Lakers Reportedly Awarded $4.85 Million Disabled Player Exception for Steve Nash

The Los Angeles Lakers lost veteran Steve Nash for the season due to a back injury, but they are reportedly set to receive some compensation due to the disabled player exception.    

Brian Windhorst of ESPN initially passed along the news:

Nash has played in just 65 games over the last two seasons with the Lakers. The former Phoenix Suns star holds averages of 11.4 points and 6.4 assists per game during that span.

Back in October, the Lakers made the news of his injury official along with quotes from Nash and general manager Mitch Kupchak:

The Lakers have been ravaged by injuries this season, including the recent loss of Xavier Henry for the season due to a ruptured Achilles, per ESPN.com’s Baxter Holmes, as well as the loss of promising rookie Julius Randle to a broken leg. Receiving the return on Nash should help lessen some of the blow from another down season.

Jeremy Lin (12.1 PPG, 4.9 APG) has stepped up in place of Nash, but the team is still 3-11 entering Tuesday night and well outside of the playoff chase. Getting value back for Nash’s injury allows the team a chance to help bolster the roster in the future.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Lakers & Nets discussing Jordan Hill for Disabled Player Exception

It has to be a bad feeling to be part of trade rumors. It has to be an awful feeling to be part of rumors to be traded for a random exception to just free up cap space. Los Angeles, Brooklyn have discussed Jordan Hill deal into the Nets’ Disabled Player Exception, league sources tell Yahoo. — Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 17, 2014 Poor Jordan Hill.

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NBA Free Agents 2013: Evaluating Market for Players Worth Mid-Level Exception

Some of the most influential 2013 NBA free agents won’t be stars, but instead they will be role players who settle for the mid-level exception to play for a contender.

Ray Allen signed with the Miami Heat for the mini-midlevel last summer, and he made a huge difference in them winning their second-straight championship.

Here are four free agents worth a full mid-level deal who could be the missing piece on a team’s quest for a title next season.

 

4. J.J. Redick, SG

Redick provides ideal instant offense off the bench. He’s scored double-digit points per game the past three seasons and has shot 39.0 percent from downtown for his career. The former Duke star also turned himself into a respectable defender, holding opposing shooting guards to a player efficiency ratio of 12.6, according to 82games.com (the league average is 15.0).

 

3. Jarrett Jack, PG

Jack is one of the best backup point guards in the entire NBA. He averaged 12.9 points and 5.6 assists per game this past regular season while shooting 40.4 percent from downtown. When his role expanded in the postseason, his scoring skyrocketed, as Jack averaged 17.2 points per game.

 

2. Ray Allen

According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Ira Winderman, Allen will opt out of his current contract. After averaging 10.6 points and shooting 54.5 percent from three-point territory in the 2013 NBA Finals, it’s clear that Allen is still the deadliest long-distance shooter in the league. He could choose to re-sign with the Heat for cheap, but he’s worth the full mid-level exception.

 

1. Carl Landry, PF

Landry is another key Golden State Warrior reserve who would be a huge addition to a contender. He’s scored double-digit points the past four years, averaging 10.8 points this past season. He also shot 54.0 percent from the field, which is the most efficient Landry has been since his Houston Rockets days. 

 

David Daniels is a breaking news writer at Bleacher Report and news editor at Wade-O Radio.

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Most Intriguing Free Agents for Miami Heat to Sign Using Mid-Level Exception

Thanks to their star-studded roster, the Miami Heat have the honor of paying luxury tax—which means they won’t be able to offer the max $5 million mid-level exception this offseason.

That doesn’t mean they’re out of luck though. Miami can still offer a max three-year, $3 million mid-level exception, which certainly gives it some wiggle room to add a veteran player to bolster its roster.

Adding a player with the mid-level exception is the Heat’s only option to add significant talent, because aside from that they only have minimum salaries to sign players.

So whom should the Heat pursue with their mid-level exception? 

Well, the first player they should pursue is a no-brainer who’s actually on their roster right now—Chris Andersen.

 

Chris Andersen, C, Miami Heat 

Heading into this season, the Heat’s biggest weakness was a lack of interior depth. They attacked that weakness by signing Andersen midway through the season, and it’s worked out pretty well so far. 

In 62 games played this season—including up to Game 1 of the NBA Finals—Andersen is averaging 5.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in just 17.6 minutes per game.

That’s not too shabby for a guy who was watching the first half of the NBA season from his couch. 

