Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ranking The Amnesty Moves (so far)

One of the big pieces of the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement was the return of the Amnesty Clause.  Called the Allan Houston Rule the first time it was implemented in 2005, the Amnesty Clause allows teams to use a one-time waiver that removes a player from their roster while also removing the player's salary from the hit against a team's salary cap space (ironically, the Knicks chose not to use the clause on Houston).  While the teams are still responsible for paying the remainder of a waived player's contract, albatross contracts that stymied payroll flexibility could be eliminated in a flash, granting owners and front offices that made crippling mistakes a reprieve.  

As soon as whispers began that the Amnesty Clause would be re-introduced in the new CBA, several obvious targets came to mind.  Two players traded for each other last season, Gilbert Arenas and Rashard Lewis, were this off-season's versions of Allan Houston; that is, it was so obvious that the clause would be used on them that the rule could have been named after them.  Five days into the off-season, though, Lewis remains on the Washington Wizards roster, joining several other players perceived as shoo-ins to be waived who are still a part of their pre-Lockout teams.

The list of players who have been waived is for the most part a surprising-yet-still-motley crew (save for Arenas, who now must share a name with the Clause since he's the only one of the Obvious Triumvirate of Houston, Arenas, and Lewis to actually be waived).  Some of the moves were shrewd, while others are mind-numblingly perplexing.  Here's which move is which superlative, ranked from worst to not-worst (since waiving a player can hardly be considered a "best" move):

Detroit Pistons buy out Richard Hamilton
This may seem like a good move, considering the glut of two guards on the Pistons' roster (assuming Rodney Stuckey returns) and Hamilton's onerous contract and declining production (not to mention his increasingly prickly attitude).  When you realize, however, that Hamilton was bought out--read: not waived under the Amnesty Clause--and thus will continue to count against Detroit's cap for the next two years, you realize that Joe Dumars has done it again (read: made a head-scratching decision).  How does this make sense?  And what the hell is Hamilton's problem?  If he had agreed to the exact same buyout in May, the Cavs would have Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams right now.  As a fan of common sense, I'm perplexed.  As a fan of the Cavs, I'm bitter.  Since this technically isn't an Amnesty cut, I can't count it as worst, although as I'll discuss a little later in this post, most of the worst Amnesty cuts are the ones that haven't been made.  As for this particular move, I just wanted all of us to be aware of how much Dumars seems to have lost whatever golden touch he had when he was assembling the Pistons powerhouse of the mid-aughts.  (I'd call it the Curse of Darko, except that Dumars followed up that draft by stealing Rasheed Wallace and winning an NBA title, so Darko and his wizardry have nothing to do with whatever happened to Dumars.)

Golden State Warriors waive Charlie Bell
Before getting into the bad of this move, I must first acknowledge the fact that Bell was going to get cut anyway.  Whenever you show up to a DUI hearing drunk the day before training camp begins, you're setting yourself up to be fired.  That said, Bell was only set to make a little over $4 million this season in the last year of his contract.  It's the kind of deal that can be packaged in a trade to make salaries match, and if not, oh well, it's a free four million dollars coming off the books in less than 8 months.  While you could argue that the Warriors simply accelerated that process, I would argue that the opportunity cost of using the Amnesty Clause on Bell is far greater than the $4 million in cap space.  For instance, Andris Biedrins will make $9 million per season for the next three seasons, which isn't great value for a guy who has played 92 games the past two season, averaging 5.0 points per game, posting a PER of 12.55, and shooting an unreal 25% from the free throw line.  If there is anyone on the Warriors' roster deserving of the Amnesty Clause, it's Biedrins.  Instead, in an attempt to grossly overpay DeAndre Jordan that was doomed to fail from conception, the Warriors waived Bell (which, even in the context of the Jordan offer sheet, doesn't make a ton of sense, since cutting Biedrins still would have freed up more money).  Add in that they also rescinded their qualifying offer to solid wing Reggie Williams, and the Warriors made three horrible decisions in order to NOT sign a free agent.  At least the money they were going to use on Jordan can be used more wisely now.  Or it can be used to sign Kwame Brown for $7 million.  Yikes.

