With Jose Calderon out of the picture, does Amir Johnson become the main amnesty target for the Raptors?

The 2012 deadline for NBA teams to use the amnesty provision has passed, and it appears safe to assume that the Raptors elected not to utilize the option, meaning they will still have the ability to amnesty one of their pre-lockout contracts next July.

If you’ve been reading RaptorBlog, you’ll know I’m happy with this development. Jose Calderon has a valuable expiring contract worth over $10 million. It should hold at least some value in a trade, especially if Calderon can get off to a good start next season in a point guard combination with the newly acquired Kyle Lowry.

Even if the Raptors don’t end up trading Calderon and he simply plays out his contract, that’s 10-plus million dollars coming off the books next summer. An expiring Jose and an amnesty move next year could mean over $15 million of salary cap relief in an environment where more impact players might be available, either via free agency or trade, whereas amnestying Calderon now would have given the Raps $10 million worth of breathing room that may have been useless in the team’s current situation, and doesn’t do much for the long term plans.

With the decision not to amnesty Calderon or anyone else this season now seemingly official, we can look to the only three amnesty options remaining for Toronto (I’m assuming amnestying the rookie scale contract of DeRozan or Davis is pointless and a non-starter, by the way).

All salary information courtesy of www.shamsports.com

- Andrea Bargnani – $32,250,000 remaining over three years (If you don’t include the third year, in which Bargnani has an early termination option, it would be $20,750,000 over two years)

It’s easy to look at this, especially for Bargnani haters, and say, “amnesty the most lucrative long term contract which just happens to belong to the biggest enigma.” But the reality is that Bargnani is easily the best player of the three on this list, and whether you want to admit it or not, is being paid at a reasonable rate when you consider some of the money thrown around this off-season. He’s always going to have his shortcomings, but his offensive talent and versatility for a big man means he’ll also always be tradeable in the NBA.

Quite simply, the only way Bargnani would become untradeable and amnesty worthy would be if he suffered a career-altering injury or put forth a disappointing season of epic proportions next year.

So while it’s technically an option, and while a lot of frustrated Raptors fans might think about it, you can pretty much block the thought out of your head. It’s not happening.

- Amir Johnson – $17,600,000 guaranteed remaining over three years (An extra $2,050,000 in the final year of the contract is un-guaranteed, according to shamsports)

Amir Johnson is a fan-favourite in Toronto known for his love of the city, his hustle, his energy off of the bench and his efficiency. So when I first proposed the idea that he should at least be in the amnesty conversation, a lot of fellow Raptors fans printed my image off of this page just to burn it. Heck, the relationship between Scott and I became nearly as irreparable as the one between Dwane Casey and James Johnson (not really, the BlogFather and I have always been cool).

Well I’m not trying to say ‘I told you so,’ but if you’ve noticed, Amir’s name has been coming up when reporters in the city discuss the Raptors’ amnesty clause.

Here’s the bottom line: I’m a big fan of what Amir Johnson can bring to the table and think that he can carve out a defined role on a very good team in the future. But if Ed Davis, who is younger and who I think has a higher ceiling, ends up having a good season for the Raptors, Amir becomes very expendable. The ideal solution would be to trade him and get something back in return, but I just can’t envision a very fruitful trade market for Amir next year when two years and over $13 million would still be left on his contract.

- Linas Kleiza – $9,200,000 remaining over two years (The second year and final $4.6 million is a player option)

Kleiza’s inconsistency and his inability to stay healthy haven’t exactly helped him endear himself to Raptors fans, though you could argue his inability to stay healthy is the reason for the inconsistency.

When he’s on his game, Linas is a tough and versatile offensive forward who can stretch the floor and score in bunches, the type of player who might look like a steal for $4.6 million per year. But we simply haven’t seen Kleiza on his game for long enough stretches, and one more season of inconsistency would likely spell the end for him in Toronto.

Kleiza’s $9.2 million cap-hit over the next two years was certainly worth a look for amnestying this summer, but by the time next year rolls around, he’ll only have one year and $4.6 million remaining on his deal, and that’s only if he picks up his option for the 2013-2014 season.

If Kleiza has another disappointing season, picks up his option and the Raptors want to rid themselves of him, you’d have to imagine it would be a lot easier to trade an expiring contract worth less than $5 million than it would be to find a taker for Amir’s longer, larger deal.

So you see, it’s not that Amir Johnson’s a useless player, worse than Linas Kleiza or isn’t worthy of being here long term. It’s just that any way I spin it, the amnesty target keeps pointing to Amir the same way the spinning gun kept pointing to Walter White in the Season 4 finale of Breaking Bad.

Only unfortunately for Amir, barring a very good bounce back season, I can’t find any Lily of the Valley to save him.

