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The Mini-Mid-Level: What Types of Players Can it Really Attract?

As a taxpaying team, the Clippers will only have the "mini MLE" this summer to sign a free agent. What types of players have signed for this money in the past?

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Due to recent signings, and the upcoming maximum contract that DeAndre Jordan is set to receive, the Clippers are, for once, a taxpaying team.  Paired with the freedom of a new owner who is willing to pay the luxury tax are the restrictions that come with a high team salary number.  One such restriction is the loss of the full taxpayer mid-level exception and the downgrade to the taxpayer mid-level exception, which is worth notably less and can only cover a contract for a duration of three years.

As the Clippers head into a summer where this small exception is their only avenue of improvement outside of trades and minimum contracts, the relevant question is who will be willing to accept this low salary and provide a good impact on the floor.  Fans have salivated over free agents such as Ed Davis and Gerald Green, but it seems incredibly unlikely that either of those players (who, despite not being perfect fits, are decent options) will settle for such a low salary, especially with Davis' camp leaking today that they are looking for at least $8,000,000 annually.

The mMLE this season is worth 3.373 million, for a maximum total of 10.59 million for three seasons.  Let's look at some of the free agent contracts in that range from the last few off-seasons.

  • Thabo Sefolosha: signed-and-traded to Atlanta last summer for 12 million over 3 years
  • Mike Scott: Signed a 3-year, $10 million contract with Atlanta last summer
  • DeMarre Carroll: Signed a 2-year, $5 million contract with Atlanta in 2013
  • Shelvin Mack: Signed a 3-year contract with Atlanta last summer paying just over $2.4 million annually
  • Kent Bazemore: Signed a 2-year, $4 million deal with Atlanta last summer
  • Elton Brand: Signed a 1-year, $2 million deal with Atlanta last summer
  • Evan Turner: Signed a 2-year deal with Boston last summer paying about $6.6 million (tax-payer mid-level)
  • Mirza Teletovic: Signed a 3-year taxpayer mid-level deal worth $9.7 million with Brooklyn in 2012
  • Mo Williams: Signed a 1-year, $3.75m contract with Charlotte last summer
  • Matt Barnes: Signed a 3-year, $10.2 million contract with the Clippers in 2013
  • Brian Roberts: Signed a 2-year, $5.6 million contract with Charlotte last summer
  • Mike Dunleavy, Jr.: Signed a 2-year, $6.5 million contract with Chicago in 2013
  • Kirk Hinrich: Signed a 2-year, $5.6 million deal with Chicago in 2014
  • Mike Miller: Signed a 2-year, $5.6 million deal with Cleveland last year
  • Joel Anthony: Signed a 5-year contract under the old CBA for a total of $18.25 million with Miami
  • Anthony Tolliver: Signed a 2-year, $6 million contract with Detroit last summer
  • Ian Mahinmi: Signed a 4-year, $16 million deal with Indiana in 2012
  • Chris Copeland: Signed a 2-year, $6.1 million deal with Indiana in 2013
  • C.J. Watson: Signed a 2-year, $4.1 million bi-annual exception deal with Indiana in 2013
  • Udonis Haslem: Sighed a 2-year room MLE deal with Miami in 2014, worth $5.6 million
  • Jerryd Bayless: Signed a 2-year, $6 million deal with Milwaukee last summer
  • Jason Smith: Signed a 1-year mMLE deal with New York last summer for $3.3 million
  • Luke Ridnour: Signed a 2-year, $5.5 million contract with Orlando last summer
  • Jameer Nelson: Signed a 2-year, $5.5 million contract with Dallas in 2013
  • Andrei Kirilenko: Signed a mMLE deal in 2013 with Brooklyn (retired this month)
  • Furkan Aldemir: Signed a 4-year, $12 million contract with Philadelphia last summer
  • Tyler Hansbrough: Signed a 2-year, $6.5 million deal with Toronto in 2013
  • James Johnson: Signed a 2-year, $5 million deal with Toronto last summer
  • Ramon Sessions: Signed a 2-year, $4.25 million bi-annual exception deal with Washington last summer
  • DeJuan Blair: Signed-and-traded to Washington last summer on a 3-year, $6 million deal
  • Darrell Arthur: Signed a 3-year, $9.7 million contract with Memphis in 2012
  • Randy Foye: Signed a 3-year, $9.4 million deal with Denver in 2013
  • Marreese Speights: Signed a 3-year, $11 million deal with Golden State in 2013
  • Carlos Boozer: Signed a 1-year, $3.25 million deal with the Lakers last summer
  • Kosta Koufos: Signed a 3-year, $9 million extension with Memphis in 2012
  • Beno Udrih: Signed a 2-year BAE deal worth $4.25 million with Memphis last summer
  • Gary Neal: Signed a 2-year, $6.5 million deal with Milwaukee in 2013
  • Quincy Pondexter: Signed a 4-year, $14 million extension in 2013, starting this year
  • Steve Novak: Signed a 4-year, $15 contract with the Knicks in 2012
  • Anthony Morrow: Signed a 3-year deal worth just over $9 million with Oklahoma City last summer
  • D.J. Augustin: Signed a 2-year weal worth $6 million with Oklahoma City last summer
  • Nick Collison: Signed a 4-year extension with the Thunder worth $11 million starting in 2012
  • Gerald Green: Signed a 3-year, $10.5 million contract with Indiana in 2012
  • Dorell Wright: Signed a 2-year, $6.15 million contract with Portland in 2012
  • Joel Freeland: Signed a 3-year, $8.9 million contract with Portland in 2012
  • Steve Blake: Signed a 2-year, $4.2 million contract with Portland in 2014
  • Patty Mills: Signed a 3-year deal worth approximately $10 million with the Spurs in 2014
  • Marco Belinelli: Signed a 2-year, $5.6 million deal with the Spurs in 2013
As you can see by the list above, there's more misses than hits.  Some of these guys broke out, some were successful role players, but a lot are sub-par, especially given what the Clippers are looking for with that money and the constant raising of the salary cap which results in higher salary levels for players across the board while the value of the exception remains constant.

