The NBA’s new CBA will almost certainly include an “amnesty clause” – a one-time opportunity for teams to remove their worst contracts from the books. They will still have to pay the players guaranteed monies, but it will not count against the cap.
So here’s the deal. I am the owner, I’ve got deep pockets and I am looking to trim the fat.
For each team I identify the player that I would jettison under the amnesty clause.
Atlanta Hawks – Marvin Williams (three years, $23.3m)
Drafting Williams with the second pick in the 2005 draft (ahead of Chris Paul and Deron Williams) was bad enough, but then they compound the problem by giving him a $40 million extension in 2009. On what basis they made this decision I have no idea, because from what I’ve seen he’s not worth half that. And for the skills he has at his disposal you would be hard pressed to find a more passive player in the NBA. Let me know when you see him do anything other than take 18 foot jump shots.
Boston Celtics – Jermaine O’Neal (one year, $6.2m)
$6.2 million for Jermaine O’Neal? C’mon now. For the veterans minimum, fine, but at this number he’s stealing money. And they would have to pay luxury tax on top of it. If he won’t voluntarily retire the decision should be made for him.
Charlotte Bobcats – Corey Maggette (two years, $21.1m)
A loafer like Corey Maggette making $10 million per year just shouldn’t happen.
Chicago Bulls – Carlos Boozer (four years, $60.6m)
Regardless of what the new CBA looks like, salary cap wise the Bulls are in trouble. It’s true, they’re on the precipice of greatness, but that’s where they will stay unless they can address some of these issues.
They’ve grossly overpaid Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng, and Derrick Rose will soon be eligible for a max extension. And Rose desperately needs help in the form of another creator, but with a bloated payroll going forward that may be hard to achieve. Unless they make one of these guys disappear.
$60 million is a tough pill to swallow, but removing Boozer from the equation is the right move. He’s soft, injury prone, a liability defensively and consistently comes up short in the clutch (and sadly, all this was known prior to his signing in Chicago).
And let’s be frank, his back-up Taj Gibson is actually the better player. There’s a reason why coach Thibodeau played Gibson over Boozer in the fourth quarter of playoff games. But if they don’t slash payroll now there is no way they will be able to retain Gibson. By wiping Boozer’s salary off the books they can extend Gibson (when he’s due) and make him the starter, whilst also creating flexibility to acquire (and pay) a proven two guard who can put the ball in the hole (Mayo/Thornton?). Some tough decisions lay ahead for the Bulls.
Cleveland Cavaliers – Baron Davis (two years, $28.7m)
Please B-Diddy, take your ‘talents’ elsewhere.
Dallas Mavericks – Brendan Haywood (four years, $34.9m)
Ok, I get it, he can defend and he’s probably a starter in this league (although I wouldn’t want him starting on my team). But here’s the rub. He’s set to earn $9 million per year for the next four years, and he averaged 4.4 ppg and 5.2 rpg last season. That’s a problem. And he’s not even the best center on his own team (there is no way Cuban lets Chandler walk).
Heading into what is sure to be a more restrictive CBA, he’s a luxury that Dallas can’t afford.
Denver Nuggets – Al Harrington (four years, $27.5m)
Signing this guy to a five year $34 million contract was nuts. Here’s your chance to erase (well sort of) that mistake.
Detroit Pistons – Rip Hamilton (two years, $25.2m)
There’s no shortage of candidates (Hamilton, Gordon, Villanueva, Maxiell) but it has to be Rip. The extension he received in 2008 was insane, and for a variety of reasons it’s a big factor in Detroit’s demise over the last few years.
It’s a pity the amnesty doesn’t extend to inept GMs.
Golden State Warriors – Andris Biedrins (three years, $27m)
If they don’t take this opportunity to remove this noose from around their neck, then I am giving up on the Warriors.
Houston Rockets – Kevin Martin (two years, $24.9m)
The Rockets are floundering and need to rebuild, so why clog up the cap paying a guy $12 million per year when he doesn’t help the bottom line? If they continue down this path they’re headed for the dreaded middle ground – not good enough to make the playoffs, but too good to land a high draft pick. That’s the arse-end of the NBA my friends.
Indiana Pacers – James Posey (one year, $6.9m)
Has any player fallen so hard and as quickly as Posey? A few years back he was considered an essential piece for a contender, and now he’s just a spectator on a mediocre team. Free the man.
LA Clippers – Mo Williams (two years, $17m)
Maybe it’s just my personal dislike for Williams the player, but I can’t be the only one who thinks he’s a bad fit alongside Griffin and Gordon. He’s a shoot first point guard and an average facilitator at best. To maximise their potential these guys will need a pass-first point man feeding them the rock, not a volume shooter like Williams. A veteran like Andre Miller would be an ideal fit.
LA Lakers – Ron Artest (three years, $21.6m)
Luke Walton making $12 million over the next two years is borderline comical, but ‘Metta’ has worn out his welcome in LA. He’s a liability offensively and his defense has slipped. They’re probably stuck with him unless they take this opportunity to cut ‘World Peace’ loose.
Memphis Grizzlies – none
Conley, Gay and Randolph are all making more than they are worth, but not to the point where you would pay them to go away. The rest of the roster is surprisingly tidy.
Miami Heat – Mike Miller (four years, $24m)
There’s no substance to Mike Miller and he’s not worth his contract. That money could be better spent elsewhere.
