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. First up: Devin Harris.
Team: Atlanta Hawks.
Type: Unrestricted free agent.
This past year: Made the best of a tricky situation in Atlanta. With Jeff Teague entrenched as the starting point guard, Harris had to learn how to play off the ball for the first time in his career. The presence of Lou Williams also made things difficult, because Harris now had to compete with two other small combo guards for playing time. That partially explains why Harris' numbers were a career low this year.
But Harris really picked things up once Williams went down with a season-ending injury in January. Harris was suddenly needed to be both a starter and the second-unit point guard, and he thrived. Harris averaged just 8.5 points, 2.7 assists, 43-percent shooting from the field and 32-percent shooting from downtown in the first half of season; those numbers rose to 12 points, 4.4 assists, 45 percent from the field and 36 percent from downtown after the All-Star break. His ability to push the ball was important for the Hawks' style, especially when he was paired with Teague. The Hawks were 20-6 when Harris played at least 25 minutes, 25-13 when he played at least 20 minutes and 35-23 when he played at all this season.
Why he's fit in well: Harris can function with or without another ball-handler, so he would make the perfect third guard for a Wizards team that needs someone to hold down the fort when John Wall and Bradley Beal sit. His ability to push the ball and defend fits in perfectly to the Wizards' style of play. He would also make it easier for Randy Wittman to open up his playbook to run more sets with Wall off the ball, much like how Jarrett Jack allowed the Warriors to use Stephen Curry in many unique ways.
Why he might not: Harris is not a great three-point shooter, though that comes with a few caveats. If you look at his shot chart from this year, 70 percent of his attempts came from the right or left wing. Harris hit just 30 percent of those shots, dragging his overall percentage down. If Harris can lay off some of those shots and be positioned differently on the floor, he may experience more shooting success.
Harris is also a bit turnover-prone, though he improved in that area last season. He has a tendency to force plays that aren't there, which hurts his team. He's also more of a combo guard that a pure point, though that may not be as big a problem if he's a third guard.
Likely price tag: It's hard to say. Most teams already have a point guard locked up, but someone may give Harris a decently-sized short-term contract to act as a bridge before they find a long-term solution in the draft. If that doesn't happen, though, I suspect Harris' value will rise only to the full mid-level exception. Depending on how the market shakes out, he could sign for less.
Verdict: I think Harris would be a perfect fit here, but signing him likely means saying goodbye to Martell Webster unless there's some sort of sign-and-trade.