Between Bryan Colangelo referring to the upcoming summer as an “exciting and active” off-season and recent reports/rumours linking the Raptors with the likes of Steve Nash and Jeremy Lin, Raptors fans have become rightfully anxious to get the 2012 off-season underway.
While the May 30th Draft Lottery, the Draft itself and free agency are the obvious talking points for fans and media alike, I’ve been quietly wondering how, if at all, the amnesty clause might come in to play for Toronto this summer.
In case you need a reminder, the amnesty clause, which was included in the new collective bargaining agreement agreed upon to end last year’s lockout, allows teams to eliminate a contract signed prior to the lockout from their cap hit (and can only be used on a player that was on their team prior to July 1, 2011). Teams have until the 2015-16 season to use the provision and can only use it once. The amnesty can be used only during the seven days following the July moratorium (this season, that would be between July 11-17).
If we eliminate contracts signed post-lockout (like Gary Forbes) and eliminate cheap rookie scale contracts (like DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis), we’re left with four deals to look at. Those four deals belong to Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson, Jose Calderon and Linas Kleiza.
Regardless of what you think of Bargnani, it’s pretty safe to assume he’ll be here when the 2012-2013 season tips off, and if he’s not, there’s no way in hell it’s because of the amnesty clause, so let’s just end that ridiculous discussion right now.
That leaves us with Amir, Calderon and Kleiza. Here’s how many years and how much money each of those guys has left on said contracts, according to HoopsHype:
Amir Johnson – 3 years, $19.5 million ($6 million in 2012-13, $6.5 million in 2013-14, $7 million in 2014-15)
Jose Calderon – 1 year, $10,561,985
Linas Kleiza – 2 years, $9.2 million ($4.6 million in 2012-13, $4.6 million player option in 2013-14)
For all we know, Bryan Colangelo and the Raptors may have absolutely no interest in using their amnesty option this year, but if they were to use it, it’s pretty much a certainty that one of the three players mentioned above would be the casualty.
To me, Calderon should no longer be in the amnesty mix for the Raptors. He had another solid and reliable season, and as a fairly sized expiring contract, you would have to think he has some decent trade value should the Raptors acquire a Nash or Lin.
That leaves Amir and Kleiza as the most sensible amnesty targets.
Amir is a workhorse who has become a fan-favourite in Toronto, and if he was playing on a smaller deal, I don’t think anyone would have a problem with him being a certainty in the immediate future plans of this team. But with a crowded frontcourt set to get even more crowded with the arrival of Jonas Valanciunas and a younger, cheaper option with a seemingly higher ceiling (Ed Davis) playing the same position, I’m not sure I really see a need to keep Amir Johnson here at $19.5 million over three years.
As for Kleiza, he’s been consistently inconsistent. He can look like a great bench scorer in some stretches, who is well worth $4.6 million per year, and looks painfully out of place at other times. When he’s off his game, Kleiza seems to make the most sense as an amnesty target, as $9.2 million over two years (assuming he picks up his 2013-14 player option) is a bit dicey for a guy you’re still not sure what you’re getting out of on a night to night basis.
Of course, what transpires between now and the middle of July, including the draft, trades and free agency, could impact an amnesty decision one way or another for the Raptors. And as I’ve mentioned several times, I’d obviously prefer the Raptors trade a player to get something in return instead of using the amnesty. But if a situation does arise where using the amnesty clause is in Toronto’s best interest, Amir Johnson and Linas Kleiza should find themselves in some unwanted spotlight.