And that was the saying going on. Because I hurt my Achilles? What am I supposed to do, run through the wall trying out for a team?”Gilbert Arenas
Arenas added that he tried out for 17 teams, none of whom selected him in the first round. The snub left the former Arizona guard angry, even on draft day.
“I remember I was so angry on draft day,” Arenas said. “Because when I came out I was supposed to have been in the lottery. Until you go to Chicago, and then everybody is [in the] lottery.”
Arenas was a second-round steal
Although the sting of going in the second round hurt, Arenas didn’t have to wait long after the first 28 picks came through. After using their two first-rounders on Jason Richardson and Troy Murphy, the Golden State Warriors took Arenas with the 31st overall pick.
By his second year in the NBA, Arenas started all 82 games and averaged 18.2 points. Soon after, he signed with the Wizards, where he transformed into Agent Zero and became the All-Star player many remember him by. As for the Celtics, they used those back-to-back first-round picks on Joe Johnson and Kedrick Brown. Johnson was dealt to the Phoenix Suns in his rookie year, while Brown averaged 3.6 points across four NBA seasons with three different teams.
Injuries prevented Arenas from having a longer NBA career. But an injury led him to become one of the best second-round picks in league history.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.