Ex-NBA player Gilbert Arenas is talking recklessly again. The former Washington Wizards guard said at the age of 25, before his injuries, he was a better player than Golden State Warriors’ superstar Steph Curry at the same age. Is Agent Zero trippin’?
“If you stop me at 25, Steph Curry ain’t f***ing with me!” said Arenas on the “I Am Athlete” podcast.
Arenas by his age-25 season was a three-time All-Star and three-time All-NBA. We all remember the “Hibachi” highlights.
By his age-25 season Steph wasn’t quite “Chef Curry” yet. But he was an All-Star and made an All-NBA team.
What happened post-25 is not even a contest. Curry became one of the greatest players of all-time with accolades galore. Arenas was never the same.
But how good was Agent Zero during his three-year peak? Was he better than Curry?
Agent Zero Was A Bad Man
Arenas averaged 27 points per game during those seasons. In the same three-year period, Curry averaged 22 points per game but was far more efficient and a better shooter from three on the same volume.
Arenas 49 eFG% and 57 TS%. Curry 56 eFG% and 60 TS%.
Curry was also a better playmaker and even then a better defender.
Arenas was a foul-drawing magnet, getting to the line an average of nine times per game during his peak. That’s never been a hallmark of Curry’s legendary career. It’s actually pretty incredible how elite a scorer he is without the benefit of a lot of free throw attempts. That’s the power of the three.
Arenas was one of the elite two guards of his day, as two guards back then were more volume shooters and not as efficient as today’s guards.
“Imagine John Wall with like Damian Lillard’s jump shot,” Richard Jefferson once said of Arenas. “That is the best way to describe the combination, because Gilbert was shooting from 30 feet back in the day, but he was then also a blur in transition.”
In many ways Arenas was ahead of his time. Had he been able to play healthy and in today’s five out pace-and-space era, what could he have possibly been?
The accolades up to age 25 suggest Arenas was better, but you should know by now that’s not how we judge players here.
Even At 25 Curry Gets The Edge
Basketball Reference’s WS/48 stat determines how much a player contributes to winning over the course of a 48 minute game. This three year period was before Curry and his Warriors were winning titles, so it’s a good comparison.
League average WS/48 is .100. During their respective three year periods they were both impactful to winning. Arenas .180 and Curry .196.
Curry’s Box Plus Minus during that peak was +6.1 to Arenas’ +4.8.
Dunks and Threes EPM, which doesn’t have data on Arenas, has Curry in the 98th, 99th, and 99th percentile in his three seasons to age 25. Given its similarity to BPM but taking into account some box score stats, Curry would still likely have an edge.
Arenas may have had more accolades and in a game of one-on-one he might have bested Curry more times than Curry beat him. Maybe.
But the ultimate point of the game is to win. This isn’t about titles, because Curry didn’t win any titles until after he turned 25.
If you took both players for the three year period between ages 22-25 Curry would have a greater impact on winning than Arenas.