Comments (18)

  1. “[bargnani] is being paid at a reasonable rate when you consider some of the money thrown around this off-season”

    if I could buy a bag of oranges for $5, but buy 1 orange for $12 dollars, am I paying a reasonable rate because my neighboor bought an orange for $20 dollars?

    value comes from $/production, not from what everyone else around me is spending

    • You’re assuming with a limited supply of orange you can find a seller willing to sell you oranges at 5$ when he knows that your neighbors are buying them up for 20$ a pop

      • “You’re assuming with a limited supply of orange you can find a seller willing to sell you oranges at 5$ when he knows that your neighbors are buying them up for 20$ a pop”

        That only applies if there is so limited of a supply that no alternatives are available. (ex. other oranges, other fruits, or not buying the orange at all)

        And we know there is an enourmous supply of individuals (d-league, overseas, multiple other leagues etc) available.

        We already know what the average market value is for an average NBA player – $5 mil dollars a year.

        For Bargnani to be worth his contract he needs to produce at approx. twice the rate of an average NBA player to be worth his contract. And near that number (slightly above or slightly below) to be ‘reasonable’ (assuming reasonable means close to average).

        • Oh I’m sorry I forgot that there’s an enormous supply of seven footers with three point range who can average 20+ points per game in the NBA that can be found in the D-League and Overseas

          • unfortunately this isn’t a height or 3 pt shooting competition

            Results matter. Production matters.

    • Compared to your neighbour that’s a reasonable rate, obviously not the best though

  2. “But the reality is that Bargnani is easily the best player of the three on this list, ”

    Joseph, where do you get this from? On the offensive end sure, but overall? I think it’s debateable.

    Normally, I like your writing, but I don’t get your valuation of Bargnani. Why do you think he is the best player? I could pull out Wins Produced, Adjusted +/-, Regularized Adjusted +/-, Win Score, 82games on/off court data to say that Amir is a better player.

    In fairness, ASPM and simple rating has Bargs as the better player.

    To my eyes, Bargs is a poor defender and shit rebounder. Amir is much better in both of these categories.

    The point is is that it is debateable, I don’t get how you see it as a clear win for Bargs.

    • You must be kidding Amir averaged 1 more rebound than bargnani. Bargnani puts up 20 a game and spaces the court… I’ll agree he’s better defensively but he’s not a better player

      • Last year Bargnani was the better player, but saying that Amir averaged only 1 more rebound is pretty ludicrous. Amir also averaged nearly 10 fewer minutes than Bargnani did. It also depends on how much you value defense and scoring.

    • Eum…So if all 3 players were getting paid the same, you would take Kleiza or Amir over Andrea?

  3. Regarding the $15 million or so in cap space that the Raps could be looking at:

    1) Raps will have to find a backup PG if Calderon goes, or they could re-sign him (unlikely) at a cheaper deal to be the backup. We’re probably looking at anywhere between $3-5 million a year for a decent backup.

    2) DeMar will be getting a raise if the Raps want to keep him beyond next season. Don’t know how much but probably another $3-5 million.

    3) Assuming they want to keep Lowry long-term, they will probably want to sign him to an extension well before his contract is coming to an end. He’ll be due for a massive raise so that has to be taken into consideration.

    If they’re going to try and land a stud wing before the 2013-14 season starts, and indications are that this is still the goal, they’re going to have a tough decision on DeMar., depending on how well he plays this year.

  4. Before everyone starts talking about how valuable Calderon’s expiring contract is, let’s take a moment to remember just how valuable Barbosa’s expiring contract was.

    Expiring contracts are only valuable if team’s are:
    a) desperate to cut down salary, and with the amnesty provision still available to many teams next summer, I don’t see many teams being that desperate and
    b) if the Raptors actually agree to take back a longer contract, which is something Colangelo has rarely (if ever) agreed to. Colangelo is usually the one who wants the “cap flexibility”, so I see Calderon’s expiring contract worth a second round pick, at best.

  5. I don’t forsee Toronto amnestying anyone next season barring the unlikely event that Toronto needs to clear cap space to sign a huge star(LOL).

    What’s more likely is some wheeling and dealing all season long.

    Firstly trade DeRozan now while he still has value. Landry Fields is a far better fit than DeRozan and he is a superior shooter and defender compared to DeMar.

    DeRozan, based on the ridiculous amounts of money being offered to mediocre players, will ask for $10 mil/yr!..So trade him early and maybe Toronto gets a mid to late lottery pick…not bad considering Toronto will most likely lose him for nothing next year.

    Calderon’s situation will sort itself as the season progresses…I’m sure a contender, weak at point guard, will offer up a first rounder and filler near the deadline.

    No real decisions about Bargnani should be made until Valanciunus plays…assuming he gets signed.

    Amir is fine where he is…Toronto needs players like him.

    I’m making a bold prediction: Raptors sneak into the playoffs this year.

  6. