After sitting out most of last season with a torn Achilles, Arvydas Macijauskas seemed to be back at full strength early on in the Euroleague season, putting up some of the most impressive numbers of his entire career. Unfortunately he suffered an ankle injury that kept him out of the last 4 ½ Euroleague games, but should be good to go once the Top-16 stage kicks off. To highlight his importance to his team, Olimpiacos went 6-3 in games that he played, and 1-4 with him on the bench. Would his head coach Pini Gershon have been fired had Macas managed to stay healthy all season? Thats a question Gershon would probably like an answer for himself.
Theres no question that Macijauskas is the go-to guy for his team. His team realizes his importance and looks for him excessively for on-court leadership, and Macas seems to have no problem stepping up and providing it himself. Besides being one of the best perimeter shooters in all of Europe, Macijauskas is simply outstanding at moving off the ball, in full-sprint mode, and finding himself open looks and easy baskets at the rim. Olimpiacos runs him off plenty of curls to take advantage of his textbook stroke, and also likes to run him off flex and backdoor cuts to put him in a position to finish at the rim, which he can do equally with his left or right hand, despite his lack of size and explosiveness.
He is also very intelligent in transition, again putting in a great deal of effort to be one of the first players up the court, and being extremely crafty once he gets the ball to put it in the net. Although his first step is nothing to write home about, hes outstanding at unbalancing his defender in the half-court with a series of head and shot-fakes and getting to the basket using either hand. He also has an incredible knack for getting to the free throw line, either by getting his man to bite on his pump-fake and then creating contact when hes on the way down, or by flailing his hands demonstratively and screaming bloody murder anytime someone lays a hand on him. The refs give him a great deal of respect, which partially helps explain how a slow and stocky shooter like him is second in the entire competition in free throw attempts per 40 minutes.
Defensively, Macijauskas will always be limited by his unattractive combination of poor size, length and lateral quickness. That can be masked to a certain extent at this level, though, particularly with the matchup zone defense that Olimpiacos likes to play. Macijauskas does a pretty good job in it, mostly thanks to his effort and terrific timing. Hes a pretty crafty guy, and will get in the passing lanes from time to time as well. He will always be susceptible to being Isod out on the perimeter, though, particularly by a quick guard with excellent shot-creating skills.
All in all, there is no question that Macijauskas is one of the top shooting guards in all of Europe. From what weve been told, despite the terrible experience he had under Byron Scott in New Orleans, he has not totally shut the door on playing in the NBA down the road, although it will have to be in the perfect situation. Thats going to be hard to find, though, as hes already stretching himself physically in terms of the production hes able to get at the Euroleague level, and probably would be relegated to too small of a role in the NBA to make sense for him compared to what he can make (hes on the second year of a 4-year, 9 million Euro contract) and accomplish in Europe. Stranger things have happened, though.