NBA Lockout: Amnesty Now or Amnesty Later

As the NBA Lockout tacks on another day and the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t get to host the Indiana Pacers last night as originally scheduled, the latest buzz surrounding negotiations revolves around the much-discussed amnesty clause which will allow each of the 30 teams to rid itself of one poor contract.

The exact logistics of said clause are still being debated, but it is looking more and more like the Cavaliers will be able to move into the future without one of their bulky contracts, as the league owners want to be able to adhere to a harder salary cap with added ease.  ESPN’s Marc Stein reports on TrueHoop that this year’s amnesty clause will be a bit different than that of the 2005 variety wherein teams merely received luxury tax relief on one player.  This time around, it’s looking like teams will be able to rid itself of 75 percent of a players’ remaining compensation.

With luxury tax figures looking to be crippling for smaller markets or owners who opt to run their teams as the tightest of ships, ridding a mistake-laden contract is the quickest way to do so.  With the Cavaliers swiftly moving from spend-at-all-costs to a more business-like approach, Dan Gilbert and Chris Grant have been making tactical moves which already provided flexibility in the event of a more-strict salary cap structure; the trades of players like Mo Williams and JJ Hickson for draft selections and/or younger, less-expensive talent were only one part of the equation. 

Per Stein’s report, the team will be able to likely do one of two things: select a player presently on the team’s roster and pay him to what would amount to a  buy-out of 75 percent of his cotract, or hold on to the clause as if it were in the form of a coupon which would expire within the next several seasons in the event that a team which has already rid itself of bad contracts to use on a potential future investment gone awry. The Cavaliers, in this instance, fall somewhere in between.  The $15 million 2011-12 salary of Antawn Jamison is the highest on the team, but his deal also expires after this season which could make his contract a highly-attractive asset in a soft-cap structure.  Baron Davis is set to make $13.9 million this season, but has a player option of $14.85 million in 2012-13 – an option he would assuredly pick up.  But Davis is also slated to be the team’s starting point guard in 2011-12 as well as the chief mentor of the point guard of the future in Kyrie Irving.

A buy-out of Davis’ deal, if the team were to opt for the “now” edition of the amnesty clause would cost the Cavaliers over $21 million without having any services rendered.  But it would also take this year’s payroll to a hair over $40 million, not accounting for the guaranteed deals which will be signed by rookies Irving and Tristan Thompson. A move of this magnitude would take the Cavaliers from their present spot of 12th-largest payroll to one which would 25th, not accounting for other teams using their clause. But this would also force Irving, into the spotlight on Day 1, working alongside fellow point guard Ramon Sessions.

If the Cavaliers chose to hold on to their clause, letting Davis work with Irving while Jamison’s contract expires or gets moved to a team looking for a 30-something stretch forward, this will allow Chris Grant to take a gamble on a longer-term deal for a free agent in the near future.  If it pans out, the team becomes better; if it doesn’t, the front office can carry on as if it never happened. This would also become more of a likely option in the event the amnesty clause agreed upon forbids teams from buying out players acquired via trade, though the “trade” wrinkle could only be on a going-forward basis.

Needless to say, the elephant in the bargaining room continues to be the split of the basketball-related revenue.  Until this is agreed upon, none of the above matters.  However, negotiating continues, other portions of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement are starting to take shape.  What the Cavaliers do with their shiny new toys remains to be seen.  The answer may not be as obvious as it seemed just a few days earlier. 

Photo/Mark Duncan

  • christopher

    IF and only IF Baron is sold on the idea of being a starter/mentor for Kyrie then IMO do not use him as the amnesty chip.

    To have a solid veteran presence directing Kyrie and Tristan is invaluable for this team this and especially next year if the lockout remains.

    The production of Hollins, JJ, Gee all skyrocketed once Baron hit the floor directing traffic and i’d love to see the same with the young guys.

  • mgbode

    @christopher – I agree adding in that Baron needs to be weighed in the first day camp opens. That should pretty definitively show how much he is going to care this season.

