The Washington Wizards probably won't be very active chasing the big fish in the 2011 NBA free agency pond, and they shouldn't be. There's no reason to make a big play for the top guys in a weak free-agency class at this stage of their development. But the Wizards do have some cap room to play with this year, and while I wouldn't go crazy with it, I would still look around for some potentially overlooked free agents that can come in and be role players for this team this year and in the future.
The Wizards have a tendency, I think, to view their players in a youth/veteran binary. Young players are there to develop, while older players are there for veteran leadership and professionalism. So my focus here is to look for potentially undervalued guys who fit somewhere between old and young and directly address one of the team's needs. Players in their prime or on the verge of their prime, but guys who don't necessarily need as much hand-holding with player development as some of the other young players.
Two guys immediately come to mind: Reggie Williams and Chuck Hayes.Williams is a really underrated offensive player who is on the upswing. He's played two seasons for the Golden State Warriors, and in both years, he's proven he can score from anywhere on the court. I'd envision him as a potential backup at two positions, potential insurance if Nick Young's asking price becomes too large and a guy who could provide John Wall with much-needed shooting.
Even if the Wizards re-sign Nick Young, they have a dearth of deep shooters. Really, the only good catch-and-shoot guys on the roster are Young and Rashard Lewis. Williams, however, is an outstanding catch-and-shoot player. Last year, he hit nearly 43 percent of his three-pointers, and 68 percent of his overall shots were assisted, up 17 percent from his rookie year. As a rookie, he free-wheeled a bit, but he quickly adjusted his game last year and his efficiency didn't drop off. He's deadly-efficient, posting a TS% above 58 percent in both of his first two years. He's also not entirely one-dimensional offensively. He can shot fake and put the ball on the floor, and he has a pretty solid in-between game.
Think about the small lineup capabilities Williams could provide. You trot Williams out there with Wall, Young, Lewis (or eventually Singleton/Vesely) and Blatche or McGee. Suddenly, perimeter players can't cheat off their men to stop Wall's penetration into the lane. It'll make Wall better and it'll make everybody better.
The drawbacks to Williams are his defense and where he'll play. I'm not too concerned with the latter, especially if the Wizards are molding Jordan Crawford into a backup point guard. Minutes will be there. The former is definitely legitimate, but I think he could improve getting away from Golden State. Besides, we're talking about having Williams as a role player, so he'll have some strengths and weaknesses. I just think his strengths are ones this Wizards team needs.
As for Hayes, he comes here for one reason: post defense. Very few in the NBA are better at it. Who better to provide an excellent example to the team's young big men than him. He's also a pretty underrated high-post passer, a very good screener and rarely steps out of his role. Back in March, I wrote about the importance of Nick Collison to the culture and on-court play of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Hayes is exactly that kind of player.
Both guys are in their 20s and both could come pretty reasonably. I'd venture to say that the Wizards could get them for under $8 million/season combined. If so, with the Wizards having $16 million or so in cap space, I'd look to do it. It saves their powder and provides the team with two role players that directly hit at their weaknesses.