Mistakes happen. We sleep in a little too late or we forget to do a project. But for us, mistakes are simply, just that – mistakes. For the thirty NBA teams, mistakes cost them, potentially, tens of millions of dollars, a playoff appearance or even a championship. They have been riddled throughout history. It can be draft picks (Blazers fans know what this is like), it can be free agency (can I get an amen from Knicks fans?), or it can be virtually anything else (in the case of the Kings, EVERYTHING ELSE).
For a brief period in the mid-2000’s, few teams were as exciting as the Washington Wizards. Gilbert Arenas was seemingly ready to settle into a place that enabled him to become one of the premier perimeter guards in the NBA.
What could possibly go wrong?
Gilbert Arenas – The Forgotten Man
Coming out of the University of Arizona, not many people touted Gilbert Arenas as a promising prospect. During his time at Arizona, Arenas averaged 15.8 points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game and 2.2 assists per game. Despite the solid numbers during his tenure with the Wildcats, Arenas was not booked as a top prospect.
In fact, Arenas would fall out of the first round entirely. In the 2001 NBA Draft, the Golden State Warriors selected Gilbert Arenas with the second pick in the second round. Keep in mind, this is a draft that saw Kwame Brown go first overall (to the Washington Wizards coincidentally, but that’s a story for another time).
After a forgettable rookie season, Arenas began transforming his game. Starting all 82 games for the Warriors and improving his numbers across the board; nearly doubling his points per game from 10.9 to 18.3. Arenas would take home the honours of being awarded the NBA’s Most Improved Player for 2002-2003.
The Rise of Agent Zero
Arenas would leave Golden State and sign a six year $60 million contract with the Washington Wizards. Arenas would then begin the process of moving from a promising prospect to one of the NBA’s elite guards. Being dubbed “Agent Zero”, Arenas’ tenacity on-the-court and colorful personality off-the-court would soon make him a fan favourite amongst those in Washington
During a three-year stretch from 2004 to 2007, Arenas demonstrating outstanding offensive skill. In the 2005-2006 NBA regular season, Arenas would post career highs in points per game (29.3 ppg), steals per game (2.0 spg) and minutes per game (42.3 mpg).
During the 2006 NBA Playoffs, the Washington Wizards would take on their Eastern Conference rival the Cleveland Cavaliers. Washington would eventually be eliminated in six games by LeBron James and the Cavaliers but Arenas made his presence felt in the first round. Nearly playing 48 minutes per game, Arenas would average 34 points per game in a spectacular showing.
The next year, Arenas and the Wizards would look to build on their regular season success. However, during a game against the Charlotte Bobcats, Arenas would injure his MCL and not be able to return in time for the playoffs. In what would be his contract year, many were uncertain of Arenas’ future with the organization.
Washington Gambles…and Loses
Despite the injuries and lack of playoff success, the Washington Wizards signed Arenas to a six-year contract worth $111 million dollars. With this singing, it was clear that the Wizards organization had a tremendous amount of confidence in their star guard as they hoped Arenas would eventually lead them deep into the playoffs.
Arenas would sign this contract on July 13th 2008, however due to various injuries, he would not play in a regular season game until March 28th the next year. Appearing in only two games for the Wizards that season, Washington hit rock bottom as the franchise suffered a 19-63 record. To make matters worse for the Wizards, they would not have their draft pick this particular year due to a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Minnesota would eventually use the pick to draft star rookie prospect Ricky Rubio.
The Downfall of Agent Zero
Hoping to rebound from a season lost the year earlier, Arenas was looking to return to form. However, controversy would soon follow the star point guard. In December 2009, Arenas violated both NBA and D.C. law when he brought firearms into the Verizon Center arena. This would be the first domino to fall for Gilbert Arenas and the Wizards.
Legal trouble stemming from firearms would continue to follow Arenas into the new year. It was reported that Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton were involved in a dispute surrounding gambling debts. It was also reported that both Arenas and Crittenton had brought guns into the Wizards’ locker room. Arenas would then be charged with carrying a firearm without a license on January 14th 2010.
Arenas was suspended for the rest of the season, sentenced to two years probation, and 30 days in a “halfway house”.
The Biggest Mistake
After signing his six year, $111 million contract, Gilbert Arenas would only appear in 56 games for the Washington Wizards. In December 2010, the Wizards cut ties with Agent Zero as Arenas was traded to the Orlando Magic for Rashard Lewis.
For Arenas, his basketball career would never be the same. Arenas bounced from Orlando, to the Memphis Grizzlies, to leaving the NBA and joining the Chinese Basketball Association. For the Wizards, it was a major blow to lose their cornerstone player.
However, Washington would rebound nicely soon after by winning the 2010 NBA Draft Lottery. Washington would select Kentucky standout John Wall with the top pick in the 2010 NBA draft.
Wall would eventually become their franchise player and stills remains to be to this day. However, the $111 million contract that was given to Arenas is easily one of the biggest mistakes in franchise history.