NBA AM: Who Should The Lakers Cut?
Should The Lakers Save Their Amnesty Cut? Over the last four to five months Lakers’ fans have speculated on how the Lakers should use the new tools included in the forthcoming labor deal between the Players and the Owners to return their team to the NBA Finals.
The biggest tool being the proposed one–time Player Amnesty, which would allow the Lakers to cut loose one contract which would not count against the salary cap and or the Luxury tax.
Some have speculated it’s the player formerly known as Ron Artest – sorry just can’t bring myself to acknowledge the whole Metta World thing.
Some have hinted maybe it was time to jump out of last summer’s Steve Blake deal or even the long-time albatross that has been Luke Walton.
While all three players struggled under Phil Jackson last year, showing either their age, the breakdowns in their bodies, or how one-dimensional their game can be; the truth of the matter is no one really knows how any of those players will look in a new Mike Brown-led Lakers offense.
Beyond the changes to the system and overall coaching philosophy coming to the Lakers this season, there is one aspect of the Lakers offseason most are overlooking.
The Amnesty provision can – and in the Lakers case should – be saved.
Under the proposed Labor Deal that will likely get ratified on Thursday between the Players and Owners is a provision that leaves the Luxury tax system exactly as it was last year, and it will remain that way for the first two years of the labor deal.
In Year 3 of the deal, or going into the 2013-2014 season, the Lakers have exactly four contracts on the books for a total salary commitment of $61.4 million.
This is also when the Luxury Tax ceiling may be as high as $80 million, but the luxury tax assessed to teams will be two and three times higher. This will also be when high revenue teams will start really contributing to revenue sharing too.
So why save the Amnesty?
Because in the year the Lakers owe Kobe Bryant $30.453 million, Kobe will be turning 35 years old.
Who thinks Kobe’s already problematic knee is gonna hold up to another 5,500 game minutes before really breaking down?
Remember while everyone was worried about the Lockout, Kobe snuck off this offseason to Germany to undergo platelet-rich plasma therapy on the knee he had surgery on last summer. The same knee Kobe said was almost “bone-on-bone” in January. The same knee that kept Kobe off the practice floor more days than not.
How is a compressed 66-game schedule going to go over?
2013-2014 also happens to be the season Pau Gasol, who will turn 33 that year, is owed $19.295 million.
Not nearly as scary as Kobe’s 35 years and $30 million, but is Pau Gasol the kind of athlete that plays 82 games after he’s 33?
Gaosl has averaged 73 games a season over his ten-year career, seeing all 82 games just three times.
Most NBA fans would agree that Tim Duncan was a dominating player in his prime and is arguably a first ballot hall-of-famer.
Over the last two years Duncan has really started dropping off to an almost support level role more nights than not as others like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili lead the way.
How old is Tim Duncan you ask?… He’ll be 36 this year.
The Lakers have 11 players under contract including the non-guaranteed deals of Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebank – they have open roster spots.
The new Luxury Tax does not kick in for two years, meaning there is no greater penalty than the one the Lakers have paid for years coming, even if the team adds a significant player.
Using the Amnesty provision on Metta World, Steve Blake or Luke Walton won’t drop the Lakers far enough below the Luxury Tax line to gain a full Mid-Level exception, so there is absolutely nothing gained for the Lakers in using their Amnesty provision now other than the fan satisfaction of watching a player be released.
The smart money says hold on to it until 2013… that’s when they may “need” to use it to rebuild if things go badly for Kobe or Pau… it’s also when Chris Paul’s contract actually ends. The same with Dwight Howard – both hold Player Options for Free Agency this July with no obligation to use them.
Their respective teams may blink at the threat of losing them, but both do not have to be free agents this summer and if both really wanted to play together in L.A.… see where I am going?
In July of 2013, there are a lot of promising free agents (mostly restricted) to tempt the Lakers with beyond Paul, Deron Williams and Howard including:
Stephen Curry, GS Warriors – Restricted ($5.3 million Qualifying Offer)
Darren Collison, Indiana Pacers – Restricted ($3.3 million Qualifying Offer)
Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets – Restricted ($3.6 million)
Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks – Restricted ($4.3 million Qualifying Offer)
Monta Ellis, Golden State Warriors – Early Termination Option ($11.0 million)
Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia 76ers – Early Termination Option ($15.9 million)
Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings – Restricted ($6.9 million Qualifying Offer)
Kevin Martin, Houston Rockets – Unrestricted
James Harden, OKC Thunder – Restricted ($7.6 million Qualifying Offer)
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors – Restricted ($4.5 million Qualifying Offer)
Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks – Unrestricted
Paul George, Indiana Pacers – Team Option ($3.3 million)
Wesley Johnson, Minnesota Timberwolves – Team Option ($5.4 million)
Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers – Restricted ($9.4 million Qualifying Offer)
Would it be smarter for the Lakers to use their Amnesty cut now when they can gain almost nothing from it, or is it better to put that puppy in your pocket and hold it for when using it can actually help your team?