New York Knicks waive Chauncey Billups
I've already touched on my thoughts on the Knicks going forward, but this move is similar to the Bell move while also being about 50 times more justifiable.  Billups was due to make $14.2 million this season, and, like Bell, his deal was set to expire following the season.  While that $14.2 million could arguably have been more valuable next off-season, when the Knicks could have potentially pursued Chris Paul, Deron Williams, or Dwight Howard, after what happened with the LeBron Sweepstakes, New York may have decided they were better off using that space now and signing Tyson Chandler, who is much, much better than either DeAndre Jordan or Kwame Brown.  The real difference between the Knicks' situation and the Warriors' situation is that Golden State had Biedrins $9 million salary for (practically) eternity staring them in the face, while the Knicks don't really have any other Amnesty candidates on their team (although if Amare finds himself undergoing yet another microfracture surgery, he certainly would be a better option).  While I don't agree with the way the Knicks are building their team, at least they seem to have a general idea of the direction they'd like to go.  I think it's safe to say that the Warriors do not.

Orlando Magic waive Gilbert Arenas
$62.4 million over the next three years.  That's what the Magic still owe Arenas, which is mind-blowing.  That may be more than the Hornets' market value once David Stern and his cronies get done meddling.  Apparently, Dwight Howard was upset his buddy was cut, but Howard is leaving anyway, and if the Cavs have taught us anything (which I don't think they have), team ownership and management should not base personnel decisions on the personal whims of their franchise players, especially when that franchise player is about to become a free agent.  I'm still not sure what the Magic's plans are for a post-Dwight existence, but I suppose whatever they are will be built around whatever return Orlando receives in the inevitable Howard trade (unless re-signing Jason Richardson and trading for Big Baby Davis and Von Wafer are Otis Smith's idea of a contingency plan).  As for Gil, he might be done.  His numbers were appallingly bad last season (8.6 PER), and I don't see many teams having much of a need for a sub-35% shooter who turns it over nearly as often as he gets an assist, can't defend, and has a checkered locker room history (bringing in guns, pooping in shoes, getting into Twitter wars with comedians).  Agent Zero's best hope is some owner gets desperate for some publicity and brings Gil in, a la Allen Iverson in Memphis.  It's sad that what used to be one of the NBA's most exciting players and best personalities is reduced to an ineffective sideshow, but I suppose that is life.

James Posey has supposedly been Amnestied by the Pacers, but I haven't seen it officially listed on's transaction page, so I cannot rank it (if there's one thing this off-season has taught me, it's that a transaction isn't a transaction until it's on that page).  If it does actually happen, it falls in between the Billups and Bell moves.  Yes, Posey is set to make over $6 million this season, but, like Billups and Bell, his deal expires next summer.  I don't know if waiving Posey is necessary to sign David West (which also hasn't been listed yet, so for all we know he may actually end up signing with Toronto), or if the Pacers are freeing up cap room to pursue another free agent (Jamal Crawford is rumored to be a target).  If the room is needed for West, then I'm fine with it, but if the Pacers use it sign Crawford, then I take umbrage.  Indiana is a nice collection of mostly young try-hards that would be on par with the Bulls with a Derrick Rose of their very own.  Jamal Crawford, obviously, is not that Derrick Rose, and thus is not worthy of the last cap space the Pacers may have for awhile (assuming they start to tie up their aforementioned mostly young talent).  If I were Larry Bird, I would hustle jump shooting contests with Wesley Snipes.  I would also sit on the Posey space, and wait to see what shakes free over the next month or so.  If I'm lucky, I'll get to be the next team that gets and returns Chris Paul.

You may notice some big names (with even bigger contracts) are missing from this list.  So who's left that could get Amnestied?  And who should be amnestied?  Here's a quick team-by-team breakdown:

Atlanta Hawks: Marvin Williams

The former Tar Heel bench player drafted over Chris Paul and Deron Williams is set to make over $23 million over the next three years, and has flashed very little of the elite athleticism that led to his lofty draft status.  Unfortunately, waiving Williams still wouldn't get the Hawks under the cap this season, and would give them just a little bit of wiggle room next year.  Atlanta would be better served holding onto their Amnesty in case Joe Johnson and his substantial commitment completely falls off a cliff and needs to be excised.

Boston Celtics: None

Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce are the only two Celtics with significant salary obligations past this season, and I don't see either of them ever being legitimate candidates to be Amnestied.

Charlotte Bobcats: None

Desagana Diop has over $14 million due to him over the next two seasons, which would make him a prime Amnesty candidate if the Bobcats had anyone else to play center.  Unfortunately, they don't, so Diop gets yet another go.  Tyrus Thomas has a larger per season salary commitment over a longer period of time than Diop, but Thomas is at worst useful and at his best a legitimate difference-maker.  Plus, I can't see Michael Jordan paying someone for four years to not play on his team.  He has a hard enough time paying the guys who actually do play.

