One of the overarching goals of the owners in these collective bargaining discussions has been to create an environment in which they are protected against their own poor decision-making in giving oversize contracts to otherwise undeserving or mediocre players who become nothing more than dead weight for their franchise. The amnesty clause is the immediate, short-term way to be rid of one of these deals, allowing owners to waive a player without his salary counting against the salary cap or luxury tax. Of course, one team's trash is another team's treasure, and the Lakers in particular stand to benefit from the introduction of a number of useful free agents into the market, most of whom will continue to be richly compensated by their previous deals and are likely to accept a discount in a more cash-conscious environment.
Courtesy of ESPN's Marc Stein and Chad Ford, whose article also included the unsurprising revelation that Luke Walton is considering retirement, we have a comprehensive list of possible amnesty targets for every team in the league. As I noted in the piece on Walton's possible retirement, the list of possible amnesty targets for the Lakers includes Metta World Peace and Steve Blake, and the decision on who gets the axe will depend greatly on the Lakers' actions in the free agent and trade market once the lockout ends. In any case, after the jump, we will review the possible amnesty candidates for each team, how they could possibly fit with the Lakers, and whether the Lakers would be interested in their services.
From here, we'll go down the list alphabetically, listing Ford and Stein's most likely amnesty candidate along with that player's current contract:
The long lambasted pick of Billy Knight, who chose Williams rather than a certain Chris Paul in the 2005 draft, Williams is a reasonably productive wing with decent defensive chops who has no business being paid like a third or fourth wheel on a good team. Ford and Stein raise doubts over whether the Hawks' convoluted ownership situation may stop them from using the amnesty on Williams, but it looks like an easy decision considering that the Hawks have to stick with the ghastly contract they gave Joe Johnson last summer. Williams would be a decent fit for the Lakers if the rotation at the three wasn't already one of the team's strengths, with World Peace, Barnes, and Ebanks providing a generally solid rotation, and even if he came at a cheaper price, using the amnesty on World Peace to open a spot for Williams wouldn't be considered much of an upgrade.
Boston Celtics: Jermaine O'Neal ($6,226,200 through 2012)
Ford and Stein rightly question the logic in a contending team jettisoning a relatively solid backup in O'Neal when the team is fully willing to pay the luxury tax and they have concerns elsewhere to fill. Even if the Celtics signed Jeff Foster, he wouldn't be that much of an upgrade on O'Neal, who is still a decent defender even if he is nowhere near the imposing player he was in his prime. If the Celtics did release him, O'Neal would definitely be the best non-Foster big available on the market, but he's not so much better than the other options available that courting him would be a priority.
Verdict: Sign for minimum if available.
It wouldn't be remiss to describe Diop as one of the worst midlevel signings ever, as he has repaid that contract with downright pathetic production and never really showed that defensive utility he was drafted for. Even if he was serviceable on that end, Diop is such an anemic offensive player that he makes Kwame Brown look like Hakeem Olajuwon, and Kwame will also be available in free agency for that matter
Chicago Bulls: None
A relatively young team, the Bulls have their house in order, and calls from Bill Simmons to amnesty Carlos Boozer otherwise, they're likely to sit on the provision for the moment.
One of the more obvious amnesty choices in the league, Davis is grossly overpaid for his production and the lackadaisical attitude he brings for a rebuilding team. Ford and Stein do note a few caveats, namely that the Cavs believe they may be able to wring some assets from trading Davis and that Gilbert is terrified that Davis will head straight to Miami the moment he releases him. Both, however, seem to be farfetched, especially in light on a recent report from Stein that the top choices Davis would consider after his amnesty are the Knicks, Bobcats, and hometown Lakers.
Now, before you scoff at the notion of Davis joining the Lakers, consider the current situation at the point. The team desperately needs a serviceable point guard, especially with Brown implementing a more traditional offense, and Derek Fisher and Steve Blake are both highly inadequate solutions at the moment. Also consider that even if you think that Davis has been lazy and mailed it in on bad teams, he's had two straight years of 17+ PER production, which is light years beyond anything Fisher and Blake have done in their entire careers, not to mention last season. If you think Davis will act up and not give a crap, I refer you to a certain Kobe Bryant who will be sharing the same backcourt with him, along with the fact that he'll be going to his hometown team that happens to be a contender, not a perennial bottom feeder.
