With the NBA at risk of losing regular-season games, the Force Majeure continues to loom in the background. The league and players agreed to extend the CBA termination window by two months. Both sides are expected to negotiate many things to help adjust into the new environment such as revenue split, and salary cap and luxury tax amounts for next season.
While this rare window for negotiation is open, both sides could also try to negotiate other things that aren’t essential. One such idea is an amnesty clause, suggested by Bobby Marks of ESPN, which would allow teams to waive any player currently in a long-term contract and completely eliminate their cap hits of team payroll. This has happened in 2005 and 2011, after the previous two lockouts.
There is no indication that this is something owners are seriously pursuing, so it might not even happen. With that said, if there was an amnesty clause, which players would likely be amnestied? And how would that affect each team’s payroll this summer? Here we answer those questions team-by-team.
ATLANTA HAWKS: NOBODY
The Hawks already are set to have the most cap space this summer, more than the maximum amount. Everyone is either still on their rookie deal or on a value contract. They’d stand pat.
BOSTON CELTICS: NOBODY
The Celtics are already projected to be over the luxury tax next season but that might not push them to use the amnesty clause just to save money. The only player that could be considered is Enes Kanter if he opts in next season. Despite his limitations that keep him below 20 minutes per game, $5 million salary is great value.
BROOKLYN NETS: NOBODY
Already projected to be over the luxury tax next season, they could potentially use it on DeAndre Jordan or Taurean Prince. However, Jordan was a part of the Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving package deal and Prince is only on a two-year deal. The Nets will still be way over the cap if they amnesty one of those two players, and there isn’t any urgency to save money. They probably wouldn’t use it.
CHARLOTTE HORNETS: NICOLAS BATUM
This one is a no-brainer. Batum is expected to opt-in to his $27.13 million option for next season. The Hornets are projected to have $28 million in cap space this summer. Using the amnesty clause on him would nearly double their current cap space projection to just over $54 million.
CHICAGO BULLS: CRISTIANO FELICIO
Felicio has done little to prove he has a place in the NBA. Entering the final year of his $32 million deal, the new Bulls front office would gladly wipe his $7.5 million cap hit off next year’s books. The Bulls are well below the tax and are unlikely to have significant cap space unless Otto Porter opts out and leaves this summer. If that happens, and the Bulls can amnesty Felicio, the Bulls would have $38 million in cap space.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: NOBODY
The only guy that would be considered is Dante Exum, but doing so won’t create significant flexibility for the Cavaliers. His contract expires next season at $9.6 million, which could act as salary-filler in a future trade. If they do amnesty him, it would mostly be a favor to him if he wishes to play elsewhere.
DALLAS MAVERICKS: NOBODY
This one is tough because Tim Hardaway Jr. earns $18.98 million next season, assuming he opts-in, but he is also expiring. The Mavericks aren’t expected to have cap space this summer, but amnestying him would put them in the game with $23.5 million in space. On the other hand, the Mavericks need to keep their shooters, and Hardaway’s contract could be more valuable as a salary filler in a trade. They’d likely only amnesty Hardaway if it means they can sign someone much better this offseason, but there isn’t much talent this offseason to pursue compared to 2021.
It’s also important to note that the amnesty provision does not need to be used in the offseason it is implemented in and could be used in future offseasons. As long as that player was under contract before the first season the amnesty clause was implemented, such players can always be amnestied later. This would make Dwight Powell an amnesty candidate down the road. If he cannot come back to form from his Achilles injury, perhaps the Mavericks could amnesty him in 2021 or 2022.
DENVER NUGGETS: NOBODY
After giving Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray maximum extensions, the Nuggets are capped out for the foreseeable future. As of now there isn’t anyone under contract this season that makes sense to cut. Maybe down the line if Gary Harris or Will Barton regress significantly, it could be an option.
DETROIT PISTONS: BLAKE GRIFFIN
Tony Snell is the other candidate who will likely opt into his $12.2 million player option for next season, but Griffin’s contract is the obvious choice. He will earn $36.8 million next year followed by a player option for 2021-22 worth $38.9 million. The Pistons are currently projected to generate between $32-34 million in cap space this summer. Using the amnesty clause on Griffin would boost their 2020 cap space to almost $70 million and give them more flexibility in future seasons.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: NOBODY
Unless something goes horribly wrong with one of their four highest-earning players in the next few years, the Warriors will gladly pay a steep luxury tax bill to keep them.
HOUSTON ROCKETS: NOBODY
They don’t have anyone worth cutting right now but it could come in handy in several years. Eric Gordon seems like the likely choice towards the end of his deal, but we shouldn’t rule out Russell Westbrook, who has a player option close to $47 million in 2022-23.
INDIANA PACERSs: NOBODY
There really isn’t anyone worth cutting as every player is on a relative value contract and all their highest-earning players have trade value. They may not even end up having to use it years from now.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: NOBODY
They don’t need to save money right now so they’d likely not use it. It could be an option for Patrick Beverley, Ivica Zubac, or Rodney McGruder several years from now.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS: RAJON RONDO
Rondo is owed $2.7 million next season, which won’t save them much money but they don’t have anyone else worth using it on.
