Which 2013 NBA Amnesty Victim Will Have Biggest Rebound Season Next Year?

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Which 2013 NBA Amnesty Victim Will Have Biggest Rebound Season Next Year?
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The ramifications of the 2011 NBA lockout are still being felt.

Almost two years removed from the work stoppage, the amnesty provision continues its steady jaunt through the league. A third of the league has yet to enact the amnesty clause, and five of the 20 that have to date did so this summer.

The Charlotte Bobcats sent Tyrus Thomas packing, the Los Angeles Lakers bumped Metta World Peace from their roster, the Miami Heat waived Mike Miller, Drew Gooden received his walking papers from the Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors moved on from Linas Kleiza.

Losing one's job is never a thrilling process, but each of these gents will be paid the full amount they were owed over the life of their current contract, so don't feel too bad for them.

Instead, look for these five to hit the open market with their wallets padded in search of a new home.

For all the financial good the amnesty clause does for the teams that use it, players impacted by it have the opportunity for a fresh start. They can redefine themselves as players and escape any conflict that was blanketing them in their previous home (if there were any).

Just as some teams stand to gain more from the ability to trim salary off their payroll, certain players are better poised to make the most of their newfound freedom.

This year's round of amnesty casualties are no exception.

 

5. Linas Kleiza

Harry How/Getty Images
There's nowhere to go but up for Kleiza. Or should I say "overseas"?

Toronto wiped his $4.6 million salary from its books, and according to Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears, his preference is to return overseas.

Kleiza spent the last three seasons with the Raptors, never appearing in more than 49 games (2011-12) and never shooting better than 43.8 percent from the field. Last year, he played in just 20 contests. He battled knee injuries for most of the season and has yet to log a minute of action in the 2013 calendar year.

His career never took off the way it was supposed to. He rapidly became an injury-prone liability in Toronto after spending four seasons with the Denver Nuggets.

The 28-year-old veteran has shown he can score in the past, but his accuracy has always been suspect. He's knocked down more than 45 percent of his shots for an entire year just once, and he connected on at least 35 percent of his treys only once as well.

Since Kleiza seems inclined to seek employment in another country, he's the easy choice at the bottom of this ranking. Even if he returns to the NBA, he's rarely healthy and overly erratic.

What we saw in Toronto is what we would get next season—if there is one for him.

 

4. Mike Miller

Although it was talked about for years, it took the Heat a while to cut Miller. But they finally did it.

Fresh off winning his second straight NBA championship (and draining a three with only one shoe on), Miller finds himself without a home.

While acknowledging the potato-chip goodness that are Pringles, Miller made it clear he intends to keep playing and to do so for a contender.

Miller also says he's as healthy as he has been in a while, something I don't doubt considering how banged up he's been over the last three years.

My whole thing: Where does he go from here?

If he joins a contender, Miller's role isn't going to magically expand. Perhaps he'll appear in more than 59 regular-season games (his maximum with the Heat), but he's not realistically going to give you more than 15 to 20 minutes a night.

Bear in mind that he was also pretty darn good in Miami these last few years. He knocked down at least 35 percent of his treys in each of the past three seasons, including a 41.7 percent clip this year.

Top that off with his 44.4 percent display from downtown in the postseason and the inspired defense he played throughout the playoffs. Still, it's unlikely his career is destined for an upswing.

Before you take to the comments section to fulfill a sudden vendetta, understand this is really a compliment. Not only do I have more faith in him than I do the irrelevant Kleiza, but he's a big reason the Heat are in a position to embark on a three-peat.

At age 33 and prone to injury, it's just not going to get any better.

 

3. Metta World Peace

Victor Decolongon/Getty Images
Even at 33 and coming off one of his best seasons in years, coming home is going to do wonders for World Peace.

Metta averaged 12.4 points, five rebounds and 1.6 steals per game last season. Almost a decade-and-a-half into his career, building upon that seems implausible.

This is more about what joining the Knicks will do for him as a leader and person, though. Getting back to his roots will bring out the vintage Ron Artest in him, if you will.

