The Los Angeles Lakers have by far the highest payroll in the NBA at over $91 million. In fact, no other team is even at $75 million. Thus, it stands to reason that L.A. would be itching to use its amnesty waiver to trim some of the fat off its roster.
The Lakers have several amnesty candidates too.
There's the mercurial Metta World Peace (the artist formerly known as Ron Artest), whose erratic play has Lakers fans cringing whenever they think of the three years and almost $22 million left on his current contract.
Then there's Luke Walton, whose contract seems to defy NBA contract rules in terms of length. He's still on the books for the next two seasons, owed nearly $12 million over that span to stand on the sideline waving a towel.
Or they can cut Steve Blake, who has $12 million coming to him over the next three years, even though it's clear that he is not the answer to the Lakers' problems at point guard.
It seems evident that one of these guys needs to be shown the door immediately. But wait, not so fast.
The Lakers may actually have something to gain by holding off on jettisoning a player.
The team is hoping that Walton takes care of himself. The 31-year-old forward is said to be contemplating retirement due to debilitating back issues. Should Walton choose to end his career, the Lakers could save some major cash by claiming injury relief from the league.
If this scenario comes to fruition, it would indeed be tough not to pull the trigger on cutting Artest...er, I mean World Peace. But the Lakers may benefit from taking a wait-and-see approach even if Walton clears the way for them to dump Metta.
Should the Lakers use their amnesty waiver before the 2011-12 season begins?
For L.A., the ultimate prize in terms of roster management is not shedding some dead weight off the payroll (if any team can afford it, it's the Lakers), but to acquire Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic.
Holding back on using their amnesty provision would be advantageous to them in acquiring the NBA's top big man.
The Lakers could concoct a trade in which they not only give up what assets they can muster, but also agree to take back one of Orlando's egregious contracts—either Hedo Turkoglu or Gilbert Arenas—along with Howard as the Dwight Trade Tax.
By saving their amnesty, it would give them the ability to waive either Turkoglu or Arenas, whose contracts are worse than the ones currently clogging up L.A.'s payroll.
In addition, Artest may even be used in the deal. His salary would assist in making the trade math work, and Orlando may actually prefer him to Hedo. At least his contract is kinder than Turkoglu's, and it's certainly more merciful than Arenas'.
With the more punitive luxury tax not implemented until the summer before the 2013-14 season, the Lakers have nothing to gain by getting rid of a player via amnesty right now. Instead, by waiting to use their waiver, L.A. can put itself in a better position to acquire the player it covets.
The Lakers would have the luxury of being able to accommodate Orlando in a trade for Dwight Howard by agreeing to take back one of the Magic's terrible contracts—something that other teams looking to acquire Howard may not be willing or able to do.
In other words, taking no action at all may be the most important roster move the Lakers make this offseason.