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So whadda we have to spend?

As mentioned in this FanPost, the salary cap and luxury tax figures became official last night.  For our purposes, the only number that matters is the luxury tax.  It will be at 71.15 million next year.

To review: In theory, the luxury tax does not serve as a hard cap.  Teams are allowed to pass the threshold, but if they do, they must pay an additional dollar to the league for every dollar over the tax.  That money then gets redistributed to the teams that are under the threshold.  Essentially, if a team was right at the tax level, then signed another player for five million dollars next season, it would be as if they are signing him for 10 million dollars, since the team must pay five million dollars to the league.  That's why, in practice, many teams treat it like a hard cap.  They don't want to pay money to the league and lose out on the chance to benefit from those teams that do.

Here's how the Wizards stand for next season.  I got most of the salaries from ShamSports.  Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison's salaries are their reported first-year numbers.  JaVale McGee's salary is based on this rookie scale


As you can see, we don't have enough space to offer someone the full mid-level exception (5.585 million).  Even if we were to make this proposed salary dump, we still wouldn't be able to use the whole thing without going over the luxury tax. 

That essentially takes us out of the James Posey sweepstakes, unless Abe Pollin decides to go over the luxury tax.  Even if he did, I don't think Posey is a big enough prize to do it.  He was great in the playoffs, but he's also 31 and is looking for a four- or five-year contract.  For a team that's really close to contending, he'd be a great fit, but I'm not sure we're close enough yet.  Maybe we will be in 2010, but not yet.

From the looks of things, management wants to carry 14 players next season, which is smart because it allows the team to add a non-guaranteed salary during the season without having to cut anyone.  That leaves one roster slot open for a potential addition, assuming nobody gets traded or cut.

So who can we get without going over the luxury tax?  One option, of course, is to just re-sign Roger Mason.  Even though he's getting a decent amount of interest around the league, I'm pretty sure he'd agree to come back to the Wizards for less than three million dollars a season.  But re-signing Mason, as good as he was last year, doesn't make much sense to me.  We'd be paying Mason to be a fifth guard down the road even though we don't have a true backup to the notoriously fragile Caron Butler.  Dominic McGuire isn't quite there yet, and Andray Blatche seems better suited to playing power forward than small forward.

So if we're going to use the money, I'd like it to be on a small forward who can play behind Butler.  Who's out there that we can get while still staying under the luxury tax?  Here's a comprehensive list of all free agent small forwards out there

  • Josh Childress (Restricted, last year's salary: 3.6 million): A great fit, but will surely command someone's full mid-level exception, if not more.
  • Posey (last year: 3.2 million): Again, out of our price range
  • Mickael Pietrus (last year: 3.47 million): Gone to Orlando for the full mid-level exception, aka more than we could pay.
  • Ricky Davis(last year: 6.81 million): No thanks. 
  • Ryan Gomes (last year: 770,000): Gomes would be really nice.  He's young, can play the 3 or the 4, and put up really strong numbers across the board last year.  Unfortunately, he's probably out of our price range.
  • Kelenna Azubuike (Restricted, last year: 687,000): Again, someone who would be a great addition, but probably played his way out of our price range.  I see him getting someone's mid-level (maybe the Spurs)
  • Bonzi Wells (last year: 2.28 million): Too much baggage, but I have to say, he intrigues me because he can score in the paint.  Only for less than 1.5 million, though.
  • James Jones (last year: 2.9 million): Just signed a five-year, 22 million dollar deal with Miami.  I wouldn't have wanted him anyway, since he's not much of a defender.
  • Bostjan Nachbar (last year: 2.5 million): Intriguing.  New Jersey appears to be his first choice, but they're worried about signing him for more than 2 years.  He might command too much, but for 3 million a year, he works for me.
  • Trevor Ariza (last year: 3.1 million): Already exercised his player option to remain with the Lakers. 
  • Matt Barnes (last year: 3 million): He's the name tossed around a lot, but his production really took a dive last year, and he hadn't done much prior to 2007.  I worry that his reputation is mostly due to the Warriors' system and his playoff exploits two years ago.  One thing's for sure: Golden State definitely isn't keeping him, and his market value is pretty low.  I suppose he works fine.  He apparently has an interesting connection to Gilbert Arenas, for what it's worth. 
  • Devin Brown (last year: 1.2 million): We nearly signed him instead of DeShawn Stevenson last summer.  Instead, he went to Cleveland late and was decent until being benched in the playoffs.  He's a good option to me.  Always been underrated and should come pretty cheap.
  • Michael Finley: Too old.  His game fell off a cliff last year.
  • Maurice Evans (last year: 1.74 million): Another decent option who is definitely available now that Orlando signed Pietrus. 
  • Tony Allen (last year: last year: 1.86 million): Boston didn't pick up his qualifying option, so he's definitely available.  I actually like him a lot.  He can't shoot, but he can defend like crazy and is athletic.  He'll come cheaply, and he's young enough to become something more than a simple reserve.  Remember, he's one more year removed from ACL surgery.
  • Quinton Ross (last year: 826,000): Good defender, but literally has no offensive game.
  • Dorell Wright (Restricted, last year: 2.04 million): Another intriguing option like Allen.  Not a great defender or shooter, but has lots of room to grow.
  • Kirk Snyder (last year: 2.35 million): Minnesota didn't pick up his qualifying offer.  Doesn't really do anything for me.
  • Devean George (last year: 2.37 million): Too old.
  • Jarvis Hayes (last year: 1.2 million): Yeah right.  Just making sure you were paying attention

I'm actually pretty optimistic here.  A lot of those names are pretty intriguing and can provide about as much as Posey or Pietrus could for half the price.  Maybe they don't have the entire package those guys bring, but they also have room to improve.  Besides, we're looking for a backup, not somebody who will play a ton of minutes. 

The key, though, is to sign someone on a short-term deal.  I don't want any of these guys tying up cap space for the next five years.  They're all pretty similar anyway, so if one guy wants five years, we can just move on and sign another who'll take two or three years.

My top choices are probably Devin Brown, Tony Allen, Maurice Evans or Matt Barnes.  If we get one of those four guys, I think our backup small forward position is secure.

Who do you guys like?  Do any of these guys do anything for you?