Every team would love to add one of the leading free agents like James Harden, Draymond Green or Khris Middleton.
But only eight teams (Hornets, Jazz, Magic, Pacers, Pistons, Rockets, Spurs and Kings) are expected 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 mid-level exception of $12 million 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 necessary to build rosters that can make deep runs.
Here are 10 players who 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 who can sop up minutes or start in a pinch. He was so good in the playoffs that the Suns went for him over Deandre Ayton to close out one of their playoff games against the Nuggets.
Landale is a big energy that finds ways to make plays. He is limited offensively, but he rolls hard, hits the glass and has a passable jump shot. He is a solid defender with good size.
Dosunmu is a robust defender on the ball who can apply pressure at the point of attack. He’s not quite as good off the ball, but he figures to be a great defender down the line.
Dosunmu has done quite 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. The shaky shot has hurt his once-rising stock.
Dosunmu is a limited free agent, but he can be pushed out of a crowded backcourt.
The nine-year vet is a household name at this point. He is an extra big man who can soar for lobs and hit the glass.
Powell doesn’t do much damage outside the paint, but he’s a smart player who 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 also put some pressure on the rim.
Jalen was acquired by the 76ers in a midseason trade, but he didn’t play much for them in the playoffs. He’s a wing-of-all-trades type of wing, and a team can never get enough of those guys.
Watanabe led the league in 3-point shooting for most of the season before settling at 44.4 percent. He brings most of his offensive value in that spot-up role – otherwise he has trouble creating himself. He can also finish at the rim and will run hard in transition.
Defensively, Watanabe is a high-impact player who has good size and switchability at 6-9.
Watanabe is an unrestricted free agent who found himself out of the Nets’ rotation at the end of the season so he could be on the road.
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 is also surprisingly skilled as a rim protector on the weak side.
Craig isn’t going to do much more on offense than shoot spot-up 3-pointers, but he’s 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 for a long stretch. His 3-point shooting isn’t great (36.3 percent), but he’s enough of a threat for teams to protect him.
Lyles doesn’t look like a good defender, but he has good feel and knows where to be more often than not. He’s a nice little 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 by being traded to the Thunder.
The former No. 12 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft played well after the trade in limited minutes. He is a high-feel forward who can pass a little, finish on the roll and shoot from deep. He’s not a good defender, but he won’t kill you.
Jones quietly put in a very solid season playing point guard for a bad Spurs team. He is a good game manager who has excellent field vision and rarely makes mistakes.
Jones’ shooting and size are the main things holding him back from a big payday. With just 6-1, he can be 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 who was pushed 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 is a good first guard off the bench. He showed that he might be able to play a bigger role when James Harden was injured.