    (yes, I am still upset about Kemp after the last lockout)

  • WayneEmbrysKids

    his contract is crazy. you have your PG. the money is wasted here.

  • Shawn

    I actually want to see Baron on the court with Kyrie and the rest of the young guys. I think he could be a big help if his head is in it. Sure, he makes a ton of money but it’s not like taking his money off the books is going to bring some great talent here, anyway. No sense in cutting one overpaid guy so we could bring in another very overpaid guy.

    Plus, I don’t want to see him taking his talents to South Beach and trying to help some dirtbag win an undeserved ring.

  • christopher


    Irving played less than 20 games of ball last year and may not play at all this year.

    While I agree he has the upside I’m not labeling “our PG” just yet.

    Hope those union talks haven’t been catered by Five Guys burgers….Davis has been at most of them hasn’t he?

  • WayneEmbrysKids

    It’s just a total waste of money and minutes. I like Baron too, but I’d rather give those minutes to Kyrie. Sessions is a livable backup at a reasonable price. not paying 10+ mil to someone to be a mentor that plays 20 minutes a game and gets hurt all the time if you can dump the contract right away. Playing Kyrie at the 2 for even one minute is just a total waste of time in developing him.

  • mgbode

    @christopher – oh man, if they were they would have an agreement by now. noone can eat those delicious “soak through the paper bag” fries and not be in an agreeable mood.


    @WEK – pretty sure Baron would be the one playing at the 2.

  • Lyon

    I’m with Christopher. if BDiddy shows he wants to be here then keep him around. Same thing with Jamison. If Aj starts to pout like he did at the beginning of next year, then I’d be done with him.

    If we try to trade Jamison, it’s really just going to be for another bad contract b/c a team isn’t going to give up good young talent to match contracts. Unless the new CBA cancels out the matching of contrats. & 1 bad contract for another is not going to work for the CAvs

  • Clown Baby

    If Adrian Wojsiwlamvski from Yahoo! is to be believed there is going to be quite a buyer’s market over the next couple of years as a number of owners are looking to sell their teams. To make their teams more appealing these guys are going to be looking to get rid of any and all long term contracts in favor of expiring deals. If so, I say the Cavs sit tight and do with Davis what they will hopefully be doing with Jamison this year.

    Aside from the trade aspect, the Cavs need a scorer on their team. If they unload Davis they are asking an injury prone Twan and Boobie and/or a rookie to be the guys that fill the net this year. I’m not under any delusions that the Cavs are playoff contenders, but I would like to see some decent basketball this year.

  • christopher


    i agree with you that playing Irving at the 2 can be a waste of time; but it could also have some value in him getting to watch Davis live and in rythym.

    it’s one thing to watch film and another to hear the set calls while in motion.

    im sure Byron has a plan for those two and is salivating at the thought of the “showtime” Cavaliers. 🙂

  • jimkanicki

    i’m down with christopher. baron davis was an amazing surprise. he seemed full on with the program. keep him.

    antawn is a valuable expiring contract. keep him

    and let’s be real: absent any changes in player movement, who the hell are we going to get in free agency with the ‘salary cap headroom’ we’d gain from dropping baron. we couldn’t even get charlie freakin villanueva when lebron was on the team.

    and so….. if cleveland still can’t sign free agents… and there’s nothing i’ve read that indicates any control over talent distribution… who the hell cares about our cap status? what the hell has changed?

    unless i’m missing something in the negotiations, it looks like the cavs go-forward strategy is to hope kyrie irving, tristan thompson, and (maybe) harrison barnes marry girls from bay, chagrin, and elyria who make them stay. i guess it could happen. thanks nba for giving us hope.

  • Shamrock

    I hope the Cavaliers are smarter then that and Irving stays at the point otherwise they deserve what they get.

  • dwhit110

    So the comments are basically advocating that Baron Davis be paid superstar money to be a coach for the young guys on this team?

    Assuming the rules of a post-lockout NBA are similar to today’s I say you must get Baron Davis’ contract off the cap if there’s an option to use an amnesty clause.