Drop Kobe’s $30 million from the cap via Amnesty and the Lakers have roughly $31 million in commits in a year when the salary cap could be as high as $65 million. Drop the last year of Pau’s deal and the Lakers have $42.1 in commitments and maybe $22 million to spend.
Kobe’s career will end one day and Pau Gasol won’t be that far behind him, the question is do the Lakers want to be paying a premium when father time robs those guys of their ability to produce at the high level the Lakers need?
The smart money says the Lakers save that tool.
Time To Meet: The NBA will allow face-to-face meetings today between teams and players. Teams are permitted to administer physicals to free agents and engage in real contract talk in advance of a ratified deal on Thursday and the opening of training camp and signings on Friday December 9th.
Here is some of what we know:
- Denver free agent Nene will meet with the Houston Rockets today. The Rockets have about $9 million in cap space, but are willing to complete a sign-and-trade deal to obtain Nene if he wants to be a Rocket. Nene is also expected to meet with the New Jersey Nets and Golden State Warriors all of which have more cash to offer than Houston giving Nene some leverage to extract a trade if he decides Houston is where he wants to be. The Rockets made a strong push to obtain Nene at the trade deadline and were turned away by Denver. The Nuggets say re-signing Nene remains a high priority, but given how Nene has reacted to Denver’s hardline stance on a contract extension and what his camp viewed as a low-ball opening offer last week, Nene has been clear he’s going shopping for a new team.
- Shane Battier is expected to meet with a couple of teams in the coming days after reportedly narrowing his list of possible destinations down to the Memphis Grizzlies, Miami HEAT, Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors. The Grizzlies hold Shane’s Bird Rights so they can offer him whatever sum they want or can pull off a sign-and-trade to extract value for him in return. The Pacers are one of the teams with the most cap space. The Miami HEAT cannot offer the same financial package as some of the others, but of the bunch they are the closest to a NBA title of any of the suitors. Shane was reportedly contacted by at least half the league and narrowed down his list this weekend and will start meeting with teams today.
- Orlando free agent Jason Richardson is in demand. Returning to Orlando with the Magic remains a (remote) possibility, mainly because they hold his contract rights and can offer a deal higher than any would-be suitor. That has not stopped teams like Golden State, Chicago and New York from trying to set up meetings. The Bulls and Knicks are reportedly talking sign-and-trade deals with Richardson where the Golden State Warriors have the cap space to trigger a deal on their own. Richardson is expected to start talking with teams in a serious way today but the best deal for him comes through Orlando and sources close to the process say Richardson is not looking at deals involving the Mid-Level Exception.
- As first reported by HOOPSWORLD last week, The New York Knicks are going hard after free agent Jeff Foster. The Knicks view Foster as exactly the kind of center they need. He will rebound, play defense, challenge a few shots, and do it all without needing a single offensive play run for him. Sources close to the process say Carmelo Anthony named Foster specifically as a player the Knicks should purse and it seems that former Knicks’ president Donnie Walsh, serving as a consultant to the team, is being used to try and influence Foster who he has a long history with. Foster said recently that he wants to remain in Indiana and potentially retire there, but will he pass on a chance to be the starting center for the Knicks remains to be seen.
- Cross Wizards’ free agent Nick Young off your wish list. Sources close to the process say Young will listen to overtures from teams mainly because he cannot consummate anything with the Wizards until December 9th, but that on December 9th unless some one gets silly with money Young will return to the Wizards on a new deal. Several teams have reached out to get in front of Young, but the overall vibe from league sources is that Nick Young is not nearly as available as some think and that meeting and listening to teams is all part of the process to getting a hefty deal from the Wizards once signings can begin on December 9th.
- Hawks’ free agent Jamal Crawford has no shortage of suitors. As Alex Kennedy reported yesterday Crawford has been contacted by the Chicago Bulls, Miami HEAT, Portland Trail Blazers, New Jersey Nets, New Orleans Hornets, Indiana Pacers and Phoenix Suns. The Bulls are said to be trying to work out a sign-and-trade deal with Atlanta to get a deal in the expected $8 to $9 million per year price range Crawford is seeking. Crawford who was initially drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2000 and traded to the Bulls on draft night seems to be open to a reunion in Chicago, however the Bulls are kicking the tires on a number of players so its unclear where Crawford fits on the Bulls wish list. Crawford has spent most of the summer playing in charity games with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and is said to be one of the top players that duo would like to see added in Miami. Crawford’s price tag may make impossible for him to be in Miami, but if the floor falls out of the free agent market don’t be surprised to see Crawford take the HEAT’s exception money before anyone else.
Remember for the very latest on all of the Free Agency Moves, bookmark the 2011 NBA Free Agent Diary which will be updated throughout the day with the latest news, notes and insight on the free agent flurry. The Dairy will be updated through December 11th, so make sure to swing by early and often.
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NBA Chats: There are two NBA Chats scheduled for today starting with HOOPSWORLD’s Bill Ingram at 11am. Bill’s chats do fill up fast so getting in early is always wise. HOOPSWORLD editor Jason Fleming rounds out the day with his weekly NBA chat at 8pm EST. You can always find the next NBA Chat here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/upcoming-chats/ and if you are looking for Previous Chats try here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/previous-chats/