We’ve now covered the entire Eastern Conference amnesty clause candidates. We’re moving on to the West now, where we’ll see which teams have the real albatross contracts, and which teams have been careful and prudent in building their roster (see: OKC). The amnesty clause is going to benefit some teams more than others, and we’ll see who the real beneficiaries will be in the Southwest Division.
This one is pretty clear cut: Brendan Haywood. Haywood is owed between $7 and $10 M for the remainder of the part of his contract that is obligatory. The last season offers a hilarious $10.2 M extension that is sure to not be exercised. What did Haywood give the Mavs last season? 4.4 points per game and 5.2 rebounds per game in 18 minutes a night. He lost his starting position, if he ever had it, to Tyson Chandler, who emerged as a quasi-All-star, finding his inner youth and anchoring a tough Maverick defense. Haywood is only two seasons removed from a 48 game stretch with the Wizards in which he averaged nearly a double double (9.8 ppg, 10.3 rpg) while blocking over 2 shots a game. He would be worth the money if he were putting up those kinds of nights, but he hasn’t been relied upon to do so and would be nice to get off the books at the price at which he will cost.
This one really all hinges on one fact: how much the Rockets management thinks Hasheem Thabeet will develop. Thabeet is owed between $5 and $8 M for the next three seasons but so far has hardly looked like a talent worthy of going 2nd overall in a draft (he was selected 2nd overall just two years ago in 2009, and has already changed teams). Thabeet has the body of Mutombo and the brain of Steven Hunter. At times it looks like he just doesn’t realize that he is four inches taller, at least, than the next guy on the court. He might develop still, but the Rockets would be lest to leave finding that out to a team that has less options and is less of a contender.
For some reason, they thought Mike Conley was worthy of an extention. I, and many other analysts, balked at the idea of signing a guy who had put up such mediocre stats and who so often looked out matched against the premier point guards in the league. He’s kind of in the strata of Magic point guard Jameer Nelson. He makes the team better at times, and exhibits a lot of team leadership qualities, but really isn’t worth breaking the bank to keep. The problem is that the Grizzlies did break the bank for Conley, and he is signed through 2015-2016, when he will receive nearly $10 M. He will only be 28 when this contract expires, so he does still have a lot of potential and room to improve, but I really don’t understand why they threw the kind of money they did at him.
There are really two candidates in the Big Easy for this clause: Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor. At first I would be inclined to say Okafor, until I remember that even at his somewhat mediocre level of talent, he is one of the few big bodies capable of banging with the Dwight Howards of the league (This in theory; Dwight Howard absolutely owns Okafor). Okafor averages nearly a double double with nearly 2 blocks a game. That’s better than the likes of the comparably-paid Samuel Dalembert. Okafor is pretty much worth the money. He might be best off at a few million less than what he is due to receive, but the real guy to cut ties with would be the inconsistent Trevor Ariza. Ariza is back where he is more comfortable, as a role player, but his contract still reflects that of a player who was selected to be a primary option while in Houston. Ariza did have a decent year in Houston, and looked good at times last year, but he hasn’t shot over 40% from the field since leaving L.A., and that last year as a Laker he shot 46% from the floor while nailing 31.9% from down town (respectable but nothing to write home about). He just isn’t worth $7 M a year to be putting up 11 points per game. I realize his main contribution is defense, but he isn’t exactly a lock down defender, if he ever was, and should be getting paid about $3 to $4 M a year, realistically.
This is another very easy one: Richard Jefferson. Jefferson has fallen off badly since leaving New Jersey and is no longer the kind of guy that is going to give you a lot of 20 point games anymore. Last season, he put up a pedestrian 11 points per game while logging about 30 minutes a game. The Spurs just brought in Kawhi Leonard to help ease the transition of moving Jefferson along to the pastures. Leonard is athletic and worth dealing Gregg Popovich’s pet George Hill for. He should be the future at small forward for the Spurs, who will undoubtedly look to transition smoothly out of the Duncan and Parker era, without ever suffering the fate of being a lottery team in the time being.