Will the Washington Wizards Regret Not Using Amnesty Clause on Rashard Lewis?

Benjamin E. ChunCorrespondent IIDecember 27, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 28: Taj Gibson #22 of the Chicago Bulls guards Rashard Lewis #9 of the Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center in Washington on February 28, 2011 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

After a tumultuous preseason and a dreadful first game of the season, Rashard Lewis has lived down to my low expectations that I highlighted in my stat predictions for the Wizards that I wrote last week.  

In 25 minutes of playing time, Rashard managed only nine points and two rebounds on 25 percent shooting from the field. 

While many speculated about the Wizards using the amnesty clause on Rashard who owns the second-highest contract this season behind Kobe Bryant, I still believe that keeping him was ultimately the right move with the lack of free agents that fit into the Wizards' rebuilding plans. 

Lewis’ poor play is the best thing that could happen for the team.

One of my biggest concerns coming into the season was coach Flip Saunders’ penchant for giving veteran players extended playing time.  With the roster now chock full of young, versatile wings, I was afraid that a healthy Rashard Lewis would take valuable time and experience away from these players. 

Lewis’ ineffective play thus far forces Saunders to distribute his minutes more evenly among the likes of Chris Singleton, Trevor Booker and Jan Vesely once he returns from a minor hip injury.

To answer the opposition that believes using the amnesty clause is the right idea, holding onto Lewis this season will end up saving the Wizards tens of millions of dollars while keeping their cap flexibility intact. 

With $50-plus million left on his contract for this season and the next, the Wizards would have had to take a substantial financial hit in a poor economy. 

The beauty of the amnesty clause is that there is no expiration date and it can be used in the following offseasons.  While a poor season will hurt his trade stock, the fact that Lewis will be a $24 million expiring contract would make him attractive to any team hoping to get under the more restrictive salary cap that sets in two years into the new CBA agreement.

This way GM Ernie Grunfeld would most likely be able to swing another trade that brings us young talent or draft picks rather than using the amnesty now and receiving nothing in return but paying out the contract fully. 

Worst-case scenario if there is no trade market for Lewis, the Wizards could use the amnesty clause on him before next season and retain the cap space they would have had if they used it this year.

For the first time in recent memory, the team has made calculated, shrewd personnel decisions in the front office and it is paying dividends in the large amount of cap space and young talent brought in by Grunfeld. 

With much work left to do in the rebuild, it is important that the Wizards stay patient but vigilant in their pursuit of complementary and star talent to surround John Wall for the future.