Chicago Bulls: None

I know a lot of smart alecks will say Carlos Boozer here, but Boozer is still an above-average player who unfortunately gets hurt a lot.  It's never anything too serious, but it's always frequent and nagging.  Despite this, Boozer is the perfect forward to play alongside Derrick Rose, in that Boozer doesn't need plays called for him to score, which frees up Rose to call his own number time-and-time again.  The Bulls are one of the rare NBA teams that have done roster construction correctly.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Baron Davis

Behind Arenas and Lewis, Davis was the most mentioned Amnesty candidate in the days following the end of The Lockout (I've been playing a lot of Skyrim, and they like to make things proper nouns in that game, so that's why it's Amnesty and not amnesty and The Lockout and not the lockout.  Sorry, I guess the game has rubbed off on me.).  There have been reports that the Cavs are going to waive him any day, but it hasn't happened yet.  Davis has yet to practice, as he's been seeking a second opinion on back strains for the past four days.  I had no problem trying out a Kyrie Irving-Baron Davis backcourt to start this season, and waiving Davis if things didn't look like they were working out, but if Baron isn't even going to be able to be in the team facility--let alone play--then I see no reason why the Cavs would hold onto him.  Expect him to be gone within the week, especially now that Anthony Parker is back in tow to man the two-guard spot.  The future is now in Cleveland!

Dallas Mavericks: None

Prior to Tyson Chandler's departure, Brandon Haywood was a candidate, but now he's the Mavs' starting center, so that won't work.

Denver Nuggets: None

The Nuggets only have seven players under contract, so they can ill afford to waive anyone.  Al Harrington would be a prime candidate, but with three of their free agents stuck in China and Nene potentially departing, Harrington may be the Nuggets starting center/power forward/small forward.

Detroit Pistons: Ben Gordon/Charlie Villanueva

Even with Rip Hamilton bought out, there are still plenty of Amnesty options in Detroit.  Villanueva hasn't really been good since his rookie season, while Gordon has been one of the worst guards in the NBA since coming to the Motor City.  Gordon's salary commitment is much larger, but there is a chance he may improve without Hamilton in his way.  Villanueva is 6-11 and snared under 4 rebounds per game last season.  He may need to go.  Jason Maxiell and his $5 million salary and 9.4 PER is a candidate, as well.

Houston Rockets: None

Hasheem Thabeet will make over $5 million this season, but the Rockets can part ways with him after the season if he continues to be Hasheem Thabeet, so the one-year $5 million commitment may be worth it to see if the former UConn Huskie can develop into a useful player, especially considering the lack of size the Rockets have now that Chuck Hayes has left.

LA Clippers: DeAndre Jordan

Just kidding.  But $43 million over the next four years is an awful lot of money for a guy with 91 career starts in three seasons.  Jordan is a nice young player, and fits in wonderfully next to Blake Griffin in the Clippers frontcourt.  Unfortunately, I fear his contract will make him a pariah, perhaps as soon as next season.

LA Lakers: None

Metta World Peace has a deal that seems to go on forever, but the per year salary isn't absurd, and will actually gain trade value as the years left on the deal go down.  The controversial thing to say would be Kobe, since there's very little chance that he will be worth over $30 million in 2013-14, but without Kobe, what exactly are the Lakers?

Memphis Grizzlies: None

The Grizzlies have a lot of long-term, big-money contracts, but they're all tied to their young(ish) core, so they aren't that troubling.  Down the line, Zach Randolph's new deal will probably become a problem, but the Amnesty will have expired by then.

Miami Heat: Mike Miller

I would have done this right away if I were the Heat.  Miller hasn't been even serviceable since 2007-08, the year before he was traded to Minnesota and bizarrely decided to become a point forward (his shot attempts per game went from 11.8 in 2007-08 to 7.5 in 2008-09).  He has never regained his aggression, and now he is recovering from hernia surgery.  Miller has four years left on his deal, and all signs point to him going from a bad player to an unplayable player.  As a Heat hater, I hope Miller clogs up their payroll for all four of those years.  As a guy writing about what teams should do, I'm shocked this hasn't been done already.

Milwaukee Bucks: Drew Gooden

Besides Andrew Bogut, Gooden is the only significant salary commitment the Bucks have past next season, and at a shade under $7 million per season, Gooden's salary isn't obscene.  That he gets paid that salary through 2014-15 is, and is why he needs to be Amnestied.  Gooden has seemed destined to become the next Juwan Howard since Cleveland traded him in 2009, and the length of this deal will assure that he is in the league for nearly as long as Papa Howard.  Unless the Bucks do the wise thing and Amnesty him.

