Re-Grading Every NBA Amnesty Decision So Far
The amnesty clause became an important provision of the new collective bargaining agreement, as it allowed each NBA team to cut ties with a player who had been grossly underperforming or was just flat-out dead weight.
Fifteen teams have taken advantage of this clause, which still pays the player when released and allows the team to wipe clear half of the money that was owed to him without it counting against the league's salary cap.
How has each team fared after exercising the amnesty clause? Have they made the right decisions, or should they have exercised the clause on another player, or even chosen not to use it yet?
For grading purposes, I have employed a pass-fail system, as this is one you either get right or don't. Axing guys is serious business.
Brooklyn Nets: Travis Outlaw
The Brooklyn Nets had Travis Outlaw on a contract scheduled to pay him $7 million for three seasons, and it was an immediately regrettable decision to have signed the gunner. He came straight out of high school and never seemed to develop any veteran seasoning as his career went on.
Every once in a while, Outlaw has a game where he just seems to "get it," but his raging inconsistency prevents him from being useful to an NBA rotation, and the Nets made the right decision cutting ties with what was clearly a bad signing.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Baron Davis
Baron Davis was due to receive $13 million and $14 million over the final two years of a bloated deal he signed back when he could still leap and hit threes. Overweight and nursing a bad back, Davis declined quickly, and after the Cavs drafted Kyrie Irving, he became entirely useless toward their rebuilding effort.
Cutting ties with Davis' salary gave the Cavs a lot of cap flexibility, and they should be able to go after a top free agent this summer.
Dallas Mavericks: Brendan Haywood
The Dallas Mavericks made the obvious choice cutting ties with Brendan Haywood in 2011. He was owed between $7 million and $10 million over the remaining years on his contract that were fully guaranteed.
Haywood was remarkably ineffective for the Mavs, and he averaged 4.4 points per game and 5.2 rebounds per game in 18 minutes of play per night in 2010-11.
Haywood's signing appeared to make sense at the time, as he was coming off a near double-double average with the Washington Wizards while blocking over two shots a game, but his decline mysteriously coincided with his big contract.
Funny how that happens.
Denver Nuggets: Chris Andersen
Chris "Birdman" Andersen was owed over $9 million per season for two more seasons and producing 5.3 points per game and grabbing 4.6 rebounds a night for the Denver Nuggets. Birdman encountered some off-court problems but has recently been working out with the Miami Heat.
The only thing that is certain is that the Heat won't be shelling out $9 million a year for the 34-year-old, who will likely post similarly modest numbers if he takes his talents to South Beach.
Golden State Warriors: Charlie Bell
The Golden State Warriors cut ties with Charlie Bell to avoid the luxury-tax penalty. Bell was a low cost at roughly $4 million per season but was not playing much (nine minutes per game in 19 regular-season appearances in 2010-11).
It wasn't the right decision.
Andris Biedrins has become very expensive dead weight in Golden State. He is receiving $9 million a season both this season and next, when he has a player option he's most assuredly going to exercise.
Bell was owed $10 million for the remainder of his contract, which has now expired, but Biedrins could have cut twice the cap room. They'd be bigger players in the free-agent market this summer if not for Biedrins' albatross contract.
Houston Rockets: Luis Scola
The Houston Rockets may have made a mistake in amnestying Luis Scola. It was done in pursuit of free agent Dwight Howard, and that still could be the Rockets' long-term plan with Howard becoming a free agent at the end of this season.
GM Daryl Morey had no way of knowing he would obtain James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Had he known, one figures the Rockets would have had a nice starting lineup featuring Scola at the 4 spot. He's a significant upgrade over either Patrick Patterson or Marcus Morris.
If the Rockets had kept Scola, would his 14.5 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game take them up one more tier in the hierarchy of Western Conference teams?
Scola was, however, owed $21 million on his contract, so the move wasn't horrible since that money could potentially even be used this summer to sign Paul Millsap, who would be a significant upgrade over Scola.
Grade: Incomplete (wait to see what they do with this cap room)
Indiana Pacers: James Posey
The Indiana Pacers decided to cut ties with James Posey, though I had speculated they shouldn't have used the clause at all. Posey was owed $7.5 million and served a redundant role on the Pacers, as the team had better options and similar play styles in Danny Granger and Paul George.
It wasn't a bad decision to cut him loose.
They could have cut ties with Dahntay Jones, who was owed $3 million per season, but cutting Posey cleared more cap room without eliminating a rotation player. Well played, Indy.
L.A. Clippers: Ryan Gomes
Ryan Gomes was owed $4 million on the final year of his contract, and the Clippers chose to use the amnesty clause on him since he was playing just 13 minutes per game, while posting averages of 2.3 points and 1.9 rebounds per game.
