How Arenas' Suspension Could Shake Up the Rest of the League

Eric FelkeyAnalyst IJanuary 7, 2010

PHOENIX - DECEMBER 19:  Gilbert Arenas #0 of the Washington Wizards reacts during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on December 19, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Wizards 121-95. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

By now you all know that Washington Wizards' guard Gilbert Arenas has been suspended indefinitely by the NBA.

Arenas, in year two of a six-year, $111 million contract, has been the subject of scrutiny in the media for bringing four unloaded guns into the Verizon Center last week.

I'm not here to judge Arenas, or to defend his inexplicable actions.

Instead, his indefinite suspension raises an already lingering question: Where will the Wizards go from here?

The Wizards payroll for this year is about $82 million, which is almost $25 million above the current NBA salary cap. Washington will shave nearly $35 million off their payroll with expiring contracts at the end of the season.

The biggest contract on the team is Arenas'. At $16 million a season for the next four years (along with Jamison's $11.6 million for the next three years), Washington has virtually no chance at landing a marquee free agent until 2012.

With an 11-21 record (No. 11 in the Eastern Conference) and no Arenas, the Wizards chance for a playoff run, or even a playoff spot, looks obsolete.

It makes sense that Ernie Grunfeld is taking calls from around the league, gauging interest in two players in particular: Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison.

Butler draws the most interest. A relative bargain at $9.7 million for the next two years, the 29-year-old swingman has peaked the curiosity of several NBA squads, especially among contenders in desperate need of an athletic scorer who can play multiple positions.

One team that fits the profile is the Miami Heat.

Miami really needs another scorer to lineup opposite of Dwyane Wade, and Butler fits the bill.

Would Washington pull the trigger on a deal that sends Butler and JaVale McGee ($1.5 million for the next two years) to Miami in exchange for swingman Quentin Richardson and Dorrell Wright ($11.5 million of expiring contracts)?

Or how about Portland?

After losing Greg Oden and Joel Pryzbilla to the season for injury, what if the Blazers decide to go uber small for the rest of year and offered Steve Blake, Travis Outlaw, Shavlik Randolph, and Nicholas Batum (nearly $9 million of expiring contracts) for Butler and Nick Young?

However, one thing that might deter the Wizards is Butler's play the last two seasons when Arenas has been injured.

Butler averaged over 20 points, 6.5 rebounds, and nearly 5 assists with Arenas out of the lineup, and Washington might want to hang on to him as a piece to rebuild around.

But if he's not viewed as a franchise player, they easily could deal him in order to free cap space or acquire some young talent.

The Wizards are probably more likely to try and move Antawn Jamison in the next month. At 33-years-old, Jamison still is owed another $23 million for two years after the conclusion of the 2009-10 campaign.

And there are plenty of teams that could use a power forward that can spread the floor like Jamison.

Take the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavs boast the best record in the Eastern Conference but still face a glaring weakness at power forward. Anderson Varejao has been phenomenal this year but J.J. Hickson has struggled at times, and no one is sure how Leon Powe will respond when he returns from an ACL injury.

Any type of deal would probably center around Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who is making $11.5 million in the final year of his contract. The Wizards could consider a Z-for-Jamison straight up deal (maybe if the Cavs threw in a draft pick or cash considerations as well), but the Cavs would only agree if the Wizards were to buyout Z's contract so he could resign with Cleveland after 30 days (similar to what Antonio McDyess did in the Iverson/Billups trade last year).

Washington also has the option of trying to void Arenas' contract.

The NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement states that if a player fails, refuses, or neglects to conform his personal conduct, a contract could be voided.

Sports Illustrated 's Chris Mannix points out that, should any criminal charges surface against Arenas, it could constitute a failure of personal conduct and void the contract.

With $111 million off their payroll, the Wizards could be content to stick with Butler and Jamison and pursue a guard from the 2010 free agent class.

Whatever happens, Agent Zero's actions will have a ripple effect across the entire NBA.


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