There will be no All-Star berth or ridiculous stat lines, but there will be hard-nosed defense, a sense of leadership he never had on Kobe Bryant's Lakers and a connection with the city he hasn't shared at any of his previous stops, including Los Angeles.

The defense-oriented Mike Woodson is going to rely on World Peace more than anyone ever did. I hazard he'll even start. Whether or not he matches his output from last year isn't the whole point. 

Numbers will come for him. Assuming the Knicks continue to run small, he'll get his points, hoard his rebounds, snatch his steals and even get his fix of technicals.

What he does for his teammates, for that locker room, for that culture—that's the point.

Health will play a role in how available World Peace is, but he didn't let surgery stop him from backing up his teammates last season, and bodily defects aren't going to stop him now.

We think we know Metta, and perhaps we do. This year, back where it all started for him, we're going to reacquaint ourselves with the one formerly known as Ron Artest.

 

2. Drew Gooden

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Let's be clear: Gooden was overpaid in Milwaukee, but he wasn't incompetent. Being waived by the Bucks may be just the jump-start the tail end of his career needs.

For starters, who wouldn't want to escape Milwaukee? Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis know exactly what I'm talking about. Gooden now has the opportunity to (presumably) play for a contender, unless a lottery-bound team takes a chance on him.

In just 16 games last season, he put up 3.3 points on 32.8 percent shooting in a mere 9.4 minutes per game. That's what we call rock bottom, which is a good thing here. Unlike Kleiza, there really is nowhere for Gooden to go but up.

At 31, his best days are behind him, but he proved effective just the season before last. During the lockout-truncated 2011-12 campaign, Gooden averaged a stealthy 13.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists in just 26.2 minutes a night.

For the numerically challenged, that's quite impressive.

Only two players averaged at least 18 points, eight rebounds and 3.5 assists per 36 minutes that year. Gooden was one; Josh Smith was the other.

Playing time will likely come rather infrequently wherever he goes next, and a season riding the pine didn't improve his reaction time. But rebounding and a nice touch around the rim are valued in this league.

Sure, Gooden's defense is awful—says every poster he's ever been on—but plenty of teams could use him. He'll find a home somewhere.

Just not in Milwaukee, where the Bucks have all the big men (kidding, I think).

 

1. Tyrus Thomas

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
My faith in Thomas is one percent film study and 99 percent irrational.

No wonder Charlotte waived him to make room for Al Jefferson.

Over the last two years, Thomas has done absolutely nothing to earn anyone's trust. His playing time has decreased in each of the last four seasons, and this past year he averaged a career-worst 4.8 points on a career-low 35.3 percent shooting.

It can't get any worse from here, right?

Seems like I myself have been saying that for almost a half-decade. Still, I have faith that the 26-year-old can find a niche in this league yet.

To Thomas' credit, the Chicago Bulls aren't the most patient of franchises, and the Bobcats don't have a good track record for developing young big men—or budding talents at all, for that matter.

Excuses are worthless for Thomas at this point, I know, but he has tremendous upside. Sending back shots has always been a strong suit of his, and his defensive rotations are one of the most underrated aspects of his game when he's engaged.

Problem is, he's not always engaged and is therefore liable to be posterized.

Thomas is just one firm instructor away from becoming a force on the offensive end (paging Gregg Popovich, maybe? Please?). He's incredibly athletic and a lethal threat in the open court next to a competent point guard, and he shoots free throws better than Dwight Howard.

Which amnestied player will improve the most next season?

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With some direction, Thomas can figure everything out. Remember, the one season he logged more than 25 minutes a night (2008-09), he averaged 14.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 2.5 blocks per 36 minutes.

Such an effort left him as the only player in the NBA to receive 25 or more minutes a game and subsequently average at least 14 points, eight boards, 1.5 steals and two blocks per 36 minutes.

We may be four years removed from those days, but a similar showing is still possible.

Put in the right situation, Thomas can rebound from last season, begin to repair his image and salvage what has become a disappointing career.

 

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