Last spring, the NBA blogosphere was abuzz with the potentiality of a contract amnesty option in the league's next CBA. This would give each team the ability to cut a player from their roster and remove their salary from the team's cap space total, while still paying the player the amount they are owed. This weekend, SI's Sam Amick published the official terms of the new NBA collective bargaining agreement which confirm a contract amnesty option for all 30 NBA teams.
There was plenty of amnesty-related discussion here on DetroitBadBoys early this year, as the Detroit Pistons are one of several teams that could sorely use some relief from one of many bad contracts. The question now stands-- which Detroit Pistons player should be shown the door by way of contract amnesty? For this fan, I'd certainly give up seven weeks of NBA basketball just to be able to ask this question...
There are four Detroit Pistons players who are likely to be considered for contract amnesty should GM Joe Dumars and owner Tom Gores decide to trim the cap. Prior to game cancellations, Richard Hamilton was due $25.3 million over the next two seasons, with the second only partially guaranteed. Ben Gordon was due $37.2 million over the next three seasons, including the third year player option on his contract. Charlie Villanueva was expecting $24.2 million for the next three years, with the final year on his contract a player option as well. Last, Jason Maxiell rounds out the list of bad contracts with $10 million due over the next two years should Jason exercise his option on the second year. Let's take a look at each, one-by-one.
Richard Hamilton - $25.3 million due, partially guaranteed
The Detroit Pistons boasted the most toxic locker room in 2010-11, and Rip Hamilton might have been one of the leading reasons for the meltdown. His game has clearly deteriorated from his glory days, and the gas left in the tank just isn't worth the price Detroit has offered him. That's not to say Rip doesn't still have value. If the market were to name his price today, he'd likely fetch some nice offers from potential contenders that are seeking a final piece in the backcourt (looking at you, Chicago). If Richard Hamilton found himself a free agent next month, he could fetch close to the new MLE-- which is likely the high point of his value.
Thing is, Rip is not the Pistons' most bloated contract. Last season, the Cavaliers were rumored to be interested in trading for Hamilton, even when he had more than a full guaranteed year left on his contract. Today, teams may look at his contract as pseudo-expiring, as they can buy him out just to move a contract of equal bloat. Who might trade for Hamilton in 2011-12? Any team in a position like Detroit, where they have more baggage to burn than just one amnesty option can resolve...
Ben Gordon - $37.2 million due, third year player option
If you look at the books, Ben Gordon's name is atop the Pistons' ledger of losses. He's the deadest of weight, but also the lone player who isn't due all the blame coming his way. If anything is different between his performance in 2010-11 and his fiery Chicago days, it's his usage. You can't expect a player like Gordon to perform if you chop his playing time and use him sporadically at best. And when he's on court, don't expect him to contribute without the ball in his hands. Ben Gordon has always been a flashy, fools gold type of player, but that has been as much a problem in Detroit as his usage by John Kuester over two straight seasons.
Should Detroit use their new amnesty option on Ben Gordon? If I'm in charge, I make this option number two. First, I try with all of my might to move Richard Hamilton before the season starts. If I don't find a suitor, I cut Ben Gordon using this one-time amnesty option. If I can move Hamilton, I take the risk and keep Gordon around...
Without Rip, the Pistons have an easy decision to make at shooting guard. Start Ben Gordon, get him 35 or more minutes a game and give him a good amount of ball ownership. His per minute averages last year suggest that he'll regain the flash he showed in Chicago. Then the media (and the GMs) will likely explain that Ben Gordon was hurt by John Kuester and he's back to his good old self, and eventually the phone will ring about trades. In short, after a full season of solid, regular minutes, Ben Gordon could actually have value on the trade market.
Charlie Villanueva - $24.2 million, third year player option
This guy, on the other hand, is as likely to find trade value as he is to play defense. He can shoot the three ball, but that's it. No team will be crazy enough to pay him $9 million in 2013-14 to shoot 39% from the perimeter, while ignoring defense and rebounding on only one side of the floor. There's really no conceivable trade option where the Pistons move Villanueva for anything other than worse contracts and talent in exchange. What would you rather do if you're a team needing a player like Charlie-- hire Jason Kapono for the vet minimum or take on Charlie's $24.2 million contract? Don't answer that, Joe Dumars, it was a rhetorical question.
Charlie Villanueva is capable of putting together some really nice strings of games now and then, but ultimately, he's never been capable of establishing the regularity that could ever make him a trade asset. One double-double and 20 bad games does not suggest value to anyone who's watching. If you're willing to take a risk on keeping Gordon around after moving Rip, amnesty this fool out of the damned uniform.
Jason Maxiell - $10 million, second year player option
If the Pistons decide to use their amnesty option on Maxiell, this suggests more brain-fuckery is going on in Detroit's front office. It might be reason to give up hope on Gores really holding Dumars accountable. Yet fans can rest assured that Gores isn't going to toss this wild card to the wind, even if it means paying out extra dough on one of Joe's obviously horrible hiring decisions. Maxiell is safe, and fans can get used to looking at his name on the Pistons roster at least through 2013.
Upcoming - Contract Amnesty and Detroit's Trade Market
One thing to bear in mind here is that all 30 teams will have the opportunity to waive a player using contract amnesty. Other teams are going to be cutting players and opening up cap space that will grease the wheels of the trade market. Who might cut player X and still need to shed more? Who will then come calling for Rip or need a red hot Ben Gordon come February? The trade landscape is about to change completely, and there's really no clear way of predicting how it is going to turn out. Once the amnesty options are exercised, the trade market will get very, very interesting... More on that in the days ahead, Pistons fans.