Looking To Fill Holes? Don’t Expect Amnesty To Help

Darius Soriano —  November 28, 2011

Now that the handshake agreement is in place, the conversation shifts from fixing BRI and system issues to filling roster holes in the build up to the start of the season.

One of the ways the Lakers were expected to fill one of their needs was through the release of players through the “amnesty provision” that will be part of the new CBA. From the LA Times:

The Lakers are curious to see if veteran point guard Baron Davis gets cut by Cleveland. He has two years and $28.7 million left on his contract, though he can be signed for substantially less than that. The Lakers also want a shooter and are monitoring whether forward Rashard Lewis (two years, $43.8 million remaining) gets waived by Washington.

Sounds good, right? The Lakers (or other teams willing to spend) would be able to pick up jettisoned players for a pittance of their former salaries and give them a chance to win a championship.

Not so fast, though. When reading the fine print of the leaked proposal, we learn more about the amnesty clause and how the fate of players released will be decided:

A modified waiver process will be utilized for players waived pursuant to the Amnesty rule, under which teams with Room under the Cap can submit competing offers to assume some but not all of the player’s remaining contract. If a player’s contract is claimed in this manner, the remaining portion of the players’ salary will continue to be paid by the team that waived him.

Said another way, teams under the cap will have first dibs on players released via the amnesty clause. Furthermore, teams that claim these players will do so by placing a bid – sort of like a blind auction – on a portion of that player’s contract with the team placing the highest bid being awarded the player.

Since the Lakers are over the cap, they would not be able to place a bid on any amnestied player and would need for every team under the cap to avoid placing a bid on a player of interest before that player hit the open market for any team to sign.

The likelihood of a player like Rashard Lewis or Baron Davis or Brandon Roy (all three players play a position or provide a skill set the Lakers could use to improve their roster) not having their contract(s) bid on are extremely low. Understand that teams under the cap can place any bid they want on these players. If the Hornets, for example, would like a stretch PF to play with Chris Paul, they could place a $5 million/year bid on Lewis and if no team bid higher than that, he’d be awarded to New Orleans. If the Kings want a PG to play next to Tyreke Evans and think Baron Davis fits the bill, they could place a $3 million/year bid on him and if no team bid higher, BD would be shipped to Cali’s state capital.

This process alone makes it so the Lakers are not likely to get their hands on a player of impact that could fortify their depth or offer relief to a particularly weak position on the roster. But, when added to the report that many teams won’t even use the amnesty provision this season, the odds go down even further. From Howard Beck of the New York Times:

There is, however, one minor caveat for the amnesty watchers and World Peace enthusiasts: most teams will not use the provision. “I don’t think there will be very many at all,” said one team executive, who asked to remain anonymous while the lockout remains in effect. At most, three to six teams will take advantage of the amnesty clause this year, the executive said — a view that was echoed by others around the league. The reasons are varied and complicated. Some teams are so far above the cap that removing one player will not provide room to sign free agents. A few teams have such low payrolls that they would dip below the minimum-payroll requirements. At least 10 teams have no obvious candidates for amnesty. And many teams might simply hold onto their amnesty card for a future year. According to a draft of the rule, a team can use the provision in any off-season, subject to two restrictions: the player must have been signed before July 1, 2011, and must be on the team’s current roster. In other words, a team cannot sign or trade for a player now and apply for amnesty later. The provision is meant for past mistakes, not future cap calamities.

So, even if the rules did favor the Lakers, they may find a market bare of viable prospects anyway.

Ultimately, there are still more details to come out that could affect how the amnesty provision is used. And, even more questions about if players who are released have any rights of refusal about going to the teams that pick them up. However, at this point, the safe bet is that players whose contracts are picked up will report to their new teams without a peep. After all, their contracts bind them to a team and unless they’re willing to sit out a season (or more) while also forfeiting massive amounts of money (most amnestied players are likely signed to deals above the current mid-level amount) I don’t see how they block any transactions. Remember, one of the main fallouts of this new CBA is that players have lost power and leverage in relation to their old agreement, not gained.

In any event, as much as we’d all like for the Lakers to find their shiny new toy via the amnesty provision, don’t expect. The way the rule is written just doesn’t favor them to do so.

Darius Soriano

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