Even the few players on the list who seem like they would be exceptional fits were undervalued at the time of their signing and will be looking for more this time around.  DeMarre Carroll is one prime example of that.  Others on the list are decent role players at the backup level, but finding a something as specific and elite as a starting-caliber defensive small forward is incredibly rare, and to be frank, there's a certain element of luck to it.  Maybe guys will pan out, maybe they won't.  It's anywhere from hard to impossible to determine beforehand.

Of course Ed Davis wants more than the mMLE.  He averaged 13 and 12 per 36 last season shooting over 60% from the field.  He probably doesn't deserve the eight-figure salary he's looking for, but he'll definitely get more than barely scraping eight figures over a three-year period, which is what the Clippers have to offer.  Gerald Green is a 6'8" stud athlete that puts up somewhat inefficient shooting percentages while scoring at least 20 points per 36 each of the last two seasons.  He's almost definitely going to cost more than $10 million over 3 years as well.

It's time to tone down expectations.  With no cap room, no full mid-level exception, and no ability to receive players in a sign-and-trade, there's not a lot for the Clippers to do unless they make a trade (likely involving Jamal Crawford).  With only $3 million to spend, the team is looking at adding one backup-level player who will hopefully perform solidly.  Hoping for someone who can break out is just that: a hope, a wish--or, better put, wishful thinking.  The Clippers have hit the jackpot once, when they signed Matt Barnes for the minimum and he turned out to be a solid multi-year starter.  But any new signing is more likely to be the next Byron Mullens, or Antawn Jamison, or Jordan Farmar, or Jordan Hamilton, or Hedo Turkoglu, or any one of the other low-salary signings from the past.

If the Clippers have a list of strong players, a list like many dreamed up by fans on the internet, all that will happen come July 1st is that they'll, one by one, cross their targets off as they take far more lucrative offers to sign with other teams.