The final details of the collective bargaining agreement between NBA owners and players are still being ironed out, though one thing we know for certain is that the agreement will include an “amnesty clause.” The clause will allow teams to waive one player and though the team will still be required to pay the player, his salary will not count against the salary cap or for purposes of the luxury tax. The clause can be used at any time, but only on players who were under contract when the new CBA was signed.
Players who are waived under the amnesty clause will then be available on waivers, but initially only teams that are under the salary cap can bid on them. If none of those teams claim an amnestied player then cap-strapped contenders like the Lakers, Heat and Mavericks will be able to stock up on other teams castaways.
Unlike the so-called Allan Houston amnesty clause in the 2005 CBA, the new amnesty clause will not require teams to use it immediately. They may hold onto the clause until next summer when there’s a stronger free agency class not to use the clause at all as the Knicks inexplicably chose not to use the Allan Houston clause on Allan Houston in ’05.
This is a breakdown of which players each time will likely use the clause on.
Joe Johnson isn’t a franchise player, though at $107 million over the next five years he’s being paid like one. That being said, the Hawks aren’t going to release their best player. The wiser move is to get out from under the $24.9 million in cap space devoted to Marvin Williams over the next three years and rid themselves of the constant reminder that they selected him over Deron Williams and Chris Paul in the 2005 draft.
The only potential candidate for amnesty in Boston is Jermaine O’Neal and the $6.2 million he’s due this season. O’Neal was rarely healthy enough to play last season and had little impact when he did, but with a lack of big men on the market, the Celtics may roll the dice on O’Neal’s gimping knees making it through the season.
Michael Jordan would love to shed the $18 million owed to Boris Diaw over the next two seasons, but the overweight Frenchman is a greater contributor than backup center DeSagana Diop, who’s set to make more than $13 million over the next two years, with a player option that could put his three year total over $20 million.
One year into his six year, $90 million deal, Carlos Boozer is looking like a bad investment. The Bulls played equally well when he was hurt last season and his backup Taj Gibson was more effective at times during the playoffs. If they can add a scoring power forward or top notch two guard to share the backcourt with Rose they should let Boozer go. If not, the $15 million owed to Kyle Korver and $13.8 million to Ronnie Brewer over the next three years are other options.
Quite a coup by the Cavaliers! They received a first round pick, which turned into Kyrie Irving, in exchange for taking Baron Davis‘ albatross of a contract off the Clippers hands and now they get to cut Davis and remove the remaining $28.7 million of his contract from the cap. The Clippers must be kicking themselves. Again.
The Mavs decision regarding the amnesty clause will depend on whether they can re-sign Tyson Chandler. If so, there’s no reason to pay Brendan Haywood $35 over the next four years to be a backup center after Ian Mahinmi gave them quality minutes in the NBA Finals. If Chandler gets away then Haywood is their best option at center and the Mavs will stand pat.
It didn’t take long for the Nuggets to regret signing Al Harrington to a deal worth $27 million over the next four years. That being said, with Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith signing with Chinese teams, they may want to hold on to Harrington’s scoring off the bench, at least for the time being.
The Pistons have three prime candidates for amnesty, two of which stem from General Manager Joe Dumars disastrous free agent summer of 2009, Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon, who are due $24.2 and $37.2 million respectively over the next three seasons. However, the Pistons will likely use this opportunity to finally part ways with the disgruntled Richard Hamilton, who has $25 million remaining on his deal.
Golden State Warriors
David Lee is an excellent rebounder, but the third best player on a below .500 team isn’t worth $14 million a year for the next five years. Still, at least Lee is a solid contributor, which is more than can be said for Andris Biedrins, who’s due to make $27 million over the next four seasons. If one of these big men is waived it will likely be Biedrins.
Hasheem Thabeet hasn’t been able to get off the bench since the Rockets selected him with the number two pick in the 2009 draft. It’s time for them to sever ties with the former UConn center and the remaining $5.2 million guaranteed to him.
This is an easy one for the Pacers. There’s only one excessive contract on their roster and it’s the $7.5 million owed to James Posey for this season.
Los Angeles Clippers
Center Chris Kaman has been hobbled by injuries the past couple of years. The smart move is re-sign restricted free agent DeAndre Jordan and attempt to trade Kaman to a team starving for a big man. If they sign Jordan and can’t move Kaman then they want to consider eliminating the $12.7 million owed to him from their 2011-12 cap.
Los Angeles Lakers
Will the Lakers cut the cord with Metta World Peace? His game is slipping and they’re indebted to him for $21.8 over the next three seasons. GM Mitch Kupchak is looking to make the roster younger and more athletic, but there aren’t any small forward free agents who fit that bill. Barring a trade for an athletic perimeter player, the Lakers will probably use the provision on little used forward Luke Walton instead. Bill’s son has two years and $11.5 million remaining on his contract.
The Grizz signed swingman Rudy Gay to a five year, $82 million contract last summer and then came within a game of the conference finals without him. They need to clear cap space in order to re-sign Marc Gasol and cutting Gay would be the most logical way to do that, but the Grizzlies aren’t plush with cash like the Lakers or Knicks and management isn’t willing to pay a player of that caliber not to play for them. They could try and trade Gay for cheaper parts and probably won’t use the amnesty clause at all.