Not only is Andersen a long and athletic defender capable of protecting the rim, but he’s also the kind of player who brings serious energy off the bench.

Honestly, the Heat’s biggest challenge this offseason will be inking Andersen to the mid-level exception, because other contenders who could use his talents can offer him some more cash.

The only way the Heat will bring him back is if they win the 2013 NBA title. If they do that, Andersen would be a fool to leave Miami. Well, not really a fool, but it would be his best opportunity to win multiple rings—which I’d imagine is somewhat important to him. 

 

Tony Allen, SG, Memphis Grizzlies

Aside from interior depth, which is obviously something Miami needs and will continue to need as long as it has Chris Bosh solidifying the paint, the biggest need is perimeter defense. 

Enter Tony Allen, one of the most tenacious defenders in the entire NBA. 

This past season Allen made $3.3 million, which is right around what the Heat could offer him with their mid-level exception.

While the Memphis Grizzlies would be extremely foolish to let him look elsewhere, I’m sure Allen will at least test the waters in free agency this summer. The one thing holding the Heat back from being a front-runner for a guy like Allen is that he’s already won an NBA title.

Allen got his first and only ring with the Boston Celtics in 2008, and while winning another title is enticing, I’m sure cash flow is a bit more tempting since he’s already wearing a ring.

If for some reason Allen decides he wants to make as much as he did last year and have a solid shot at a few more titles, the Heat would be his best option. 

He would bring serious defensive intensity to the Heat’s backcourt, and he would solidify the Heat’s depth in their second unit. It wouldn’t be a bad gig for a player who will be turning 32 next season.

 

Brandon Wright, PF/C, Dallas Mavericks

This one may be a stretch because he’s even smaller than the weakling known as Chris Bosh who the Heat have solidifying their interior.

With that being said, Wright is a more intense, physical and post-focused player. 

Over the past two seasons, he’s posted a PER above 21, and last year he scored 8.5 points, grabbed 4.1 rebounds and blocked 1.2 shots in 18 minutes per game. 

Wright should only be on the Heat’s roster if they can’t manage to re-sign Chris Andersen, because honestly giving Wright near $3 million per year is a bit of a stretch, even if he has serious potential at the young age of 25.

 

Matt Barnes, SF, L.A. Clippers

The final free agent the Heat should have their eyes on this offseason is Matt Barnes, the feisty and tenacious defender who’s spent most of his career on the West Coast.

Barnes is a solid defender, along the lines of Chris Andersen, who’s physical and knows how to get under his opponent’s skin at the same time.

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have both gotten the best of Barnes—LeBron with a nasty chase-down block and Wade with a disgusting crossover. 

I’m sure Barnes has moved past those moments and could be a productive and solid member of one of the best teams in the league.

In addition to his stingy perimeter defense, Barnes also has a tendency to explode offensively once in a while—take for example the 21 times he scored at least 14 points this past season.

Barnes would be a great addition to a Heat team that will be looking to add defensive pressure out on the perimeter.

The Heat certainly have a lot of options when it comes to using their mid-level exception this offseason, and it will be exciting to see whom they add to their team.

It’s safe to say that the player they end up with will go a long way in helping them remain a title contender or head in the opposite direction. 

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Most Intriguing Free Agents for Utah Jazz to Sign with the Mid-Level Exception

With loads of cap space opening up this summer, the Utah Jazz should be big players in the 2013 NBA free-agent market. They’ll have the freedom to go after superstars and role players alike. And teams often use a “mid-level exception” (MLE) on role players.

There are plenty of big names like Dwight Howard and Chris Paul on the market this year, but complete teams have great supporting casts and Utah could sign a solid contributor with their MLE.

According to HoopsWorld, Utah currently has $27 million on the books for the 2013-14 season, and ESPN’s Marc Stein has tweeted that next year’s salary cap will be $58.5 million.

A team under the cap can use what’s called a mini MLE that starts at $2.6 million for next season, while a team over the cap can use the full MLE at $5.2 million.

What kind of exception the team uses depends on where Utah is after re-signing current players and going after big-name free agents. Either way, they have plenty of needs (particularly in the backcourt) and several solid options are available on the market.

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Most Intriguing Free Agents for HOU Rockets to Sign with the Mid-Level Exception

The Houston Rockets have upwards of $20 million in cap space this offseason (via hoopshype.com), and general manager Daryl Morey will certainly spend nearly all of that money in an effort to improve an already promising core of players.