Gomes is a decent swingman, but he is below replacement level for a starter in the NBA. Improvement in Gomes' game was unlikely since he was 29 years of age at the time the Clips exercised the clause on his contract.
Gomes is now playing in Germany.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Darko Milicic
The Minnesota Timberwolves counted themselves pretty lucky to have signed Darko Milicic, as GM David Kahn praised the 2003 draft bust as "manna from heaven."
Milicic may have also appeared like that to Joe Dumars when he spent the No. 2 overall pick in 2003 on the Serbian big man. But Milicic never developed as a player, and the Wolves were smart to get rid of him, as he was on a four-year, $16 million contract.
The Celtics took a chance on Darko this summer, and he had to return to Serbia to take care of his ill mother. That's excusable, but the Wolves are glad to have rid themselves of Darko's contract.
New York Knicks: Chauncey Billups
The Knicks were one of the teams I said should not use their amnesty clause when the provision was put in place. At the time, I cited Amar'e Stoudemire as a "decent value at his current salary."
Delusional judgement there, Mr. Roberts.
Stoudemire is the clear-cut choice to be amnestied, but the problem is that they already exercised it on Chauncey Billups, who was owed $14.2 million. Billups could still serve a useful role for the Knicks in the backcourt, while they are struggling to find a role for Amar'e—who, make no mistake, is not a "decent value."
Stoudemire is the league's fifth highest paid player and is owed $21.6 million in 2013-14 and $23.4 million in 2014-15. Hindsight is 20/20, and the Knicks clearly felt the same as I did in 2011, expecting Amar'e to return to his Phoenix-level production and gel with Carmelo Anthony.
Anthony is thriving at the 4 spot, which leaves Amar'e out of the starting lineup. He's also now only supposed to play 20 minutes a game according to doctor's orders, so he's now receiving over $1 million per minute averaged.
Chew on that one, Donnie Walsh. At least Walsh is no longer there to deal with the mistake?
Orlando Magic: Gilbert Arenas
The Orlando Magic were faced with cutting one of two disgusting contracts: Gilbert Arenas and his roughly $20 million a year, or Hedo Turkoglu's $11 million per season over three seasons. They chose Arenas, who had the worst field-goal percentage (34.4 percent) in the league in 2010-11 of all players who played at least 20 minutes a game.
In 2011, I said Arenas was the clear-cut choice, as he was nowhere near the talent that once averaged over 27 points per game in Washington and had zero chance of living up to his contract.
Amnestying Arenas was an easy choice, and the team needed to alleviate the salary-cap woes they had inflicted upon themselves with Rashard Lewis' contract (Lewis was traded for Arenas in the 2010-11 season).
Philadelphia 76ers: Elton Brand
The 76ers had a clear-cut choice in Elton Brand for their amnesty clause. He was the No. 12 highest paid player in the league prior to being cut, and he received $18 million a year for numbers that likely warranted a salary of less than half of that (about 11 points per game and seven rebounds per game).
Brand played no role in the Sixers' long-term plans and now is a role player for the Dallas Mavericks. It's not that Brand is done as a player, it's just that he nowhere near warrants $18 million a season.
Phoenix Suns: Josh Childress
Josh Childress was signed for an average of about $7 million through the 2014-15 season, but the 32-year-old swingman was amnestied, as he was averaging just 2.9 points per game in 34 games played in 2011-12.
The Suns used the money from amnestying Childress to sign Luis Scola, essentially paying Scola $4.5 million on average over three seasons. After this upgrade, the Suns still had a few million to boot.
Childress wound up in Brooklyn but was recently waived.
Portland Trail Blazers: Brandon Roy
After Brandon Roy's career was essentially ended (before un-retiring) due to having no meniscus in either knee, the Trail Blazers had no choice but to amnesty the three years left on Roy's contract, which paid him an average of $16 million through 2014-15.
When Roy decided to come back, the Blazers were not able to re-sign their former player as part of the amnesty agreement. Now that he's injured again, it doesn't seem too likely that they regret it.
Roy was considering retirement in late December, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.
Washington Wizards: Andray Blatche
Something tells me the Wizards might like a do-over on this one. Andray Blatche was owed an average of nearly $8 million through 2014-15 and was grossly underperforming despite his skill set.
Blatche has always seemed to have the talent to be a far better player than what we've seen so far.
Blatche has resurrected his career in Brooklyn, seeing 20 minutes a night for the Nets and averaging 11.4 points per game on a career-high 49.2 percent shooting. He also grabs 6.2 rebounds per game.
That's production the Wizards could definitely use, as they rank last in the league in both offensive efficiency and shooting percentage.
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