The Washington Wizards' salary-cap situation is murky, which means they probably won't make any big splashes in free agency. That said, there are some needs on this team that can be filled, so Ernie Grunfeld must look for bargains that can fit into the few exceptions the Wizards have to use. We'll explore all free agents that could take the mid-level exception or less in this ongoing series. Next up: Chris Copeland.
PREVIOUSLY: See whole section.
Team: New York Knicks.
Type: Unrestricted free agent.
This past year: Came out of nowhere -- seriously, read this story -- to become a useful rotation player for a good team. It took a little while for him to crack Mike Woodson's rotation, but he became a regular bench player in March and April, when the Knicks played their best ball. On the season, he posted a true shooting percentage of 58.3 percent, an excellent number. Unfortunately, he was often shut out of New York's playoff rotation, much to the chagrin of Knicks fans that hoped he would be used to pull Roy Hibbert away from the basket against the Pacers.
Copeland's clear strength is his perimeter shooting. Three-pointers made up 37 percent of his overall attempts, and he hit those shots at a 42-percent clip. Per MySynergySports.com, he hit 41.7 percent on spot-up threes and 44 percent in pick and pop situations. The Knicks would often use him in super-small lineups at center, increasing their spacing and making it even more impossible to guard everyone. Alas, those lineups made Woodson nervous against Hibbert and the Pacers, which explains why Copeland barely played in that series.
Other elements of his game probably explain why he was a part-time player. His defense is mediocre, particularly against bigger, stronger players, and he's a weak rebounder for his position. He isn't shy about putting it up, ending a massive 25.6 percent of his team's possessions when he was on the floor. Some of those shots were cringe-worthy bad, which probably drove Woodson crazy.
But all in all, considering where he came from, it was a massive success.
Why he's fit in well: The Wizards badly need a perimeter-shooting big man, both because it's a need and because it's something John Wall wants. Copeland is probably the best shooter of the Stretch 4 options on the market and is likely to leave New York because they can only offer him the mini mid-level exception and must also think about keeping J.R. Smith and Pablo Prigioni. Copeland's clearly a limited player, but he also understands floor spacing and will open up driving lanes for everyone else by being a threat from the perimeter.
Why he might not: His other limitations may not endear him well to Randy Wittman, who tends to react harshly to defensive breakdowns. If he's also tethered to the bench, how is he any better than the disappointing young forwards the Wizards have on their roster?
Likely price tag: Copeland is reportedly seeking a contract similar to the four-year, $15 million deal that Steve Novak got last season. That would price him out of the Knicks' range and require the Wizards to use more than half of the mid-level exception to get him, which would probably spell the end of Martell Webster's time here. Those who want Copeland should hope the price tag drops to half the mid-level or below.
Verdict: Copeland would be one of my top choices in free agency. Hopefully, he doesn't cost too much.