TORONTO,ON–A chance to cut any player from a team??? This has to be fantasy basketball doesn’t it? Actually, its not. One of the proposed clauses by the owners in a new possible CBA is something called amnesty. Considering there is no agreement between owners and players yet, you may be wondering why this is important. Really, it isn’t, until that new CBA is signed. But at the very least, it’s something to discuss.
What is an amnesty clause you ask? To be honest, it is a ridiculous measure proposed by the owners to provide themselves a get out of jail free card for foolishly overpaying players in past years. If a CBA is reached with an amnesty provision in place, each team can release ONE player (but will still have to pay off the remainder of his contract) and not have the player’s contract count against the salary cap. Simply, an owner eliminates an overpaid player (that he overpaid in the first place) to reduce the teams overall salary in an attempt to make the team more competitive.
Considering the Raptors current financial situation, there are five players with expensive contracts that Bryan Colangelo could potentially cut from the team.
Jose Calderon: 2011/12- $9.78 million
2012/13- $10.56 million
Calderon is owed over $20 million in the next two seasons. For someone who will be splitting point guard duties with Jerryd Bayless, this is looking like an albatross of a contract. Actually, let’s be honest, its looked like an albatross of a contract for the last two years. But is Calderon the player to use amnesty on?
At almost 10 PPG and 9 APG, he is undoubtedly giving the Raptors value, although not value you’d hope $9.78 million would bring. However, he is an experienced, pass first point guard, who can help guide a young core of players and help them understand the kind of plays, cuts and decisions to make when they don’t have the ball. Furthermore, with the other point guard option, Jerryd Bayless, being an unproven, 23 year old project, Calderon provides a strong backup in case Bayless struggles or proves he cannot handle the rigorous duty of manning the point over the entire season. With two years left on the contract, the Raptors could surely eat the $20 million they owe him, and grudgingly accept the value Calderon does provide.
Leandro Barbosa: 2011/12- $7.6 million
Barbosa’s contract epitomizes the foolish deals handed out by owners that led to this current mess of a lockout. Not to take anything away from the “Brazilian Blur”, he is definitely a talented basketball player. How could Phoenix justify giving Barbosa a five-year $34 million dollar contract-with a player option-to a bench player who had scored a career best 13.4 PPG in 2005/2006. Considering NBA owners are scrounging for money, reporting losses left right and centre, it is these type of contracts to second-tier basketball players that have greatly contributed to this lockout.
$7.6 is a lot to pay Barbosa, especially for a rebuilding team, but luckily, it is only for one year. The Raptors could definitely use Barbosa off the bench, and as a role model for guys like Demar Derozan, James Johnson and even Jerryd Bayless. There seems little point using amnesty on Barbosa, who is still an offensive threat, and could possibly be moved mid-season to a contender. At the very worst, eat the one year contract, there are more pressing needs to use the amnesty clause.
Amir Johnson: 2011/12-$5.5
If you thought Barbosa’s contract was bad, consider Amir Johnson was given the EXACT same contract at 23-years old, while proving even less than Barbosa in 2005/2006.
Amir has made progress at the power forward position, and is still a young, blossoming NBA player at the age of 24. His play in the post has improved, as well as his jump shot. The hustle is always great, and as a fan, you always like to see a player dive to the floor to secure a loose ball. But that same hustle seems to be a curse for Amir. He had nagging back problems throughout the entire season and although he played 72 games last year, there were several occasions when Amir had to leave the game after battling for a loose ball and landing hard on the court. Do the Raptors use amnesty on Amir and maybe attempt to restructure his contract? It is possible, but such a move could be taken as an insult to Amir Johnson, and with the skills he has displayed, another team could swoop in and sign Amir from under Colangelo’s nose. Amir may be a injury risk, and the 4 years-25 million dollars on his contract does look a little steep. However, the upside he possesses could make him a valuable and contributing member of this team for years to come. Remember also, that he is only 24.
Andrea Bargnani: 2011/12- $9 million
You knew it was coming, didn’t you. Where to even start with Andrea Bargnani? Some people will look at this amnesty clause as a free chance to rid ourselves of Bargnani and never look back. I, on the other hand, would not use the amnesty on “Il Mago.” The 4-years $42 million remaining on his contract looks extremely dangerous, but at this point, how do you part ways with your leading scorer and the most versatile offensive threat on the team. It is true the Raptors have handed over the “face of the franchise” status to Demar Derozan, but to put the team solely on his back does not seem fair to the 22-year-old.
You can say many things about Bargnani’s deficiencies, and I would agree with you: too many shots, poor field goal percentage, doesn’t rebound, doesn’t hustle, too lethargic, porous defense etc.
But what I see is a 26-year-old, 7-footer who can shoot. He still has not completely developed his drive and learned to use it in combination with his shot. In addition, Colangelo finally drafted a true centre, Jonas Valanciunis, to play with Bargnani and possibly negate some of those deficiencies. Finally, his contract is not SO bad where you could not trade him after this year. I still think the Raps need to give Bargnani one more year, have Dwayne Casey pound defensive discipline into him, and if it still doesn’t work out, trade him. I guarantee there are teams around the league who will take a chance on Bargnani. Also, take into account that there were 19 players in the NBA last season who averaged 20 PPG or better, and Bargnani was one of them. If you use amnesty on Bargnani, how do you replace those points? Guys with that kind of talent aren’t dangling off trees, waiting to be picked. The supply for elite offensive talent is very low in the NBA, yet the demand is high. There is no way you can let Bargnani go for nothing.
Finally, my choice to use the amnesty clause…
Linas Kleiza: 2011/12- $4.6
2013/14- $4.6 (player option)
I understand $13.8 millions dollars over three years is not that big of a deal, but when you look at what Kleiza brings to the Raptors, it makes you want to drop your head in shame. Part of the Euro movement that the Raptors invested so heavily in, Kleiza spent his first year with the Dinos mostly in the medical room. He played only 39 games, in which he scored 11.2 PPG and grabbed 4.5 RPG. Not bad, but if you watched him, you’ll understand why he needs to go. First of all, he’s primarily a spot up shooter, do I need to explain why there is no room for that? Also, his ball handling is awkward and defense suspect. With the other players mentioned, there was decent value they brought to the table, despite the fact they were getting paid more money. With Kleiza, I see NO value, just another bad contract with three years left on it. At the small forward position, I would rather try to develop James Johnson, and give the rest of the time to Barbosa, Derozan and a cheaper free agent.
What do you think, who would you use amnesty on?
Photo Credit: AP, Getty Images, Sportsnet