Yahoo! Sports has reported that former Cleveland Cavalier center, Zydrunas Ilgauskas , has been bought out of his contract with the Washington Wizards and waived, effectively making him a much sought-after NBA free agent.
Ilgauskas, who was originally acquired for forward Antawn Jamison in a three-team trade, never played for Washington, and after reporting to Washington and taking a physical, immediately returned to Cleveland.
“We agreed to terms with Zydrunas on a contract buyout, giving us further financial flexibility and allowing our young big men to continue to develop over the remainder of the season,” Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said.
Ilgauskas will now be eligible to join any team of his choosing at the veteran's minimum, and could even rejoin the Cavaliers if he decides to wait 30 days, although the veteran center is expected to take his time and weigh his options.
“I'm expecting to talk to about half a dozen teams in the league, including the Cavaliers,” Herb Rudoy, Ilgauskas’ agent said.
“He’s not going to rush into anything. He has time,” Rudoy said. “He’ll let me know what he wants to do.”
While a return to the suddenly title-favorite Cavaliers (at least in some circles) remains a good possibility, it's best to take a look at all of Ilgauskas' options going forward.
Here's a breakdown of the top five teams that should be vying for his services. It's important to note that, while Ilgauskas could choose to sign anywhere, it's almost a certainty that he will only sign with a team with a realistic shot at an NBA title.
The Hawks were one of the first teams rumored to be very interested in Ilgauskas, as they could us another big body to bang inside against the likes of Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard in the playoffs.
Atlanta is already an elite team when it comes to athleticism and perimeter scoring, so beefing up their inside game may be a move well worth making. Ilgauskas isn't a big-time scorer, but he has solid versatility; can shoot the three; and would bring a much-needed veteran and savvy presence inside that the Hawks are lacking.
The Mavericks are another team expected to be talking to Ilgauskas. They lucked out when they landed Brendan Haywood, as Erick Dampier has just sustained a finger injury, and bringing Ilgauskas on would give them some of the best inside defense in the entire league.
Unlike Haywood and Dampier, Ilgauskas has a sound, well-balanced offensive game, and has shown to be a clutch performer.
Dallas already has a potent offense, but after the additions of Caron Butler and Haywood have proven to already be successful (especially with their win against the Lakers on Wednesday night), adding a veteran big man with skills like Ilgauskas has could give them a very good chance at giving Los Angeles a run for their money in the West.
Ilgauskas would give the Jazz some great depth, as they already have a very solid group of guys banging on the inside, along with a group of players that play great team defense.
The Jazz are a really hot team right now, and while they have two guys in Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur that can stretch the floor a bit, adding Ilgauskas as a force off the bench could help them rival the depth of the Lakers and Nuggets.
Denver has also been said to have solid interest in Ilgauskas, and he could provide the Nuggets with insurance to their at times inconsistent post offense and defense.
Nene Hilario and Kenyon Martin are solid, but after failing to bring back Marcus Camby, the Nuggets could definitely still use another guy to rotate in at center.
Ilgauskas is also an attractive addition to a team that already can light it up from the perimeter, and considering the Nuggets are already being hyped-up as potential Laker-killers, adding a sound veteran like Ilgauskas could give them the edge in another possible show down with the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio probably doesn't have as good of a chance at landing Ilgauskas as some of these other hotter, sexier squads, but when they collect 30-plus-year-old veterans at the rate they do, they have to be a considered landing spot.
Their offseason addition of Richard Jefferson hasn't panned out as planned, and the Spurs appear to be floundering in mediocrity a bit, but adding a versatile center could immediately inject some life in their balanced attack.
They currently have Antonio McDyess starting at center, and they are also relying on rookie DeJuan Blair for heavy minutes. If they can add another guy to spread the minutes around, it could alleviate pressure on Tim Duncan and co., and give the Spurs another—albeit aging—body to bang with the other deep teams in the West.
Other teams that will likely at least show moderate interest are the Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Houston Rockets.
Of course, there's always the decent chance that Ilgauskas just plays the waiting game, weighs all of his options, and decides to return to Cleveland, further bolstering their already solid depth in the paint.