Hoping to address a lack of depth at the small forward position, the Wizards on Monday signed free agent forwards DerMarr Johnson, Linton Johnson and Taj McCullough. The team now has 17 players on its training camp roster.
DerMarr Johnson, a 6-foot-9, 210-pound seven-year veteran has spent time with the Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks, Denver Nuggets and Spurs. In 136 games the D.C. native has averaged 6.2 points and 2.2 rebounds.
Linton Johnson, a 6-8, 205-pound sixth-year veteran has played 141 games during stops in Chicago, San Antonio, New Jersey, New Orleans, Toronto and Phoenix, averaging 4.1 points and 3.4 rebounds.
McCullough, a 6-7, 227-pound rookie out of Winthrop, was a member of the Wizards’ summer league roster and averaged 2.2 points and 2.0 rebounds in five games.
“DerMarr’s experience and versatility, Linton’s athleticism and defensive ability and Taj’s play with our summer league team gives them a chance to compete for a roster spot,” Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to training camp as an opportunity to evaluate how they might fit into the mix at the small forward position.”
The Wizards have been looking for a reliable backup to Caron Butler, who last season averaged 20.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.2 steals but missed 24 games to injury. Without a seasoned veteran to fill in, the Wizards struggled mightily.
Second-year forward Dominic McGuire had a strong summer league performance, averaging 11.4 points and 6.4 rebounds. The team likes the improvement he showed from last season to this season, but insiders say that he has yet to fully develop the outside shooting touch needed to be a reliable option should Butler go down.
And so the Johnsons and McCullough will get the chance to display their skills while the Wizards continue to monitor McGuire’s progress.
It’s possible the Wizards could add another piece or two before training camp. Former Terp and Wizard Juan Dixon’s name is being thrown around, and the Wizards have had talks with him, but wouldn’t want to make a guaranteed offer, which is what Dixon is looking for. The Wizards see Dixon as basically a poor man’s Roger Mason Jr., and in talking to Dixon have used Mason’s situation — how he was offered a non-guaranteed deal two years ago, grew into a solid contributor last season and in June signed to make $3.5 million with the Spurs — as an example. Whether or not Dixon wants to give it a shot or hold out for more of a sure thing with another team remains to be seen.
And I’m hearing that one of the reasons why the Wizards are hesitant to hand out guaranteed deals at this point is because they have little room to work with under the luxury tax cap and believe that some solid veterans could end up getting cut by other teams during or soon after training camp and they’d like to save that cash for that type of situation, or to pay a solid veteran if they could manage to pull off a preseason trade.
Tomorrow Grunfeld and Eddie Jordan hold their pre-training camp press conference. Stay tuned …