Most Intriguing Free Agents for Wizards to Sign with the Mid-Level Exception
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While most Washington Wizards fans are focused on June's NBA draft, what's almost equally important is which players the Wizards will target in free agency.
Like most NBA teams, the Wizards are over the salary cap, making their best option to sign players via the mid-level exception (MLE) in free agency.
Washington is over the salary cap, but it isn't into the luxury tax range, which allows the team to use the standing MLE. This can be split between multiple players, but Washington only has $5.15 million of MLE to use on players this offseason.
Most over-the-cap teams use the MLE to sign players, but some have more or less access to the MLE depending on their cap situation.
During this offseason, Washington needs to use this MLE to target one or two free agents to improve its roster heading into next season, signing these players to one- or two-year deals.
There are two positions Washington needs to address in the offseason: small forward and power forward.
There is currently no starting small forward on Washington's roster and power forward is weak outside of Nenê, who is nearly 31 years old and often injured.
Brewer made a little over $3 million this season in Denver, certainly putting him within the Wizards' price range.
Brewer had one of his best seasons as a pro in 2012-13, averaging 12 points per game. He has been in the NBA for seven seasons and would bring experience to Washington, which currently has a fairly young starting lineup.
However, signing Brewer makes a little less sense if Washington drafts Georgetown's Otto Porter, since Porter would certainly be the starting small forward next season. But if the Wizards leave the draft without a new small forward, they may take a look at Brewer, who has the track record to be a solid contributor at the position.
Even if Washington drafts Porter, they could still sign Brewer and start Brewer while Porter comes off the bench and develops into a professional player.
At power forward, Washington doesn't necessarily need an everyday starter, but it does need someone who can come off the bench and complement Nenê, who is aging but will likely be the starting power forward at the beginning of next year.
A perfect candidate for that spot is Tyler Hansbrough, who made roughly $4.1 million with the Indiana Pacers this season.
Hansbrough had a fairly expensive rookie contract considering his poor shooting percentage; he will certainly be getting a pay cut even if the Pacers re-sign him.
The 27-year-old out of North Carolina hasn't started for Indiana since David West joined the team, but he still averages just under nine points per game for his career.
Also, Hansbrough really made a name for himself during this year's playoffs, averaging four points and three rebounds per game.
The 6'9" power forward has the ability to pull down offensive rebound after offensive rebound, which is something the Wizards could really use. Hansbrough is also able to get inside the heads of opposing players, as he did during the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat.
Nenê is still a starter, but Hansbrough would allow the aging veteran to cut back on his minutes while giving Washington a spark off the bench in the process.
Also, provided the Wizards draft Porter, power forward will immediately become a bigger position of need for Washington.
If Washington does pursue Hansbrough, it will end up paying more than it should for Hansbrough, given his expectations from his rookie contract. But, if the offensive production of other Wizards can compensate for Hansbrough’s poor shooting—and allow him to focus on rebounding—then he could make a significant contribution to next season's squad.
Mike Dunleavy, Jr.
Back at small forward.
If Washington drafts Porter, it should consider spending part of their MLE on Mike Dunleavy, Jr., the 32-year-old who spent the past two seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Who should the Wizards sign using their MLE?
Dunleavy the son of long-time NBA player and coach Mike Dunleavy, Sr., made $4.2 million this season with the Bucks, but his price could certainly be driven down with his age.
Dunleavy only started three games for Milwaukee this season, which makes him the perfect candidate to come off the bench behind Porter if he is drafted.
The 10-year pro played 26 minutes per game in 2012-13 and averaged 10 points and just under four rebounds. Dunleavy got off to a slow start this season, but his play improved toward the end of the season, as he shot 45 percent from the floor in April.
While Dunleavy is no longer a bonafide starter in the NBA, he would be a great supplement to Porter so that Porter did not have to play an overwhelming number of minutes as a rookie.
However, if there’s no starter in place in Washington, the Wizards would be much better off pursuing Brewer as a starter than Dunleavy.
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