Should Morey reach his spending limit, however, he can take advantage of the mid-level exception (MLE) to sign a player even if he’s over the salary cap.

The MLE allows teams over the salary cap to spend a specified amount of money on a free agent, and that specified number changes from season to season. For a full description of the MLE, click here.

This season, teams qualifying for the MLE have the opportunity to spend $5,150,000 on a free agent (via hoopsrumors.com). 

Teams that qualify for the MLE would be foolish not to take advantage of the opportunity to go above the salary cap and sign more talent. Finding players for under $5 million isn’t always easy, but the diamonds in the rough often show themselves early on during the regular season.

The Rockets, like every team, could make great use of the MLE. There are definitely some intriguing options out there for them.

 

Matt Barnes

Matt Barnes is the most intriguing—and, dare I say, likely best available—candidate for the MLE amongst NBA teams. Take into account his salary from last season (just under $900K, via hoopshype.com) and his great production off the bench for the Los Angeles Clippers, and you’ve got yourself an ideal option.

Barnes will certainly be in line for a raise given his numbers from last season. He dropped a career-high 10.3 points per game in his age-32 season. His 4.6 boards per contest in 25.7 minutes were a nice addition to his game, as was his 34.2 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

The Rockets happen to be in the market for a reserve small forward behind Chandler Parsons, as Francisco Garcia is expected to have his team option rejected and there are no guarantees regarding Carlos Delfino‘s option either.

Monetarily, going after Barnes in favor of Garcia and Delfino is the much better option.

Barnes also plays strong defense, something Houston lacks in nearly every capacity. He blocked 0.8 shots and recorded 1.0 steals per game for the Clips in 2012-13, showcasing how his length and athleticism make him one of the better reserve defenders in the NBA.

 

Samuel Dalembert

If the Rockets want cheap defense under the basket when Omer Asik hits the bench, then they should look no further than 11-year veteran Samuel Dalembert.

He blocked 1.1 shots per game as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks last season and has averaged 1.8 blocks for his career. The guy can simply block shots—period.

Houston lacked defense under the basket when Asik needed a rest last season. Greg Smith, Donatas Motiejunas and Tim Olbrecht did not provide enough tenacity under the basket to play passable defense. Dalembert is long and knows how to use his body, making him an ideal candidate for this role.

Better yet, he’ll likely be in the market for a salary under $5 million. He made $6.7 million with the Bucks (via hoopshype.com), but he may be hard-pressed to find that money again. He only averaged 6.7 points in just under 17 minutes per game, so he isn’t worth much more than the MLE.

Even if it takes all $5 million to sign Dalembert, Morey shouldn’t pass on him if other options don’t fall into place. Dalembert is a quality reserve center who would play well in a system where opponents attack the basket and he has the opportunity to pull down offensive boards.

Asik has yet to miss a game over the course of his career, but Dalembert’s starting experience from his days with the Philadelphia 76ers help his case even more.

 

Jermaine O’Neal

The Phoenix Suns paid Jermaine O’Neal just over $1.3 million in 2011 (via hoopshype.com), and the Rockets could easily land him if they offer something in that range.

Not many teams are in the market for an aging center, so Houston shouldn’t have a hard time fending off the competition. In all honesty, Houston shouldn’t even be all that concerned about his age. For the role he would be asked to play, defense is all the Rockets should care about.

O’Neal certainly fits the bill as a defensive-minded reserve center. He blocked 1.4 shots in 18.7 minutes per game last season in Phoenix, making it the 13th straight season in which he’s blocked at least 1.3 shots per contest.

He even brought in 5.3 rebounds per game, showcasing the fact that he still has something left in the tank. O’Neal is a great fit to play behind Asik, as his defense mirrors that of last season’s breakout star.

What makes O’Neal even more appealing is the fact that he can play power forward in a pinch. A power forward for most of his career, O’Neal saw most of his better days in the NBA while playing the 4.

Offensively, O’Neal isn’t anything special at this point in his career. He can still get the job done, however, evidenced by his 48.2 percent shooting with the Suns. With that in mind, O’Neal is worth the MLE for the Rockets.

 

 Conclusion

Defense should be the main goal of the Rockets this offseason, and there are plenty of players that can step in and provide some spark in that area. Barnes, Dalembert and O’Neal are all above-average defenders who qualify for the MLE and could make an impact on a young Rockets team.

