Flash back for a second to the summer of 2006. The Wizards, fresh off their tight playoff loss to Cleveland, were about to enter training camp with a gaping hole at shooting guard. Starter Jared Jeffries signed a contract with New York that paid him way more than he was worth, but the Wizards had yet to replace him. It was either start Jarvis Hayes and shudder at the thought or play Antonio Daniels at the point and move Gilbert Arenas off the ball.
But instead of making a panic signing, Ernie Grunfeld waited until the very last possible moment. While other teams were blowing their mid-level exception on guys like Speedy Claxton, Mike James, Willie Greene, Matt Harpring and the aformentioned Jeffries, Grunfeld let the market dry up, knowing that competent wing players are a dime-a-dozen. Eventually, he signed a guy for the minimum contract who was pissed off that nobody offered anything remotely close to what he was seeking.
Of course, that player was DeShawn Stevenson, and the end result was that the Wizards got a solid starter for very little money. Even his new contract, signed after the 2007 season, is pretty good value.
By waiting out the market, Grunfeld was able to secure a player who provided a bit of a boost for very little money.
We're seeing the same situation this year. Although a backup small forward is less of a need than a starting shooting guard, it still is a need for next season that hasn't been filled. Some players who could have filled the role (James Posey, Mickael Pietrus) are off the market, signed for contracts larger than the Wizards needed, yet tons of names are still available. Hell, most of the names we brainstormed a couple weeks ago are still out there.
Now, the obvious difference is that the Wizards weren't as close to the luxury tax in 2006 as they are right now. If the Wizards really only have 1.5 million left under the tax, that's not a lot of breathing room. The situation also gets worse in the coming years because of the nature of everyone's contract.
But considering how many wings are out there, it shouldn't be hard for Ernie to find somebody willing to play on a one-year deal for very little money with the hopes of cashing in next offseason. Maybe Matt Barnes is willing to take that chance. Maybe it'll be someone else.
Either way, though, Ernie's approaching this the right way. A backup small forward doesn't have to be a huge impact player. He doesn't even need to be a long-term solution because of the presence of Dominic McGuire. He just has to be able to plug a hole for one season.
No matter when he signs.