The list of wing free-agent options that figure to be realistically attainable by the Wizards this offseason is flawed. The top players of this free-agent class don’t seem like ones that will be available to the Wizards barring a sign and trade.
Of those who are on the market, most have drawbacks and would profile more like pieces in a puzzle than the exact fit that Wizards fans are looking for at the wing. They are mostly defense-first with questionable shooting, vice versa, or have age and/or character concerns.
That being said, there are a number of options, and the Wizards have one of the better setups to provide a wing player with playing time and the chance to shine next to a couple of top-level guards and a high pace offense — unless a player is drafted to the team ahead of free agency on the wing.
For this exercise, we’ll break the wings into a couple of groups based on what their projected markets look like. For this part, they’re options for the Mid-Level Exception (MLE), or most of it. Somewhere between $5M-$9.75M per year or just below it. Players who signed for this in 2019: Tyus Jones, Al Farouq-Aminu, Seth Curry, Derrick Rose, Ish Smith, Trey Lyles, Rodney Hood.
To be noted, I did not include smaller shooting guards for this. We’ll first cover the most realistic fits for the MLE based on their availability and the chance they could actually join the Wizards. We’ll rank them from most attractive to least. In part two, we’ll cover a second group, who would be less likely to get paid due to age, character, contract status, etc.
It should be considered a long shot to acquire Grant and bring him back home to the D.C. area. A couple of things work against the Wizards — first, his $9.35M player option that he holds, and second is that the Nuggets traded a 2020 first-round pick to get him in Denver meaning they likely want to retain him long-term. In all likelihood, the two sides will negotiate an extension prior to free agency to prevent him from hitting the open market.
On the other hand, Denver has to choose between re-signing Mason Plumlee, Grant, Paul Millsap, and Torrey Craig this offseason with limited funds to do so, due to the luxury tax, and have some tough decisions to make. Plus, Michael Porter Jr. plays a similar role to Grant as a combo forward and is a guy who clearly needs more playing time. It is possible that Grant is the odd man out.
If that’s the case, the Wizards will have the full MLE to offer and you’d think Grant would be interested in returning home to play. Especially with his younger brother, Jerian Grant, spending this past year with the GoGo and seemingly being a potential training camp invite for next year. He may earn more than the MLE though and the Wizards would be unlikely to get him if that’s the case.
Jerami Grant would provide above-average wing defense, great athleticism, solid 3-point shooting and he just recently turned 26. He’d be an excellent fit, but the odds are against this pairing.
Harkless profiles as a similar player to Grant, though with less production. His value comes from his defense, athleticism, and versatility. His shooting has been up and down throughout his career, with it hindering him from taking the next step as a fixture in Portland.
He would fit primarily due to that defensive ability though. His steal and block rates have been top-notch through his career and he would be the defensive stopper that this team has lacked since Trevor Ariza’s first stint in D.C. There also would not be many questions about his role and he’d be in a likely committee with Troy Brown Jr. and potentially Isaac Bonga.
Harkless is from New York, so if the Knicks are offering him similar money he may end up resigning there. But as a defense-first player who turns 27 in May, Harkless would work as a multi-year option for the Wizards.
Glenn Robinson III
Unlike the other options listed so far, Robinson III’s current team does not hold his Bird rights thus limiting what they can offer for him. Suffice it to say, his return to Philadelphia is not likely and he’s an unrestricted free agent. As a player that’s 26 to start next year who put career-high numbers on good efficiency on a bad team in Golden State, he’s absolutely a fit with the Wizards.
Robinson III has likely not proven enough to be offered the full MLE but probably will get offers in the taxpayer MLE range (around $6M) and the Wizards would perhaps need to offer a multi-year deal. His defense is supposedly average, and he’s not going to be a star but he’s a solid shooter who brings athleticism and based on his career arc so far, could show more. I’d say he’s one of the more plausible options on this list.
Derrick Jones Jr.
The Heat are preserving cap space for the 2021 summer but are in the unique position of also trying to compete at the highest level for the upcoming season. Usually, a 23-year-old like Jones Jr. who takes on a majority of the most difficult perimeter assignments and is a consistent part of the rotation would be a no-brainer for them to retain. But, the Heat will attempt to not give second or third years that are fully guaranteed, if most reports are true.
Jones Jr. has not progressed as a shooter and is fairly thin for a small forward but his athleticism and defense would work with the Wizards, and his high-flying dunks would be a well-received bonus for Wizards fans. Is it worth it to give him $5M-$7M per year on a multi-year deal? It’s hard to say that convincingly, but he should be an option, and if it goes well he could be part of the core moving forward on another deal down the line.
Crowder figures to hit the open market and would likely be looking for a longer deal beyond the offer that Miami will likely extend due to the Heat’s eyes being on the summer of 2021 free agency class. He turns 30 this summer and this could be his last chance at a payday that’s more than one year.
Though he takes a high number of attempts from 3, he is a below-average shooter. He is competent defensively and has been on successful teams for a number of years and is known as a good teammate who helps to raise the floor of the teams he’s been with. I’d imagine that a couple of teams could offer him the taxpayer MLE of just around $6M so the Wizards would want to offer above that to bring him into the fold. He’d be an unsexy pickup but would be a good stopgap for 2 years or so.
Who are some other players that could get the MLE?
There are other upcoming free agents who weren’t covered in detail. They weren’t because they will likely earn more than the MLE or are otherwise unlikely to come to D.C. These players include Brandon Ingram, Tim Hardaway Jr., Evan Fournier, DeMar DeRozan, Danilo Gallinari, Joe Harris, Gordon Hayward, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Juan Hernangomez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Malik Beasley, Marcus Morris.