Although there will be other general managers out there interested in these players, Morey may be faced with the difficult option of choosing one out of the three (and many other NBA free agents). I could make a case for all three if I were the GM of a team but, thankfully, I’d rather leave the decision of choosing one up to Morey.

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Most Intriguing Free Agents for Orlando Magic to Sign with Mid-Level Exception

The Orlando Magic may be coming off one of the worst seasons in their recent history, but Magic general manager Rob Hennigan isn’t expected to make much noise in a mediocre free-agency market this summer.

After all, Orlando does hold the second pick in this year’s draft, and 2014 is shaping up to be a monster of a year between a potentially historic draft class and another free-agency period filled with elite talent.

To put it simply, it’s no secret that Orlando is and will be in a frugal state in preparation for a very active offseason next year.

Hedo Turkoglu and Al Harrington are scheduled to combine to take up nearly $20 million of the Magic’s cap room this year, but Orlando does have the ability to waive each of them if it desires to do so.

However, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Hennigan elect to bring both Turkoglu and Harrington back for one more season. If anything, they will serve as viable bait at the trading deadline, or the Magic could decide to ride the season out with both big men and set them free next summer to free up additional cap space.

And although Orlando won’t be looking to make any notable splashes this summer, there are a few intriguing options the Magic could bring on board with the mid-level exception.

 

Mario Chalmers

This one is a bit of a stretch, as point guard Mario Chalmers has become an essential ingredient to the Miami Heat’s success over the past few years and the team holds the option to bring him back for at least one more go-round next year at a rate of $4 million.

However, Norris Cole’s development is nothing to scoff at, and with the Heat also likely looking to begin freeing up room to make moves for the best interest of the organization moving forward, perhaps Pat Riley might ponder a change at the point guard position.

The Magic are thought to be interested in bettering their point guard rotation, and the 27-year-old Chalmers would be at least a tempting option, especially with his championship pedigree dating back to his days at Kansas.

Chalmers wouldn’t be just a temporary option, but rather he’s more than capable of being the future of whatever franchise he ends up signing a healthy deal with one day. And with Jameer Nelson now 31 years old, the Magic know the time to find that future option at point guard is fast approaching.

In the end, however, it cannot be overstated that this move will likely be a reach for the Magic for a couple of reasons.

First of all, the Heat will likely bring their starting point guard back for at least one more season. And even if Riley did let Chalmers go, it’s not a stretch to say he could be a hot commodity and might wind up sitting outside the mid-level exception price range of just over $5 million.

 

Toney Douglas

A more likely—and more temporary—scenario at point guard would be the former Florida State Seminole, Toney Douglas.

Similar to Chalmers, Douglas is an exceptional defender. He’s also a well-rounded athlete that would add hustle to the Magic’s roster.

On the other hand, he’s never really been known to be anything more than an average producer on the offensive end. Throughout his career, Douglas has averaged a little more eight points and two assists per game.

The upsides to the 27-year-old point guard are his age and his work ethic. Douglas, who’s more blue-collared as opposed to a highlight-reel player, is unquestionably fully capable of being a consistent and quality role player in this league.

The questions are, would Orlando see him worthy of the use of its mid-level exception, and would Douglas be willing to settle for a deal for one or two years at the absolute most?

The consensus would likely be slanted towards no, but you never know in an in-between year like the one the franchise is about to enter.

 

J.J. Hickson

Out of all of these options, J.J. Hickson is likely the biggest stretch money-wise.

The 24-year-old Hickson made $4 million with the Portland Trail Blazers this past season, while averaging a double-double of 12.7 points per game along with 10.4 rebounds.

There may be flashier names looming in next year’s free agency offerings, as well as next year’s draft, but Hickson has proven himself to be a consistent competitor at just 24 years old.

And he certainly could end up earning offers around the league far greater than what a mid-level exception could pay him, but if he happens to be available for the right price, Hickson would definitely be an intriguing option for the Magic.

 

Beno Udrih

Though not the most exciting option, Beno Udrih, whom the Magic acquired from Milwaukee this past season, might be the best choice considering the franchise’s circumstances and future plans.

Udrih earned a little more than $7 million this past season, which is about $2 million above the mid-level exception mark. However, being 30 years old and shooting a career low of 40 percent from the field this past year, he likely won’t be able to command more than mid-level money.

While he’s certainly no superstar, Udrih could be a perfect temporary fit as the Magic mull over their plans for next April and summer.