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES: GORGUI DIENG
If an amnesty clause does happen they’ll regret waiving Dion Waiters and eating his $12.65 million cap hit for next season. With him out of the picture, Dieng is the next obvious candidate. He is productive in his limited minutes, but $17.3 million is too much for a backup center. They won’t have cap space with their current roster this summer, but amnestying Dieng would project them to generate just over $17 million in cap space.
MIAMI HEAT: NOBODY
The Heat are projected to have $26 million in cap space this summer. They could amnesty Kelly Olynyk which would get them to $38.6 million in cap space. The problem is that there isn’t enough talent to spend that much in cap space this summer, let alone $26 million. The Heat might end up actually operating over the salary cap so they can re-sign Goran Dragic and Jae Crowder with their Bird rights. It just doesn’t seem necessary to waive Olynyk who is very productive and only has one year left on his deal after he presumably opts-in to his player option.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS: NOBODY
The contender needs to retain as much talent as possible, so they wouldn’t use it anytime soon. If Giannis Antetokounmpo were to leave, using it on someone like George Hill in a year or two makes sense to help expedite the rebuild.
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: JAMES JOHNSON
Although it appears Johnson is rejuvenated with a change of scenery in Minnesota, $16 million is still a massive overpay for the 33-year-old forward. Re-signing Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez, as well as signing their lottery pick and using the mid-level exception could push them over the luxury tax next season. Using the amnesty clause on Johnson serves as an easy fix for that, and surely they can replace him with someone just as productive for much less money.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS: NOBODY
It’s arguable that every player on this roster is underpaid. They might be the least likely team to use the amnesty clause on any of their players.
NEW YORK KNICKS: NOBODY
Everyone on the Knicks is either on a rookie contract, or a non-guaranteed/expiring contract. They’re already loaded with cap space this summer, so they wouldn’t need it anyway.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: MIKE MUSCALA
A year ago there would’ve been a strong argument for Dennis Schroder, Steven Adams, and even Chris Paul. Now all those players are core pieces to the Thunder’s success and each has significant trade value. The only player that makes sense is Muscala. He has a $2.3 million player option for next season and is out of the rotation when Adams and Nerlens Noel are healthy.
ORLANDO MAGIC: NOBODY
The Magic don’t have anyone to amnesty for now, but there’s a good chance they could use it on one of their veterans later. Terrence Ross and Al-Farouq Aminu are two considerations a year or two from now if they regress and the Magic need more flexibility.
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: AL HORFORD
Perhaps the most controversial selection, but if an amnesty clause happens the Sixers should use it on Horford. They don’t need to do it immediately as they should try to trade him first. But if they cannot, they should use it on him either next summer or the one after. The Sixers are already heading into next season $8 million over the luxury tax for a $13 million luxury tax payment. Wiping his $27.5 million cap hit won’t give them cap space this summer, but it would give them more flexibility and $19 million below the tax.
PHOENIX SUNS: NOBODY
They’re projected to have $24 million in cap space this summer and everyone on their roster is too valuable to cut.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS: RODNEY HOOD or MARIO HEZONJA
Hood might not play next season after rupturing his Achilles. He has a player option for $6 million next summer, which he will certainly exercise. If he is no longer in the Blazers plans, they might as well amnesty him as a courtesy. This would allow him to sign with a new team while still getting paid by the Blazers, also known as “double-dipping”. If they want to keep Hood, their other most likely option is Hezonja.
SACRAMENTO KINGS: NOBODY
The Kings are set to have around $35 million below the luxury tax which should be plenty of space to re-sign Bogdan Bogdanovic while filling out the rest of the roster. If they need more flexibility now, they could use it on Jabari Parker who has a $6.5 million player option for next season. The amnesty clause could be more valuable once they extend DeAaron Fox and his salary kicks in. To avoid the tax and stay flexible, they may need to use it on Harrison Barnes or Cory Joseph in a year or two.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS: PROBABLY NOBODY
Whether they would use the amnesty clause or not largely depends on the Spurs direction next summer. If the doomsday scenario happens where Gregg Popovich retires, DeMar DeRozan leaves, and LaMarcus Aldridge gets traded, then they should consider using it on Patty Mills or Rudy Gay. In that scenario the Spurs could have around $40 million in cap space this summer. If they plan on running it back, then they probably wouldn’t use it on anybody.
TORONTO RAPTORS: NOBODY
They could use it on Patrick McCaw ($4 million) or Stanley Johnson ($3.8 million player option), but both players are on expiring contracts. The Raptors would only need to use it on one of them if they’re creeping up against the luxury tax, but they should still remain well below it even after re-signing Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, and using the mid-level exception.
UTAH JAZZ: ED DAVIS
The Jazz will probably be flirting with the luxury tax if they re-sign Jordan Clarkson and use the mid-level exception. Davis has a $5 million cap hit next year and is out of the rotation with Tony Bradley now being the primary backup center. Using the amnesty clause on Davis could be the difference between whether the Jazz are in the tax or not next season.
WASHINGTON WIZARDS: JOHN WALL
Wall is in the first year of his supermax deal although it feels like he has been on it forever. He has $131.5 million remaining over the next three seasons which the Wizards would love to wipe off their books. If they could amnesty Wall this summer, the Wizards would go from not having cap space to having a whopping $48 million in cap space. This would give them the flexibility to re-sign Davis Bertans without limitations while adding more talent around Bradley Beal.