Mike Miller never got into the flow of the Heat’s offense last year and failed to make opponents pay for double teaming one of the “big three.” He’s the only amnesty possibility on a team without many guaranteed contracts. Miller is owed $6 million per year for the next two years with a player option for $6.6 million for a third season, which isn’t excessive for a sharp shooter, but Miami may need to waive him in order to free money to sign a defensive minded big man.
The Bucks are is in no-man’s land; they don’t have the building blocks for a contender, but aren’t bad enough to look rely on ping pong balls for a franchise player. If they decide to shed some salary, the $27 owed to Drew Gooden over the next four years would be a good start, but I’m guessing the Bucks will pass on the amnesty option.
David Kahn, the much maligned GM of the T-Wolves, shocked NBA insiders when he signed Darko Milicic to a four-year $20 million deal in the summer of 2010. The question is whether Kahn is willing to admit that he made a mistake after just one season and sever ties with the Serbian big man. The Wolves could also use the clause on reserve forward Martell Webster who’s scheduled to make $10 million over the next two years.
New Jersey Nets
Travis Outlaw‘s outrageous contract exemplifies why NBA owners felt they needed to protect themselves from overspending on mediocre players. Outlaw, who signed a five year, $35 million contract with the Nets in the summer of 2010 averaged just nine points per game last season. Don’t expect him to be joining the Nets when they make their move to Brooklyn.
New Orleans Hornets
The owner-less Hornets don’t have an obvious selection for amnesty relief, but in a last ditch effort t0 convince Chris Paul to stay in New Orleans, they could free themselves of the $21.8 million owed to Trevor Ariza over the next three seasons and replace him with two moderately priced contributors.
New York Knicks
Where was the amnesty clause when the Knicks desperately needed it four years ago? With Eddie Curry finally off the books and Jerome James, AKA, “Big Snacks” a distant memory, the Knicks don’t have any atrocious contracts on the books. The only real candidate for amnesty is Renaldo Balkman who’s set to make just $3.3 million over the next two years, but when the Knicks try to land a third superstar next summer, every little bit helps.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Nobody should be more infuriated about the amnesty clause than Sam Presti. The OKC GM masterfully constructed a contending team in a small market, while his contemporaries foolishly overpaid for vastly overrated stiffs. His reward is that he has to sit back and watch as they’re granted a do-over. Presti doesn’t have one excessive contract on his roster.
Orlando GM Otis Smith had to be praying for a double amnesty clause because he’s desperate to get rid of Gilbert Arenas and the $62.4 million he’s due over the next three seasons, as well as the $34.5 remaining on Hedo Turkoglu‘s contract. Ultimately, Smith will opt for Arenas, who’s owed more money and is the less productive of the two. Then he’ll try and get a team to take Turkoglu off his hands as part of a deal for Dwight Howard.
A year ago, the Sixers would have cut ties with Elton Brand, who still has $35 million remaining on his contract over the next two years, but Brand had a bit of a comeback season and is the only low post threat on this up-and-coming team. The more likely scenario is that’s they’ll create $6.7 million more in cap space by using the clause on Andres Nocioni. The Argentinian forward played just twelve minutes a game last season.
Josh Childress has four years and $27 million remaining on his deal with the Suns, which is way too much for a player who was stuck on the bench behind Grant Hill, Jared Dudley, Channing Frye and Hakim Warrick last season. The former Atlanta Hawk will likely be searching for a new home soon.
Just two years ago, Brandon Roy was arguably among the top ten players in the league and the Trailblazers rewarded their franchise player with a maximum salary contract. Then his knees gave out, causing him to miss most of the past two seasons and undergo numerous procedures. At just 27, Roy’s days as a franchise player are over and though he may still be able to help a team off the bench, he’s not worth any where near the $68.7 million remaining on his deal. Portland fans won’t like it, but the Blazers need to let their captain go.
The Kings won’t feel compelled to use the amnesty clause on any of their current players, though if they’re looking to free up some cap space in order to be a player in free agency Francisco Garcia is the most likely candidate. Garcia is an athletic swingman, but his limited skill set makes his replaceable and waiving him would free up over $6 million per year for the next three seasons.
San Antonio Spurs
Richard Jefferson is the obvious choice here. The former Nets forward is on the downside of his career and never found his niche in the Spurs offense. Couple that with the the $30 million he’s owed over the next three years and the Spurs dealing George Hill for rookie forward Kawhi Leonard and the writing is on the wall for Jefferson.
Jose Calderon is a mediocre point guard at best, but is being paid like an all-star at the rate of $10 million per year over the next two seasons. The problem is that the only other point guard on the roster, Jerryd Bayless, is incapable of running an offense. The more likely victim of the amnesty clause is Linas Kleiza and the $14 million he’s due over the next four years.
Mehmet Okur missed much of last season with a torn Achilles tendon and in the last year of his contract, the Jazz are attempting to move in a younger direction. With a number of talented big men, including the third pick in the 2011 draft, Enes Kanter, the Jazz will shed the $10.9 million owed to Okur this season from their cap.
Rashard Lewis has become the poster boy for the owners’ push for an overhaul of the system. The Wizards forward is set to make a staggering $43.8 million over the next two seasons. This for a player who averaged 11.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game last season on a terrible team.