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Most Intriguing Free Agents Toronto Raptors Can Sign with Mid-Level Exception

With no upcoming picks in the 2013 NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors will look towards free agency and possibly using their full mid-level exception (MLE) to acquire some offseason talent.

The full MLE will only come into play if the Raptors can get under the tax threshold enough to use it. The last thing this team needs is to go deeper into the luxury tax.

The Raptors have $72,951,259 in total committed salaries for next season. That number would drop to approximately $71.4 million if they decline John Lucas’ team option. If they decide to amnesty Linas Kleiza ($4,600,000 in 2013-14), that number would drop even further to approximately $67 million. 

The full MLE would start at $5.15 million and go upwards of four years. If it were used, it would bring the team close to the tax line once again. 

It’s not an ideal situation, but it’s the price the Raptors must pay to improve the roster in a summer void of draft picks and major cap space. 

The MLE can be split to acquire multiple players, but $5.15 million isn’t a lot of money to begin with. Any players signed with the exception will likely fill a specific need of the team in a small role, rather than seeing any significant playing time in the rotation.

This roster is fairly solid at the wing positions (Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Landry Fields), so signing a veteran big, a three-point specialist or a backup point guard for Kyle Lowry would be the way to go. 

*All statistics and salary information provided by Yahoo! Sports, NBA.com, Hoops World and BasketballReference.com. 

 

Jason Maxiell, F, Detroit Pistons

2012-13 statistics: 72 games played, 24.8 minutes, 6.9 points, 44.6 percent from the field, 5.7 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.4 steals, 1.3 blocks, 1.1 turnovers, 11.30 PER

2012-13 salary: $5,000,000

The Detroit Pistons no longer have a need for Jason Maxiell.

The emergence of Andre Drummond and Kyle Singler in the rotation has made Maxiell completely expendable to Detroit. 

He’s not going to command a lot of money on the open market, since he’s basically hit his peak as a basketball player. He’s never averaged more than 7.9 points and 5.7 rebounds for a season in his career.

That doesn’t mean that he can’t bring value in a potential move to Toronto. In a perfect world, Maxiel wouldn’t take up the entire MLE. He could realistically be acquired on the cheap if need be.

He’s an underrated post defender who can block shots, box out, bang down low and grab rebounds. 

Maxiell earned himself a reputation in Detroit for being a great locker room guy. He was well liked and respected by all of his teammates for the effort he put forth on a daily basis. 

This young Raptors team could certainly use the veteran leadership and disciplined work ethic that a Maxiell would provide. 


Darren Collison, PG, Dallas Mavericks

2012-13 statistics: 81 games played, 29.3 minutes, 12.0 points, 47.1 percent from the field, 2.7 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.1 blocks, 2.1 turnovers, 16.37 PER

2012-13 salary: $2,319,344

Collison‘s ceiling in the NBA is that of an above-average backup point guard. He showed during his one-year stint with the Mavericks that he’s too inconsistent to be trusted as a full-time starter. He struggled running the offense and was sloppy with the basketball, having led all players in the league that averaged less than 30 minutes per game in turnovers (2.1). 

Being benched in favor of veterans Derek Fisher and Mike James is proof of that in itself. He never had the full confidence of the coaching staff. 

As a restricted free agent, the Mavericks can match any offer that comes his way, but it’s hard to say whether or not they believe he has a future with the organization.

If the Raptors could somehow lure Collison away from Dallas, convince him to be the primary backup to Lowry and sign him with a potential full MLE, they would be better off because of it. 

There are very few point guards in the NBA that possess the speed and quickness that Collison has. Sure, he can sometimes be erratic with the ball, but against opposing teams’ second units, he would have less pressure on his shoulders and could play more care-free. 

He’s still very young (25), so the potential is certainly there for him to grow and develop his basic skills as a point guard.

Collison would mesh well with the young nucleus the Raptors have. The transition would be seamless. 

 

Chase Budinger, F, Minnesota Timberwolves

2012-13 statistics: 23 games played, 22.1 minutes, 9.4 points, 41.4 percent from the field, 3.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.3 blocks, 1.0 turnovers, 12.66 PER

2012-13 salary: $885,120

After missing a majority of the season with a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee, Chase Budinger will look to return to form in 2013-14, whether it is with the Timberwolves or another team entirely. 

Budinger is a career 35.8 percent three-point shooter, which is an area the Raptors need some assistance in after finishing 24th in the league.

