It happens every year in the NBA and all professional sports for that matter — players fresh off playing in their sport’s penultimate game, or series, cash in on their team’s success and garner an above-market contract from rival teams the moment free agency begins.
Being that it’s never the stars who garner this attention — their teams are obviously going to pay them, unless their team is the Miami Marlins — it’s the role players who are on many teams’ wishlists.
With the Washington Wizards gearing up for a playoff run next season, these are the type of role players that the team should be looking at to bolster its roster.
Of the players on the Miami Heat (Chris “Birdman” Anderson and Juwan Howard) and San Antonio Spurs (Tiago Splitter, Gary Neal, Manu Ginobili, DeJuan Blair and Tracy McGrady) who are currently set to be unrestricted or restricted free agents — I’m not including players who have a player or team option — Neal and Anderson are the best fits for Washington.
With Anderson being the only capable big man on Miami’s roster — Chris Bosh doesn’t rebound, score in the paint or protect the basket — it’s highly unlikely that Miami will let him take his tattoos away from South Beach. This leaves Neal as the prime candidate for Washington to poach.
Being that Washington’s backcourt was as thin as Lindsay Lohan last season (NBA nomad Garrett Temple started 36 games for Washington) Neal would be a great third guard and occasional starting guard with John Wall constantly injured for the Wizards.
With his ability to be provide instant offense off the bench, showcased by his 24 points in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, Neal could be what Jordan Crawford was for Washington minus the tunnel vision and trigger fingers that Crawford was notorious and later shipped off for.
With the Tim Duncan era nearing its end, retaining Splitter has to be the top priority for the Spurs. This makes acquiring Neal more feasible for Washington, as San Antonio would likely not match his offer sheet.
While Neal’s asking price is still undetermined, Washington should still have Neal in their crosshairs when free agency opens July 1.