NBA Amnesty Clause: 5 Amnesty Casualties Washington Wizards Should Target
The Washington Wizards are purportedly one of the teams that benefited most from the new CBA agreement (well, at least if you hear Chad Ford tell it). Ted Leonsis’ gripes with system issues notwithstanding, the major reason is the amnesty provision that will reportedly be tucked away therein—allowing the team to waive someone like Rashard Lewis (not as likely as one would think) or Andray Blatche to improve their cap situation.
An even a larger benefit, however, is their ability to bid on other teams' amnesty waivers.
Here’s the way it works: Teams over the cap like the LA Lakers and Miami Heat will not be allowed to sign amnesty’ed players until they go through a waivers process. Teams under the cap will be able to bid for players that teams use amnesty on after Dec. 9; those teams will bid the amount of the player’s salary they’d be willing to pay for the remaining years on the contract, up to the cap. In Rashard Lewis’ case, if he went to waivers and the highest bid was $3 million, the Wizards would pay approximately $19 million in each of the last two years of his contract, and the bidding team would pay the remainder.
Seems simple enough. The bidding is blind, however, so it encourages teams to put their best offer on the table—and the team utilizing amnesty then gets a break in the amount of the highest bid. Win-win.
The teams in position to be big buyers based on the amount of cap room available are the Denver Nuggets, Sacramento Kings, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, New Jersey Nets, Washington Wizards and New Orleans Hornets.
That’s only seven teams at least $15 million under the cap. Of course the Nuggets still have to offer contracts to Nene and Arron Afflalo, and the Grizzlies still need to lock up Marc Gasol before they even think about making other offers. The Nets seem to be determined to swing a blockbuster trade for Dwight Howard, and will probably be using amnesty on someone like Travis Outlaw to facilitate. So the bidders may actually be even more limited.
This is a dream scenario for the Wiz, where star-caliber players will not have a say in what team they land with.
Many of the expected amnesty targets aren’t particularly valuable, for obvious reasons, and some chronicled here may eventually be spared the amnesty ax. Others just don’t make sense for the Wizards.
You won’t find Brandon Roy on this list, whose high-risk/high-reward might make more sense for somebody looking for that one missing piece (though at $2-3 million a season I’d be a buyer). Likewise you won’t find any mention of Brendan Haywood—who falls into the “been there, done that” pile.
Who do you think will be a casualty of the amnesty provision? And if so, who should the Wizards target? I look forward to hearing your suggestions in the comments section after your read.
Luis Scola, Houston
Scola has a big contract and while he’s performed relatively well over the last few seasons, he’s also getting up there in age. He’s got four years and $39 million left on his deal. The next most likely option is probably Hasheem Thabeet, but he's an expiring contract after the season already.
At 31, the Argentine is still a very good scorer on the block and has good size for the PF position. He’s not very athletic but is very good at getting space and sneaking a shot up off the glass. He’s also averaged more than nine rebounds per 36 minutes every year he’s played in the league, something the Wizards will certainly need.
While he’s not a panacea for the Wizards’ problems, he is a smart veteran and would be a great mentor for Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee, both of whom need a lot of work on their post play and rebounding tenacity.
I see Scola getting up to half of his former contract paid for by another team. If I were the Wizards, I’d look to get Scola at around $4 million a season for his remaining four years. He might be one of the best buys out there.
Joe Johnson, Atlanta
JJ’s contract is, in my opinion, the worst long-term deal in the NBA. He’s due about $107 million over the next five seasons, and on the wrong side of 30, he’s no spring chicken.
It would be very painful for Atlanta to waive Johnson and then keep paying him through 2016, but the Hawks are stuck in purgatory—not good enough to win the East and not bad enough to find a game-changer in the draft. Admittedly, Josh Smith is just as likely an option for them.
Johnson played some point in ATL but he’s really a shooting guard. It allows him to be a high-usage player and concentrate on scoring instead of getting his teammates involved. He’s been effective in previous seasons, but is not a superstar and couldn’t get his team over the hump even with a talented roster around him.
John Wall would take a lot of pressure off of Johnson with his ability to drive and dish and defend multiple positions. Jordan Crawford is the only true shooting guard on the roster, and if Nick Young (or someone comparable) isn’t signed it will be a real need for the Wizards.
Unfortunately Johnson is probably going to get a multitude of bids if he is indeed amnesty’ed. Most teams would be happy to get Johnson for $9 million per season, but I wouldn’t wager on the Wizards offering more than $7 million per—a little more than what they’d probably need to keep Nick Young. Not likely, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime (or at least once every five seasons) opportunity for the Wiz.
David Lee, Golden State
Lee produced a 20/10 season in New York where he split time at PF and C for the Knicks and looked on his way to being a yearly All-Star candidate. But his surrounding cast in NY was questionable at best, and he hasn’t been able to turn around the Warriors' poor defensive reputation.
Golden State also has a couple of amnesty options, including fellow big Andris Biedrins (three years, $27 million). But the most daring move would be waiving Lee, who is due over $68 million over the next five seasons. It’s not as terrible as some of the other contracts out there, but the sheer size makes him worth a mulligan.
Lee is another solid rebounder and high-motor player that the Wizards would love to pick up in this one-shot deal. I can see the bidding getting uncomfortably close to his 2011-12 contract value ($11 million), but if I’m in the team front office I wouldn’t be interested at any more than $7 million a season.
Al Jefferson, Utah
Jefferson might be a casualty of Utah’s amazingly up-tempo rebuilding process. Paul Millsap and Mehmet Okur are proven veterans who would compete with him for time in the front court. Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are young bucks with loads of potential.
Something’s gotta give.
Jefferson could be the odd man out because of his contract ($29 million over the next two years), which dwarfs that of Millsap ($14 million for two) and is twice as long (and almost three times as expensive) as Okur’s. Okur also might be a perfect candidate for a late-season salary dump or trade to a contender since he comes off the books next season.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), Jefferson is one of the league’s few true offensive threats on the block and has averaged 10 rebounds a game over the last five seasons. He’s got good size and can play PF and C, though his defense leaves a lot to be desired.
If I were Utah I wouldn’t give up on Jefferson just yet. But his contract is a concern, and he’ll definitely eat into minutes for the team’s younger guns—who must develop for this team to be a contender long-term. It will probably be Okur, but the Wiz should keep an eye out in case Utah must make this tough decision. I’d offer up to $8 million a season for Jefferson’s services.
Emeka Okafor, New Orleans
Okafor is due over $40 million the next three seasons. That’s a ridiculous amount for a largely defensive center with little offensive ability. However, it’s something the Wizards need, and competent big men are worth big bucks on the open market.
This might be an opportunity for the Wiz to get Okafor and have him teach JaVale McGee the ropes. He’s a smart player and at 29 still has some good years left. He improved drastically playing with Chris Paul, and John Wall has a similar ability to make scoring easy for his low-post players.
There will certainly be other teams bidding for his services, so it would probably take an offer in the $7 million range to claim him. If the Wizards offer $5 million a season it would be great value for the former Husky/Bobcat/Hornet.