On a special free agency preview of the Bleav in Wizards podcast, Larry Hughes and I discussed the Wizards’ need for a veteran wing. Honestly, probably several veteran wings if we hope to match-up with the more perimeter-oriented teams in the Eastern Conference.
The Athletic’s John Hollinger (subscription required) recently released his free agent small forward rankings and included likely salary projections for all of the candidates. His ranking was from a more general NBA perspective so we used his list as a starting point to evaluate each player’s potential fit with the Wizards specifically.
Guys likely to use the full Mid-Level Exception (MLE) of ~$9.76 million
This was Hughes’ favorite option and I like Harris a lot on paper too The big question is how much money he will command. Hollinger projected him in the $10 million per year range but that really isn’t that far off from the MLE. Things could get squirrely during this accelerated free agency period so if he ends up in the price range, he certainly merits some consideration. Especially if Davis Bertans signs elsewhere.
Case for: The combination of elite shooting (career 43-percent from three), intangibles, basketball IQ, and solid defensive positioning. You can never have enough shooting, especially from a guy who doesn’t need a lot of dribbles to do it. He’s not an elite defender but he’s pretty solid and definitely won’t hurt you (he was in the middle of the small forward pack in terms of defensive real plus/minus).
Case against: Yes, extra shooting is nice. Yes, I just said he’s developed into a solid defender over the last year or two. But considering his price tag, could the Wizards put that money to better use and address more glaring needs?
This is the name I’ve seen most frequently from other fans. If you had asked me about Crowder two years ago I would have said “hard pass” but he was a pretty important piece of Miami’s finals run. He’s projected to make more than the MLE and somehow I think Miami will be keen to keep him around.
Case for: He made 45-percent of his threes for Miami, he looked spry this year on defense, and he would add some toughness
Case against: He made 29-percent of his threes for Memphis, he had to play mostly power forward in Utah because he had slowed down laterally so much, do the Wizards have the same “culture” to motivate him the way Miami did?
Holiday is my favorite name on this list. I just think he’s the right blend of what we are looking for and seems like he could be had for the MLE.
Case for: He made 40-percent of his threes, he’s a good perimeter defender, he’s good for the culture, and most importantly he’s an iron man. The guy rarely misses games, which was the thing I love most about Marcin Gortat. Given the injury issues the Wizards have had in recent years, Holiday would be a consistent presence. If we can’t get Jrue Holiday, maybe Justin is good enough?
Case against: It isn’t a splashy move. That’s literally the only negative I can come up with.
He’s likely to use up the full MLE and I don’t think he’s what this team needs. He puts up big stats when he’s heavily featured, like with the Knicks. but looked out of synch in a reduced role for the Clippers.
Case for: He can put the ball in the basket and he’s not afraid to mix it up.
Case against: He’s already 31 and his play in the bubble was not inspiring. Plus, we already had our Morris twin.
Derrick Jones Jr.
We actually didn’t discuss him on the show because much of the chatter has been on him getting above the MLE. That was a little surprising to me so here’s the argument for and against just in case he isn’t out of their price range after all.
Case for: He would be one of the best finishers the Wizards have had in the last decade, he’d be great in transition next to Wall, he’s such an athlete with good length that he makes for a really good help-side defender, and he’s only 23 years old
Case against: It always come back to the shooting and he only shot 28-percent from three last year
The $4 - 7 million guys
Of the guys in this tier, Harkless was our slight favorite. He’s someone that could make life difficult for people like Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum.
Case for: He’s played in meaningful playoff games, he’s got good size, he’s a good defender.
Case against: He’s only a career 32-percent three point shooter and I think you need more floor spacing than that to maximize John Wall’s skills.
I get that he’s not a traditional “small forward” but with the league moving toward three-guard lineups I think he could play a heavy amount of minutes on the wing for the Wizards.
Case for: He has the tools and pedigree to be a defensive pest (must be in the water at Florida State), he’s a pretty good three-point shooter, he would be great in transition next to Wall, he’s only 24 years old and still likely to improve with a more consistent role.
Case against: We need a stopper on the wing and his size (6’4ish) and inconsistent effort means he’s likely not that guy.
Once again, not the first name that comes to mind when you think small forward. But that’s essentially what he is at this point in his career. At his age (34) and with his injury history, his athleticism is mostly gone at this point. But his strength and savvy have increased and that should allow him to guard most wings in the league.
Case for: He’d be a stabilizing presence (especially off the bench), he’s low maintenance, shot over 36-percent from three last year.
Case against: He’s old.
Hughes has known Jackson since he was playing youth basketball and had positive things to say about him despite whatever issues he had early in his career.
Case for: He was a top 4 pick for a reason so maybe with the right opportunity he can be a good reclamation project, he defends, he’s physical, he’s younger than most guys on this list.
Case against: Once again, he’s not a consistent three-point shooter yet and he’s a bit sloppy with the ball at times.
Like three years ago, I would have loved adding Kent Bazemore. Unfortunately, he appears to be slowing down so anything more than a one year deal (plus maybe a team option) would worry me.
Case for: Good locker room guy, 35-percent three-point shooter and seems to be improving as he ages, good defender throughout his career.
Case against: Starting to lose some athleticism, shot almost as well from three as he did from two-point range (which is not a good thing).
I guess I wouldn’t hate it but I can’t get over that weird stretch he had with Cleveland and not wanting to re-enter a playoff game. We don’t need that.
Case for: He’s probably the best flat-out scorer of this bunch.
Case against: He’s probably the worst defender of this bunch.
He’s one of the more intriguing names in this group to me because he may actually have some untapped upside left. He’s about to be 26 in December but has spent most of his career behind people like Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac in Orlando’s weird forward logjam.
Case for: He’s a good defender, can put the ball on the floor a little bit to attack closeouts, could still improve, probably the most affordable guy in this tier.
Case against: Only a career 32-percent shooter from three.
The Bi-Annual Exception (~$3.8 million) and below guys
Honestly, I just have a soft spot for McRae. He worked really hard to get good and earn minutes at the NBA level. I still feel like he can be a valuable contributor on a good team. He’s not the 3-and-D wing the Wizards need but he could provide a spark off the bench as a scorer.
Case for: Well liked by the players and coaches, could come in and spell Beal for a few minutes or play next to him and spread the floor
Case against: He’s pretty much just a bench scorer
Of the remaining options, Hughes liked Glen Robinson III because he’s young enough at 26 and looks to still be improving. Marco Belinelli also got a quick shout out as someone who could play some spot minutes off the bench.
I liked Torey Craig a bit because I think he was just solid enough for Denver in big moments that I wouldn’t be scared to put him out there for a stretch in a meaningful game. Pretty much everyone else underwhelmed.
Are there any names you like that we missed? Let us know who you think the Wizards should target!