NBA free agency: 30 greatest free agent signings in NBA history

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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NBA Free Agency
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Greatest free agency signings in NBA history: 21. Gilbert Arenas- Washington Wizards, 2003

In some ways, the Gilbert Arenas story is one of overcoming expectations to reach unbelievable highs. In another, it’s yet another sterling reminder of the evergreen incompetence of a franchise that hasn’t won 50 games in my 28 years of living and breathing.

Let’s start with the good: after a pair of seasons with the Warriors that can be best described as “meh”, the Wizards swooped in and signed Arenas to a six-year, $60 million deal in 2003. Washington got lucky with the Arena deal in two way.

First, Arenas reportedly flipped a coin to determine whether he would sign with the Wizards, Warriors, or the Los Angeles Clippers. Second, due to NBA rules at the time, teams couldn’t go over the salary cap to match offer sheets for second-round picks, meaning the Warriors had to let him go.

At first, this appeared to be a coup for the Wizards. Within two years, Arenas blossomed into not only an All-Star but arguably one of the best score-first point guards in the league. His quick first step, underrated handles, ability to finish around the basket and get to the free throw line, and his deadly pull-up game helped him become the star Washington needed in the wake of Michael Jordan’s third and final retirement.

The stats speak for themselves: Arenas put up 27.7 points, 5.7 assists, a .432/.361/.826 shooting line, a 23.0 PER, and .180 WS/48 between 2004-2006, earning three All-Star nods and three All-NBA selections in the process.

But as is always the case with the Wizards, you always wait for the other shoe to drop. In this case, aside from the yearly playoff beatdowns at the hands of the  LeBron James’ Cavs, it was Arenas’ health that did him in.

Thanks to persistent knee problems, Arenas played in no more than 32 games per season between 2007-2009 and when he did play, he looked like a shell of his former self (.073 WS/48). Not to mention the infamous gun incident in 2009.

Of course, the knee problems didn’t keep this team from handing Arenas a six-year, $111 million contract extension in 2008, right as the knee problems were taking their toll.

In a way, Arenas’ time in D.C. perfectly encapsulates the Wizards franchise: lots of promise that ultimately wastes away.