Every team would love to add one of the premier free agents like James Harden, Draymond Green or Khris Middleton.
But only eight teams (Hornets, Jazz, Magic, Pacers, Pistons, Rockets, Spurs and Kings) are projected to have cap space to go out and sign a big name. Most of the other teams in the league will be limited to the $12 million mid-level exception or less.
There are still very good rotation players that can be acquired at that price point. The 2023 NBA Playoffs showed us that finding affordable contributors like Bruce Brown or Caleb Martin is absolutely essential to building out rosters that can make deep runs.
Here are 10 players that can play in a playoff rotation and are cheap enough for the other 22 teams in the league to go out and get.
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Landale is a cheap backup center option that can sop up minutes or start in a pinch. He was so good in the playoffs that the Suns went to him over Deandre Ayton to close one of their playoff games against the Nuggets.
Landale is an energy big who finds ways to make plays. He’s limited offensively, but he rolls hard, hits the glass and has a passable jump shot. He’s a solid defender with good size.
Dosunmu is a rugged on-ball defender that can apply pressure at the point of attack. He’s not quite as good off the ball, but he projects to be a great defender down the line.
Dosunmu has done pretty well as a secondary ball handler in Chicago. He can attack the rim, and he had a good pull-up midrange jumper in college and as a rookie before his shooting fell off a cliff. That shaky shot has hurt his once-rising stock.
Dosunmu is a restricted free agent, but he could get pushed out of a crowded backcourt.
The nine-year vet is a known commodity at this point. He’s a backup big man that can sky high for lobs and crash the glass.
Powell doesn’t do much damage outside of the paint, but he’s a smart player that knows his limitations.
Like his older brother, Jaden, Jalen is a good defender with great length and instincts. He’s an average 3-point shooter, hitting 34.5 percent of his attempts for his career, and he can put some pressure on the rim, too.
Jalen was acquired by the 76ers in a midseason trade, but he didn’t play much for them in the playoffs. He’s a jack-of-all-trades type of wing, and a team can never have enough of those guys.
Watanabe led the league in 3-point shooting for much of the season before settling down at 44.4 percent. He brings most of his offensive value in that spot-up role — he has trouble creating for himself otherwise. He can also finish at the rim and will run hard in transition.
Defensively, Watanabe is a high-effort player who has good size and switchability at 6-9.
Watanabe is an unrestricted free agent who found himself outside of the Nets’ rotation by season’s end, so he could be on the move.
Craig is an underrated defender — DeMar DeRozan once said that Craig was one of the players who guarded him the best. At 6-7, he has good size and versatility. He’s surprisingly adept as a weak-side rim protector, too.
Craig isn’t going to do much more on offense than shoot spot-up 3-pointers, but he is good in that role. He hit 39.5 percent of his attempts for the Suns last season.
Lyles was an extremely valuable bench player for the Kings last season, giving them a different look as a stretch big. His 3-point shooting isn’t amazing (36.3 percent), but he’s enough of a threat that teams have to guard him.
Lyles doesn’t look like a great defender, but he’s got good feel and knows where to be more often than not. He’s a nice small-ball five option off the bench.
Saric finally came back from a gruesome ACL injury and played well for the Suns. He was then a victim of circumstance in getting traded to the Thunder.
The former No. 12 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft played well post-trade in limited minutes. He’s a high-feel forward who can pass a little, finish on the roll and shoot from deep. He’s not a great defender, but he won’t kill you.
Jones quietly put in a very solid season playing point guard for a bad Spurs team. He’s a good game manager who has excellent court vision and rarely makes mistakes.
Jones’ shooting and size are the main things holding him back from a big payday. At just 6-1, he can get targeted. And his career 27.1 percent shooting from 3-point range makes him a non-threat.
But he does a lot of other things well, and he can be a quality backup or spot starter.
Milton is a good player that got squeezed out of the Sixers’ rotation. He can play some pick-and-roll, and he’s shot the ball well at 36.5 percent from beyond the arc for his career. He can also put some pressure on the rim.
At 6-5, he has decent defensive size. He can be a streaky player, but he’s a good first guard off the bench. He showed that he might be capable of a bigger role, playing well when James Harden was injured.
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