NBA Teams Who Still Have Their Amnesty Clause and How Each Should Use It
The postseason is underway, but for many teams, the offseason has already started. Even the teams who are in the playoffs this year are thinking about what will happen in the offseason. For 13 teams, that includes whether they should use their amnesty option, and if so, on whom?
Actually, there are 15 teams who have their amnesty remaining, but one team, the New Orleans Pelicans, has no amnesty eligible players. Of the remaining 14 teams, some have an amnesty that they are unlikely to ever use. Some have one they will inevitably use.
For those who aren’t clear on the rules, they are simple. After the 2012 Collective Bargaining Agreement, every team was given one “amnesty,” where they could cut one player and pay all his remaining salary but be free of his contract burden against the cap.
There is no expiration date on the amnesty, but all players who were amnesty eligible will have their contracts run out by the end of the 2015-16 season.
In order to be amnesty eligible, the player must have been on his current team and under his contract when the new CBA was signed. Amnesty rights are not traded with a player. Extensions with the same team are not amnesty eligible.
Teams are ranked here according to the likelihood of using their amnesty, not according to the quality of the players.
14. San Antonio Spurs, Tony Parker
Tony Parker is not going to be amnestied. He is, however, the only player the Spurs have who is reasonably amnesty eligible.
Technically, if the Spurs picked up the team option on Matt Bonner, they could chose him. But that would be kind of stupid, and the Spurs aren’t stupid.
They also could technically get rid of Cory Joseph, but with just $1.1 million owed to him next year, why? Again, the Spurs are not stupid.
That’s also why they won’t amnesty Parker.
13. Atlanta Hawks, Al Horford
The Atlanta Hawks' chances of amnestying Al Horford are only a smidgen higher than the San Antonio Spurs chances of jettisoning Tony Parker. He is, however, the only eligible player, so he’s the “most likely” player who the Hawks could amnesty.
Horford is one of the best and most complete centers in the league though. Unless he has either a major injury or drop-off in his career, Horford isn’t going anywhere. His chances are slightly higher though, just because of the length of his contract, which runs until the 2015-16 season.
12. Boston Celtics, Avery Bradley
The Boston Celtics have three eligible players: Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce. Pierce will be on a team option next year. Pierce’s contract next year is non-guaranteed, so if the Celtics let him go, they don’t need to use the amnesty on him to do it.
That leaves Rondo and Bradley, neither of whom is likely to be amnestied.
However, Rondo would be more tradable, so it’s hard to see why the Celtics would consider him before Bradley. Bradley has had a few more injury issues, so there’s a distant chance he could get hurt, and they’d use the clause on him. But it doesn't seem likely that the Celtics will trim $2.5 million off the cap. Pretty much, Boston doesn't pay anyone to walk.
11. Utah Jazz, Gordon Hayward
This is the last of our players who are on the “well-the-team-has-an-amnesty” list.
Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors are the only two amnesty-eligible players with the Utah Jazz. Neither is going to be amnestied. But if one were, it would be Hayward, not Favors, because Favors' ceiling is higher.
Hayward has been developing and the Jazz are looking to the future with him, Favors and Enes Kanter as their frontcourt for the future. There's little reason to believe they'll lose interest in either of their eligible players.
There’s not much else to say here. Move along.
10. Memphis Grizzlies, Zach Randolph
This is the first team on our list with even a slightly realistic chance of actually using its amnesty clause. In fact, there were some rumblings that he might get amnestied last summer.
Randolph's numbers are slightly better than last year’s injury-riddled season but still not up to what earned him his current, four-year, $71 million contract. He’s gone from being a 20-point, 10-rebound guy to a 15-point, 10-rebound guy.
He’s 31, so the decline is probably age related—which can’t be cured. He has a player option on the 2014-15 season, which he will likely exercise.
Marc Gasol is improving, and he is ready to take on more of a role. It’s feasible that in the summer of 2014, the Grizzlies—who are a small-market team and who have to be careful on how they spend money— will let Randolph go. If not, then it’s more likely that Randolph exercises his option in 2015, and the Grizzlies use it then.
9. Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant
Let the comment hostility begin!
Kobe Bryant is an amnesty candidate, and it has nothing to do with the greatness or play of Kobe Bryant. Here is one reality that is unavoidable and inescapable: If the Lakers keep Kobe Bryant for next season, it’s going to cost them a ton of money—as much as $100 million. And that's just tax.
Yes, the Lakers have a lot of money, but even for the Lakers, that’s a big sum. When you factor in the possibility that Bryant might not even play, you have to consider the possibility of him getting dropped.
Bryant will probably be healthy next year. But expectations don't always work out—Amar’e Stoudemire was going to get healthy, and so was Danny Granger and so was Derrick Rose.
Injuries happen, and not every injury costs the same amount of money.
It’s debatable whether Kobe Bryant playing is worth $100 million in one season, but when you consider his legacy, the intangibles he brings and his worldwide marketability, it’s an argument that can be made. But when he’s not playing, he brings nothing. Even Kobe can’t score from the training room.
If he doesn’t look like he is healing well, the Lakers will amnesty him to save the money. Understand that this, in practicality, would have no impact on the Lakers or Bryant. Bryant would get the same amount of money. The Lakers would get the same amount of games played from Bryant—zero. So there’s no reason to not do this.
Best of all, if the Lakers were to do it, they would be allowed to re-sign him in 2014—if and when he’s healthy again.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder: Kendrick Perkins
Kendrick Perkins has a real shot at being amnestied. He was obtained to be a defensive specialist for the Thunder, anchoring the middle.
