Now that the season is practically assured of happening (knock on wood) one of the big questions facing the Lakers will be which player to choose for amnesty, a clause by which the club could release a player from it’s roster, avoid paying luxury tax penalties for said player and free up salary cap space all at the same time.
There are several conceivable candidates to exercise such an option on, from Luke Walton to Steve Blake to Metta World Peace. Yet when we analyze the situation a little closer, it becomes apparent that using the amnesty clause on World Peace clearly makes the most sense. But we before we dig in to the case for World Peace, let me offer this brief explanation of exactly what the amnesty clause actually is (via faniq.com).
What is amnesty?
- Each team is permitted to waive one player and have 100% of the player’s salary removed for cap and tax purposes
- Once a player is waived under the amnesty clause, they are placed in a modified waiver process available only to teams under the salary cap.
- Teams with room under the cap can then submit a claim on players by bidding to pay a portion of the player’s previous salary.
- Once part of a player’s salary is claimed by a new team, the old team will continue to pay the remaining amount (though it won’t count against the cap or tax).
Given that outline, the case for waiving World Peace through amnesty practically makes itself. Here’s the breakdown of why it should/will happen.
1. It saves the most money
As the lockout proved, the NBA is a dollars and sense league. If it costs too much money, it doesn’t make sense. In this case, it’s the critical three years remaining on World Peace’s contract that makes all the difference. The Lakers owe Metta three years and roughly $22 million. The first two years of that contract are bad enough, but consider that in year three the new luxury tax penalties kick in from the recently negotiated CBA. That means that instead of simply paying a dollar for dollar penalty, the Lakers would conceivably have to pay 3.25x World Peace’s contract. Basically, his $7 million could equate to $25 million in costs for Los Angeles. That’s way too steep a price to pay when his contract could be taken off the books before this season even starts.
2. Keeping Walton is better
But not for the reasons you might think. The two key factors why keeping Walton is a smarter move for the Lakers are that 1) He has only two more years on his contract so his price will never be inflated by the impending luxury tax hikes, and 2) He may retire anyway because of his lingering back issues. At worst, the Lakers keep a high IQ, good character guy on the team that plays unselfishly when called upon and can provide occasional spot minutes when the teams goes through an injury spell.
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3. More downside to keeping Metta
By contrast, while keeping Walton on the team is probably a neutral result, there is actually the risk of a meltdown by Metta World Peace that makes him much less desirable should he remain on the roster. Call it the crazy factor. Will Metta go nuts if he’s not getting enough touches? Will his brother call out Mike Brown on twitter? These are distractions the Lakers hardly need and jettisoning him to free agency not only saves the Lakers money, it also saves potential headaches.
4. He can be replaced
Though Metta’s skills as a one on one defender are well known, virtually every other aspect of his game is sub-par. From a strictly basketball point of view, he just isn’t worth the money. My personal choice to replace World Peace? Go after Shane Battier. And even if they can’t woo Battier to come to Los Angeles, signing a backup quality small forward at a cheap price and inserting Matt Barnes into the starting lineup would probably be an overall upgrade over having Artest in the fold
It’s going to happen
In the end, I think it makes entirely too much sense not to waive Artest for general manager Mitch Kupchak to ignore it. While fans will remember the player formally known as Ron Artest for his Finals heroics and his occasional antics, the truth is that waiving World Peace gives the Lakers the most net-benefit. Because of this, I feel it’s almost a certainty that Los Angeles will choose to exercise amnesty on Metta. So if you were thinking of buying a #15 jersey for the start of the season, you might want to hold off on that for a minute.