Milwaukee Bucks – Drew Gooden (four years, $26.3m)
You’re spoilt for choice here with three bad contracts on the books (Jackson, Udrih and Gooden). My first inclination is to say Jackson, a.k.a. the ticking time bomb, with his two years and $19 million remaining. But unlike Drew Gooden, at least Jackson will help you win some games.
With Gooden, it’s not just the contract (whoever signed off on his deal does not deserve to sleep easily at night). He routinely breaks plays looking for his own shot, his defense is erratic and he’s injury prone. The playing time usually allotted to Gooden should be invested in second year man Larry Sanders.
Minnesota Timberwolves – Darko Milicic (two years, $11.5m)
Kahn won’t do it because he’s been talking this guy up for a year in order to justify the signing. But these are the sorts of decisions that make you seriously question his basketball IQ. The most recent example; his assertion that the Wolves need a coach with ‘up-tempo DNA’ (like that’s the formula for success in the NBA). And he even had the gall to say Minnesota fans want to see ‘up-tempo basketball’. Really? They just want to win you fool.
Don Nelson and David Kahn would be a match made in (dysfunctional) heaven. Please God, make it happen.
New Jersey Nets – Travis Outlaw (three years, $21m)
Rod Thorn screwed them right to the end, grossly overpaying Outlaw and Petro before taking his ‘talents’ to Philly. But as is the case with Thorn, because he drafted Michael Jordan, decisions like this (and there are many) tend not to stick to his resume.
But not to worry, this kind of dough is like loose change for the big Russian.
New Orleans Hornets – Emeka Okafor (three years, $40.6m)
$13 million a year for a limited role player? That’s hardly a good endorsement for the current system.
New York Knicks – Renaldo Balkman (two years, $3.4m)
You don’t need Balkman absorbing cap space into 2012/13, even if it’s a pittance.
Oklahoma City Thunder – none
Sam Presti runs a tight ship and doesn’t overpay. Ok, he slightly overpaid for Perkins, but that’s mandatory if you want a center that can walk and chew gum at the same time. I would love to get rid of that clown Nate Robinson, but as an expiring contract he may be useful in trade.
Orlando Magic – Gilbert Arenas (three years, $62.4m)
Desperate times call for drastic measures. No, I am not talking about finding a way to keep Dwight Howard, he’s a goner. I am talking about avoiding the train wreck that will be left in his wake; a roster made up of overpaid players that are past their prime, and no promising youth to speak of. If they don’t get creative here and make some bold moves, this organisation is going to be sunk for a very long time.
As with Boozer, paying Arenas $62 million to go away is a scary prospect, but it’s a necessary course of action. There’s an assumption that Orlando will be able to force Arenas in to a Howard trade, but that would eliminate many prospective suitors from the race, and they would be taking on a boatload of salary in return. However, getting Turkoglu into the trade is more realistic given his smaller (but still ridiculous) contract, and even quite reasonable considering the megastar in Howard that that team would be landing.
Let’s say for example that Orlando deals Howard and Turkoglu for a package that includes a couple of really good young pieces, but also some bigger salaried guys to make the deal work. The example could be to Chicago (assuming that my idea of buying out Boozer doesn’t come to fruition, which it probably won’t – Reinsdorf is a cheapskate). Orlando would receive Noah, Gibson and Asik as the young assets, as well as Deng and Korver to facilitate the deal.
Given the current situation, this return is more than fair compensation for Dwight Howard. And from the Bulls perspective, whilst they’re paying a premium to get him (which they rightly should), the pairing of Rose and Howard would set them up to seriously contend over the next decade. With their complimentary skills and burning desire to win, it could evolve into one of the best 1-2 punches in league history (if not the best).
For Orlando, this trade and the Arenas buyout would get them younger across the board, and put them on course to rebuild with a fresh identity (based on defense), whilst remaining competitive.
Philadelphia 76ers – Elton Brand (two years, $35.2m)
Injuries have diminished his game, and his exorbitant contract is hampering the rebuild. It’s time to cut the cord.
Phoenix Suns – Josh Childress (four years, $26.9m)
They outbid themselves for his services, despite being loaded at the three (at the time they had Hill, Turkoglu and Dudley on the roster). Just one of many puzzling decisions made by the Suns in recent years.
Portland Trail Blazers – Brandon Roy (three years, $49.1m)
I hate to do it, but it’s necessary. With deteriorating knees, his monster contract threatens to torpedo the club. In this new NBA climate you just can’t afford to pay a guy max money when he can’t contribute at his peak performance.
Sacramento Kings – John Salmons (three years, $24.1m)
Jimmer Fredette better pan out, because if he doesn’t the cost is $9.1m in additional salary (for swapping Udrih for Salmons in the nonsensical draft day trade).
San Antonio Spurs – Richard Jefferson (three years, $30.5m)
It looks like their little ‘under the table’ agreement last year (i.e. if you opt out we’ll re-sign you to a longer, more ‘reasonable’ deal) has come back to bite them. Gee, that was hard to predict.
Toronto Raptors – Jose Calderon (two years, $20.2m)
He’s not a starting-calibre point guard, he’s earning $10 million per year and he has no trade value. Do you need any more reasons?
Utah Jazz – Al Jefferson (two years, $29m)
Big Al’s a fine player, but his contract and his defense do not align with the direction the Jazz are heading (or should be heading).
Washington Wizards – Rashard Lewis (two years, $45.9m)
Anyone that gives Andray Blatche a lengthy extension with guaranteed money needs their head examined. That being said, the Lewis monstrosity has to go.
To read more of JT’s stuff, check out his blog at NBAozblog