Minnesota Timberwolves: None

For all of the dumb things David Kahn has done, handing out long, expensive contracts is not one of them.  Even the much-maligned Darko deal only pays Milicic around $5 million per year for the next three years (okay, that is pretty bad).  Of course, if the Timberwolves do somehow snag Jamal Crawford, who they are rumored to be pursuing, it will almost certainly mean they had to overpay him, and thus David Kahn will have finally handed out a terrible contract.

New Jersey Nets: Travis Outlaw

I have seen several sources say this should happen, but I have yet to see anything concrete that this is actually going to happen.  Outlaw will be paid $7 million per season for the next four seasons.  In the first year of this investment, the Nets got 9.2 points per game on 37.5% shooting with a PER of 8.8.  I always thought Outlaw was solid in Portland, but I guess those days are behind him.

New Orleans Hornets: Chris Paul

Even though it would be blocked by Stern, Dell Demps should do this just to wave a middle finger in the Commish's face.  Seriously, though, the Hornets currently have eight players on their roster, with someone called Brian Butch listed as their starting power forward on's depth chart.  The Hornets need to add players, not subtract them.

Oklahoma City Thunder: None

The Thunder are one of the most smartly built teams in the NBA, so there aren't really any bad contracts to eliminate.  Kendrick Perkins new deal does make me a little worried, but I'm sure Sam Presti would like one full season out of Perk before he would consider punting on his boldest move as a GM to date.

Philadelphia 76ers: Elton Brand

Brand bounced back to finally produce for the Sixers last season, but that production doesn't come close to justifying the two years and $35 million still owed to him.  Philly won't do this, because that's a lot of money to pay someone not on your team, and also because Brand is really the only veteran presence they have, but with Thaddeus Young back in the fold and Brand's spotty injury history, I would bite the bullet and say good-bye to the former Blue Devil.

Phoenix Suns: None

Josh Childress, Channing Frye, and Hakim Warrick all have deals that go on for too long for too much money, but Robert Sarver does not strike me as the type of owner who would be willing to pay dead money.  

Portland Trailblazer: None

Brandon Roy was another poster boy of the Amnesty Clause, but his tragic retirement wipes his salary off the books and leaves the Blazers without any Amnesty candidates.

Sacramento Kings: None

Despite the (somewhat) big money handed out to Marcus Thornton and Chuck Hayes, the Kings still need to add salary to get to the new salary floor, so waiving a player is out of the question.  Too bad, since John Salmons and Francisco Garcia have deals that are ripe to be cut.

San Antonio Spurs: Richard Jefferson

There are reports from a week ago that the Spurs will use the Amnesty Clause on Jefferson, but it has yet to happen.  The RJ Saga in San Antonio has been odd, to say the least.  He was largely disappointing after being acquired in a trade from Milwaukee during the 2009-10 season, surprised everyone by opting out of the final year of his contract, and then that surprise was trumped by the Spurs giving him a new 4 year, $38.8 million contract.  Now, just one season later, San Antonio will apparently waive Jefferson, still on the hook for roughly $30 million.  For an organization that seems to always make the right move, everything about the Richard Jefferson tenure was wrong.

Toronto Raptors: None

Bill Simmons repeatedly has called for Jose Calderon to be Amnestied, but I don't know who plays point for the Raps if that happens.  Besides, Calderon deal only runs through next season, and the Raptors won't be ready to make any serious moves until about that time anyway.  Andrea Bargniani has a lot of money coming his way over the next four years, but he's (sadly) Toronto's best player, so that isn't happening.  Amir Johnson is overpaid for too many years, but he's solid enough to stick around.  Too bad Hedo Turkoglu doesn't play here anymore.

Utah Jazz: None

The only players on the roster right now with any salary commitments past next season are Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, and Alec Burks, and obviously none of them are going to be Amnestied.

Washington Wizards: Rashard Lewis

And we come full circle.  Lewis will make $45 million over the next two seasons, and is currently the second-highest paid player in the NBA (behind Kobe).  In his career year of 2006-07, Lewis averaged 22.4 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per contest.  If he were to put up those exact number over the next two seasons, he would still be overpaid by about $25 million.  The lockout shouldn't have ended until the owners could have figured out how to not make Lewis the second-highest paid player in the league, and the Wizards should dump him on principle alone.  

Will any of these moves actually happen?  Who can say?  And will any of them really even matter in the long-run?  Probably not.  Remember, the first time this happened, Michael Finley's move from the Mavericks to the Spurs was supposed to clinch the NBA title for San Antonio.  What ended up happening?  The Mavs beat the Spurs in the Western Conference semi-finals, 4 games to 3, of course. 

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