It’s tough to get a gauge on how well he’s doing that. His opponent’s Player Efficiency Rating of 17.6 is not very good, but his Synergy numbers are outstanding, as he yields just .72 points per play, which is 16th best in the league. The Thunder give up 2.2 more points per 100 possessions while he’s on the bench.
However, whether he’s a defensive asset or liability almost doesn’t matter. Perception in the NBA might as well be reality sometimes, and this is one of those times. If the Thunder don’t win a title this year, they are going to feel compelled to make a move, and letting go of Perkins is the easiest one.
7. Sacramento Kings, John Salmons
In a move that no one but John Salmons, his family and the Sacramento Kings care about, they will amnesty him this summer.
Salmons is 33, was at best an 18-19 point per game scorer who offered little else, and is now on the downside of his career while eating $8 million a year in salary. This season he averaged 8.8 points per game. There's a reason there are no "Salmons" debates anywhere. No one cares about him.
But he is good role-player. He takes to coaching well, and is a career .364 three-point shooter.
Salmons will clear the amnesty waivers and then be picked up by the San Antonio Spurs, where he will be rejuvenated and play like a borderline All-Star.
6. Miami Heat, Mike Miller
Mike Miller has made $16 million to play just a shade over 3,000 minutes with the Heat, including the postseason. That’s $3,333 a minute. Asking him for a minute of his time could be pretty lucrative.
Now, to be fair LeBron James makes $5,746 a minute, but hey, his minutes are worth it!
While James has been wining MVPs, Miller has been getting injured, and when he does play, he gives below average performances. His PER with the Heat is 11.6.
The Heat are about to hit the repeater tax, and when they do, they are going to jettison what is best described as dead weight: i.e. Miller.
5. Chicago Bulls, Carlos Boozer
Carlos Boozer has been the subject of amnesty rumors ever since there were amnesty rumors to be had. However, the Chicago Bulls have never said that they intend to use the clause on him, or use it all. His playoff performance—up until this season—has left him largely out of favor with the fans.
Boozer, regardless of whether he continues to perform well in the postseason this year (19 points and 10 rebounds a game) or shrinks back to his former level of production (13 and 10), is likely to be booted in the summer of 2014, not 2013.
The Bulls also have Luol Deng coming off the books that year, and Rose will have a full year of playing by then.
Also, they are likely to bring over draft-and-stash player Nikola Mirotic, who has been tearing it up in Europe. The Bulls will be able add Mitotic and a high-level free agent—perhaps even a max-level player willing to take slightly less for a shot at a ring. Kevin Love has been floated as possibility.
They haven’t made an announcement, but actions speak louder than words—and in this case, they speak in lieu of words. The Bulls are positioning themselves consistent in a manner with the post-Boozer era in the summer of 2014.
4. Toronto Raptors, Andrea Bargnanni
If there was any doubt, Andrea Bargnai proves that "bargani" is not the Itallian word for bargain, although ironically his name is an anagram for "bargain and earn" because he did a lot of the former but didn't follow it up with much of the latter.
He's getting paid a hefty $10 million a year to shoot a whopping .400 through the 35 games he played this year. His production is nominal at 12.7 points and 3.7 boards per game. He's an awful rebounder, and a stretch-four that doesn't really stretch any more.
If he doesn't get amnestied, he may get his visa revoked, so don't expect him to stick around too much longer.
3. Detroit Pistons, Charlie Villanueva
When the Detroit Pistons signed Charlie Villanueva, they didn’t realize their nueva villain would live up to his name—and yes, I mean nueva, not nuevo.
Villanueva has been stealing from the Detroit Pistons ever since he got there. He’s made a whopping $20 million to score a paltry 9.9 points per game on .424 shooting. When you score less than 10 points a game and can be described as a “volume scorer,” you should not be getting paid $7 million.
What’s worse is that Michigan’s newest villain has declined in production every year. This year he put up 6.8 points and 3.5 boards per game, collecting $7.5 million. Next year, he’s due $8 million and will be seeking to steal that too.
He’ll get paid, and he’ll get amnestied for his criminal enterprise.
2. Charlotte Bobcats, Tyrus Thomas
I propose making “Tyrus Thomas” a verb meaning “blundered trade.” I can’t think of a less accomplished player who potentially will be traded for All-Stars on two separate occasions.
First, Thomas was traded in exchange for LaMarcus Aldridge, who has blossomed into one of the elite power forwards in the league. After a fantastically disappointing start to his career, he was pawned off on the Charlotte Bobcats for a protected draft pick who looks better every year.
If the Bulls are able to land an All-Star with the pick, it would make Thomas arguably the worst principle player to be traded for an All-Star twice in his career. But I digress.
He’s getting paid $7.3 million this year, and he played 360 very bad minutes (-0.025 Win Shares per 48 minutes). When you’re getting paid over $7 million and you do your team more good by not playing than playing, it’s time to be amnestied.
1. Milwaukee Bucks, Drew Gooden
Drew Gooden got a smidgen more playing time than I did this year. His season was about an average week for LeBron James or Russell Westbrook. Gooden was on the court for a grand total of 156 minutes. He’s not missing games because he’s injured either. He’s just missing games because the coaches aren’t putting him in.
And it’s not like he’s played so badly that he’s earned all these DNPs. Last season, he averaged nearly 14 points and seven boards a contest in spite of only playing 25 minutes.
Next season, Gooden stands to make $6.7 million, and the Bucks have little reason to pay it. They could use the excess salary freedom to either keep Monta Ellis or Brandon Jennings or to help in a rebuilding effort.
Either way, the Bucks have made it clear—Gooden is not part of their future. Expect him to be amnestied this summer.