His best shooting year came back in 2011-12 with the Houston Rockets when he averaged 40.2 percent from behind the arc.

While he’s known for his prolific shooting touch, Budinger can put the ball on the floor and attack the basket with his tremendous length and agility. 

A pay raise from his veteran’s minimum deal is to be expected, although the Raptors should be able to offer the 6’7″ forward a decent enough contract to perhaps steer him away from Minnesota. 

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Most Intriguing Free Agents for LA Clippers to Sign with the Mid-Level Exception

Coming off a disappointing postseason that saw the Los Angeles Clippers lose in the first round to the Memphis Grizzlies, the team’s attention now turns to the offseason. The first priority will be to re-sign Chris Paul, but the team’s next targets in free agency will be limited due to being over the salary cap and only being able to offer minimum contracts and the mid-level exception.

To make matters even more complicated, the Clippers’ next top free agent, Matt Barnes, was signed to a minimum contract last season, thus only allowing the Clippers to offer Barnes either a 120 percent raise or to use part of the mid-level exception to bring him back.

The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement states that a player signed to a one-year veteran’s minimum contract does not allow the team to possess any form of Bird rights on the player. This means the Clippers would not be able to go over the cap to give Barnes a substantial raise, which he most likely will be offered in free agency, unless using its salary cap exceptions.

Barnes should be one of the top priorities for the Clippers, especially if he is willing to accept a 120 percent raise instead of seeking more on the open market. Considering such an offer from the Clippers would only earn Barnes near $1.6 million in year one. Barnes could probably command a multi-year contract starting near $3 million in free agency.

Regardless of what the Clippers offer Barnes, they have multiple other needs that must be addressed. They need another defensive center, a stretch big man, another swingman and another guard who can shoot and defend.

Some of these areas of need can be addressed by trading Eric Bledsoe in a package with Caron Butler or DeAndre Jordan. However, there are a few intriguing players available in free agency whom the Clippers should target.

The one wing defender who has hounded the Clippers the past two seasons is ready to hit the open market. Tony Allen would solve a lot of the team’s problems by providing exceptional perimeter defense, something the Clippers have lacked for years.

According to 82games, Allen was able to hold opposing shooting guards to a PER of 11.8 and small forwards to 15.9. To put those numbers in perspective, the league average PER is 15. Furthermore, Allen was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team.

Although Allen will likely cost near the full mid-level exception, he might be worth it, especially if the Clippers are able to convince Matt Barnes to stay home in Los Angeles for a little above the veteran minimum. The team’s perimeter defense would immediately be improved.

Next, the Clippers need a big who can space the floor for Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Marreese Speights has proven he can consistently hit long jumpers and operate in pick-and-pop situations.

Speights shot a fantastic 50 percent from 16-23 feet last season in Cleveland with Kyrie Irving, on 3.2 attempts per game. That added dimension to the Clippers offense would definitely be a welcomed addition, especially for Chris Paul.

Paul has one of the most lethal pick-and-roll bigs in the league, playing with Blake Griffin. Unfortunately, Griffin is not much of a threat to pick-and-pop, allowing opposing defenses to load the paint and constrict Paul’s driving and attacking lanes.

Adding Speights would give Paul the pop-man he needs to spread the floor. Not to mention, Griffin and Speights on the floor together would allow Griffin to post against a single defender.

Griffin has run into the trouble the past two seasons, because teams are blitzing him when he catches the ball on the block. Griffin has a difficult time attacking in the paint because teams can tilt their defense toward him without having to worry about DeAndre Jordan or Lamar Odom knocking down open jumpers.

Matt Barnes, Tony Allen and Marreese Speights are not only three intriguing candidates for the Clippers to use their mid-level exception on, but are also realistic options. All three would help improve a serious weakness on the roster. There is no doubt the Clippers will need to make a few changes this summer in order to become legitimate conference title contenders. Signing two of the above names would be a huge step in the right direction.

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Most Intriguing Free Agents for LA Lakers to Sign with the Mid-Level Exception

The Los Angeles Lakers are badly in need of an offseason overhaul after severely underachieving last season.

Their salary-cap situation doesn’t help them any in that regard. The Lakers are already over the cap and bordering on familiar luxury-tax territory for next season.

And that’s before you get to Metta World Peace picking up his $7.3 million option (guaranteed) or L.A. retaining any of their impending free agents (including Dwight Howard and the expected $20 million-plus salary he will command).