When motivated, Davis is still a force in this league and his downright freakish athleticism hasn't decreased too much with age. He also is a solid pick-and-roll operator and set-up man who definitely can run Brown's offense, and more than that, create opportunities from the perimeter, which the team has needed ever since Kobe's injuries began to limit his efficacy in that department. He'll have to cut down on the gunslinging from behind the arc and defend with some better fundamentals, but even with his faults, he's a vastly superior solution than any of the Lakers' current points or any other option available in free agency. Assuming the MLE makes it out of the CBA discussions as an option for teams in the tax, which looks like the case, Davis can likely be had for a pittance, especially since he'll likely be one to give a hometown discount to chase a ring.
Verdict: Sign, sign, sign.
Dallas Mavericks: None
Although this may be a bit of a surprise given that Brendan Haywood has a huge contract for a backup player and the player in front of him, Tyson Chandler, is due for a big raise, Ford and Stein claim that the Mavs believe that they can always trade Haywood if need be and have no plans to use the amnesty clause. Even with his poor play last year, Haywood would likely command a decent-sized salary that would be beyond what the Lakers are willing to pay, and there will be cheaper options available.
Harrington isn't that overpaid for his production, but on a team with an otherwise solid set of contracts, he definitely is the black sheep. Ford and Stein present the fair point that with Kenyon Martin playing in China and unavailable until late in the season, the Nuggets may hold onto Harrington until they can figure out their rotation at the spot, especially in regards to whether they can resign franchise center Nene. If the Nuggets do release Harrington, he would be a poor fit for the Lakers given that he's restricted to the four and will command more than the minimum, so unless the Lakers ship Odom off for Andre Iguodala or Monta Ellis, consider this unlikely.
One of the two terrible deals Joe Dumars gave out in the summer of 2009 -- the other being Ben Gordon, another possible amnesty candidate -- Villanueva has not lived up to the star billing his contract conferred. This noted, the more obvious amnesty solution in Rip Hamilton, who had a tumultuous relationship with former head coach and current Laker assistant John Kuester, has been downplayed as an amnesty candidate by Ford and Stein, who note that the Pistons still believe that there might be takers for Hamilton near the deadline -- (cough) Bulls (cough). In any case, Villanueva has much of the same problems that Harrington would have in fitting in with the Lakers' rotation, as he's set at the four. Gordon would be an intriguing option for the backup two guard spot if he were released, but he might be out of the Lakers' price range.
Bell is essentially the default solution after Ford and Stein dismissed the two more prominent candidates in David Lee, whom the Warriors' management still thinks highly of, and Andris Biedrins, who they think they can trade if necessary. With those out of the way, Bell is a serviceable defensive guard but has few other skills, and will likely struggle to latch onto a team whichever way he exits from his current contract.
Houston Rockets: None
As expected of stat guru David Morey, Houston's roster is filled with nothing more than bargain deals with no amnesty option in sight. Good management tends to do that.
According to Ford and Stein, whether Indy decides to amnesty Jones depends largely on how they can use their cap space in 2012, and they might hold onto him until then since their payroll is otherwise fairly clean. If Jones was released before then, it's unlikely the Lakers would consider him given his offensive limitations, even if he did seemingly turn over a new leaf last year at that end, and there are better options available in free agency for the backup two guard spot.
In the never-ending story of Donald Sterling's incompetent management, Ford and Stein give us this gem in that Sterling, ever reluctant to pay players or coaches when they're not actually playing for him, not only would decline to release Gomes, but would have waffled on using the amnesty on Baron Davis. Yikes. As for Gomes, he's a three who plays best as a smallball four, and both spots are more than filled on the Lakers' roster.
Memphis Grizzlies: None
No one leaving here. The Grizzlies are ready to go ahead with a Gay-Randolph-Gasol core and Heisley finally sounds ready to back a winning team.
