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: C.J. Watson.
Team: Brooklyn Nets.
Type: Unrestricted free agent.
This past year: Had a decent, if unspectacular year. His minutes were down because he wasn't forced to fill in for an injured star, and his efficiency went up because he wasn't asked to do as much. After being forced to run the offense in Chicago due to Derrick Rose's injury, Watson played a lot off the ball, with either Deron Williams or Joe Johnson running the offense. Watson played a total of 1,521 minutes during the regular season; only 146 of those minutes were without either Williams or Johnson on the floor, per NBA.com. In fact, Watson played more minutes with both players (226) than without either one.
That changed Watson into more of a spot-up shooter than lead guard. His usage and assist percentage dropped significantly, but he finished 213 spot-up plays this year compared to just 143 last year, per MySynergySports.com. That redistribution of his role allowed him to hit a career-high 41 percent from three-point range, though it exposed him when he had to take on extra ball-handling.
All in all, he was a decent third guard for an affordable price, except when he missed wide-open dunks.
Why he's fit in well: Watson is an excellent outside shooter that has experience filling in for injured stars. He's not someone that will get to the basket consistently or defend your butt off, but he can stretch the defense and function well in an offense without getting many touches. That means he should fit in well playing with John Wall or Bradley Beal.
Why he might not: He's not a great defender or slasher, and his effectiveness can depend on whether he's hitting his outside shot. His defense isn't as good as A.J. Price's, and while Watson is a much better perimeter shooter, he's really not great handling the ball in a pick and roll. His role in Brooklyn is most appropriate, but the Wizards may be looking for more of a playmaker.
Likely price tag: I would have a hard time seeing Watson getting more than the mini-mid-level exception of $2.5 million/season.
Verdict: Watson's a nice cost-effective solution to the third guard problem if the Wizards elect to keep Martell Webster. He's a slight upgrade on Price and probably won't cost too much more.