So in reality, the Lakers are staring down the barrel at another nine-figure payroll or thereabouts, meaning they are profoundly restricted when it comes to adding talent via free agency.

In fact, there are only two ways that L.A. can ink players to new contracts. One is by offering them the veteran’s minimum as they did last year with Antawn Jamison. The other is to use their mid-level exception.

Or, should I say, what’s left of it.

Tax-paying teams don’t have access to the full NBA mid-level exception as it is. The most they can offer a player is a deal lasting up to three years with a maximum starting salary of just over $3 million per year.

In L.A.’s case, they used up about half of their mini mid-level last season when they signed Jodie Meeks to a two-year deal that paid him $1.5 million in 2012-13.

Thus, the most lucrative contract they can offer any free agent is up to three years starting at about $1.6 million.

Here are three intriguing players they can target with that salary slot.

Ronnie Brewer

Remember Ronnie Brewer?

Just a few short years ago, he was a highly productive starting wing with the Utah Jazz going toe to toe with Kobe Bryant in the playoffs. He hasn’t done anything as noteworthy lately, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as it’s bound to keep his price tag down.

The Lakers are in need of athletic wings who can defend on the perimeter. That’s exactly what Brewer specializes in. He’s long and mobile, with a real knack for getting his hands on the ball and coming away with steals. He also rebounds very well for his position.

Brewer can relieve Metta World Peace as the guy who checks the other team’s top perimeter threat, and his size gives him the versatility to play either the two or the three.

Over the past couple seasons, Brewer has been mistakenly used as a floor spacer on offense – a terrible idea given that he’s one of the worst shooting wings around. As long as he isn’t forced to do what he can’t, he has the ability to be a useful offensive player.

Brewer is an intuitive cutter who can exploit space for easy baskets. In Utah, he was an elite finisher around the basket, converting at least 65 percent of his attempts at the rim in each of his four seasons with the Jazz, per Hoopdata.

He’s also a surprisingly adept ball-handler and passer who rarely coughs it up. And he just turned 28.

Considering that he made just under $1.1 million last season and did nothing to earn a raise, Brewer is one of the rare guys in his prime who can actually help the Lakers tremendously and whose contract they can take on.

Elton Brand

Elton Brand fits the classic “veteran in search of a ring” archetype, similar to Jamison last season.

At age 34, Brand remains a productive player for 20-25 minutes a night who can even be a competent starter in a pinch.

He would fit nicely on the Lakers as a third big man who can mesh with either Dwight Howard or Pau Gasol offensively, as his game revolves mostly around pick-and-pops and face-up jumpers.

Brand is still a plus defender as well. The Lakers’ defense falls off a cliff when Howard leaves the floor. They allowed six points per 100 possessions more with Dwight on the bench, according to NBA.com. If it’s Brand coming in to replace him, L.A. can stay afloat on that end of the court.

The former Duke Blue Devil averaged 10 rebounds and two blocks per 36 minutes, posted the second-highest defensive rebound rate of his career and managed to beat his career average in defensive rating despite the shoddy defense the Dallas Mavericks played around him.

After he was amnestied by the Philadelphia 76ers last offseason, Dallas was the highest bidder for Brand’s services at $2.1 million. At this point in his career, he’s likely not looking at a raise and the Lakers can offer him 80 percent of that money plus the possibility of playoff basketball.

Chase Budinger

Chase Budinger is coming off a year in which he was plagued by injury, hindering the progress he had made in his young career.

The Southern California native would be an ideal fit on the wing for the Lakers. He’s a proficient long-range shooter who can also finish well around the rim. And he’ll be flying under the radar after the forgettable, injury-stricken campaign he spent out of the limelight in Minnesota.

If he can round out his offensive game by attacking the basket with greater frequency and earning more trips to the foul line, Budinger has the potential to be an efficiency maven on offense; the perfect counterweight to Bryant on that side of the ball.

Defensively, Budinger has always been solid if unspectacular. He rebounds very well for his position and is athletic and mobile enough to hang with most wing players in the NBA.

Overall, he projects as a competent backup small forward for the Lakers who can take over the starting role from World Peace in a year’s time with sufficient growth.

Budinger definitely has upside, but he comes with question marks as well.

Given that he played for the veteran’s minimum last year, the Lakers don’t have to risk much on his potential to reap a hefty reward if he lives up to it.

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