Talk over whether Mike Miller was heading to the Lakers generated quite a bit of excitement at SS&R last offseason and for good reason: Miller brought shooting, passing, rebounding, and heady play at a position of weakness and was one of the better B-list free agents available. Cue last season, after which Miller's stock is much lower, as even if one considers that the start of his season was derailed by an injury, he failed to be that key source of spacing who could play off LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami and appears horribly overpaid. Ford and Stein describe the situation concerning Miller's possible amnesty as tenuous, as Miami might amnesty him to go after a point guard and center, especially considering that Miller plays at the same position as LeBron. He's not a great fit for the Lakers either with Barnes at the backup three spot and Miller would be especially challenged at the two guard spot.
Although Drew Gooden might appear to be a better candidate, Ford and Stein claim that Milwaukee values his presence in the frontcourt more than Udrih's in a crowded backcourt behind Brandon Jennings. If Udrih gets released, he undoubtedly would be a top target for the Lakers, as he's had two solid seasons of production that almost justify the overgenerous deal he originally received from the Kings. Behind Davis, he would likely be the second best point guard available at the market, and as previously noted, the Lakers need help at the position in the worst way.
Minnesota Timberwolves: None
Luckily for Kahn, being terrible at the draft at least means that you don't have a bunch of terrible contracts, and Ford and Stein assure us that Kahn is still enamored with the awesome potential of Darko Milicic.
Probably the worst signing of the fabled 2010 offseason, "overpaid" doesn't even begin to describe how terrible this deal was for the Nets and how quickly he'll be released whenever the lockout ends. Outlaw shouldn't interest the Lakers any either, as he's a three who can work as a smallball four, and like Ryan Gomes, there's no opening for a player like that in the Lakers' rotation.
New Orleans Hornets: None
Unfortunately for the Lakers, Ford and Stein assure us that the Hornets still want Trevor Ariza to hoist a bunch of long twos a game, and with David West and Carl Landry possibly leaving in free agency, Emeka Okafor is also too valuable of a commodity to release.
Balkman is an odd choice given that he makes such a pittance, but out of all the deals on the rejuvenated Knicks roster Donnie Walsh engineered, his is the only one the Knicks would consider releasing. An energy player who can play the three and be a smallball four, Balkman has no place on the Lakers.
Oklahoma City Thunder: None
It's a Sam Presti-run team. That should tell you all you need to know, although they might regret that Perkins contract in a few years and that they passed on Tyson Chandler a while ago.
If there is a poster child for the amnesty clause, Arenas is it. Abe Pollin, bless his soul, thought Arenas could lead the team to a title and he repaid Pollin with various injuries, the infamous gun incident with Javaris Crittenton, and being so terrible that Washington had to trade him for the second or third worst contract in the league in Rashard Lewis. It's hard to make excuses for how poor Arenas' play was last season, especially given how dominating of a force he was in the league only a few seasons ago, but it's doubtful that there's anything left there to wring out of him. Maybe he has a comeback similar to Tracy McGrady, who reinvented himself as a point forward, but that appears highly unlikely. Unlike Davis, he's not worth the effort to deal with his personality and his recent production doesn't justify such a gamble.
You might think Elton Brand would be here, but Brand had a comeback season last year that proved that he's still an above average frontcourt player, and head coach Doug Collins is fully in his camp. Nocioni, on the other hand, is a hustle player whose wheels have come off, and while he's not terrible, his contract makes him a clear amnesty candidate for the Sixers. Like many examples on this list, Nocioni plays at the three, and the Lakers will be happy to let him go to another team.
Childress is an interesting option since despite last year's struggles in Phoenix, he was a reasonably productive player, and one can imagine that the right circumstances would allow him to return to the level he played at in Atlanta. An athletic, heady wing who rebounds well for his position, Childress' shooting limitations might make the Lakers a poor fit, but at the right price, he would be a solid backup at the two for Kobe. Ford and Stein report that Lon Babby, Phoenix's GM and Childress' former agent, hasn't decided one way or another, but Childress definitely looks like the easiest amnesty choice on the roster.
Verdict: Sign if available for a little over the minimum.
Roy's position here is a bit sad given that he's only a year removed from ranking only behind Kobe and Wade among the league's two guards, and now due to his knee problems, he's one of the league's worst contracts. Sentimental value might delay the axe from Portland's management, but there's really no choice here given how much of an anchor Roy is on Portland's payroll. As for Roy as a player, it's much more likely that the limited Roy we saw during the regular season represents his current status going forward than the throwback Roy who led a magical comeback against the Mavs in Game 3. Even limited, he still brings value due to his ballhandling, smarts, and decent midrange game, but you always have to wonder how much he can play given the extent of his knee injuries. Certainly, he could adapt to his circumstances and find a way to thrive, but that seems less likely than him continuing to struggle. He's not a bad option for the Lakers' backup two guard spot at the right price, but you have to think that the Lakers will go with a safer option.
Verdict: Sign if available for a little over the minimum.
Sacramento Kings: None
Although Francisco Garcia and John Salmons might seem like natural amnesty candidates, Ford and Stein indicate that the Kings might struggle to meet the minimum payroll floor that might be in the new CBA, so for the moment, Sacramento will sit and weigh their options.
The Spurs' owner Peter Holt is apparently one of the biggest advocates for allowing teams to pocket the amnesty provision for later use, as the team likely wants to keep Richard Jefferson, even at prohibitive cost, for at least one more year to chase a title before Duncan rides off into the sunset. If not, then the stronger luxury tax may force the Spurs' hand, and on an otherwise very well-constructed team, Jefferson's poor contract stands out, and recent lottery pick Kawhi Leonard is waiting in the wings to take over. Gregg Popovich has effectively broken Jefferson into a serviceable role player at the three, and he would be an upgrade on the wings, but he's almost certainly out of the Lakers' price range.
Toronto Raptors: None
Ford and Stein present Jose Calderon and Linas Kleiza as possible candidates to be released, although extenuating circumstances may keep both on the other side of the border. Calderon is the team's only serviceable point guard, so he might be staying despite his overly large contract, and the Raptors are looking as to whether insurance will cover part of Kleiza's deal due to his recent knee surgery. While Kleiza is another three who can masquerade as a smallball four -- if you haven't noticed the pattern here yet, these guys habitually get overpaid -- Calderon is an interesting option at the right price given his solid shooting and passing ability despite his matador defense, and Pau would undoubtedly delight to have one of his Spanish national team teammates alongside him in L.A. While Calderon has declined somewhat from his hyper-efficient '08-'09 stature, he still would have a lot of value should he find himself released.
The Jazz are deliberating over whether to release Okur given the crowded frontcourt with top five pick Enes Kanter added to a rotation that also includes Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, and Derrick Favors, particularly since they believe that a sweet shooting big like Okur, even with his recent injuries, still has value around the league. If they don't hold onto Okur, it's likely that they will release Raja Bell, who left Kobe hanging in a meeting to recruit him to L.A. last offseason. Bell likely won't interest the Lakers given the degree to which he declined last year, but Okur would be an intriguing addition to the frontcourt due to his ability to spread the floor, and if he is available for part of the MLE, the Lakers should be inquiring about him.
Washington Wizards: Rashard Lewis ($43,836,182 through 2013 with last year non-guaranteed)
Poster child number two for the amnesty provision behind Arenas, Lewis' absurdly large contract for Orlando was justifiable given how valuable he was in Stan Van Gundy's system, but he's declined greatly from his better years, and definitely isn't worth the huge amount of money he's currently making. His status as a stretch four is notably less interesting to the Lakers than other teams given the presence of a certain Lamar Odom, although he possibly could be an option if Odom is traded following the lockout. Either way, the Lakers have bigger priorities at other positions, and Lewis likely would command a sizable enough salary to push him out of the Lakers' price range.
As we can see, the amnesty clause significantly opens up the free agent market for the Lakers and makes available a number of interesting players who represent tangible upgrades for the Lakers at key positions of need. Although many of these players would be considered reclamation projects to a certain extent, they provide many advantages over the comparable options in the free agent or trade market, as in the case of Baron Davis, Mehmet Okur, or Brandon Roy. Altogether, outside of a major trade, taking advantage of these amnesty candidates likely is the best way for the Lakers to fill the holes in their rotation and improve this offseason, as they turn other teams' mistakes to their advantage.
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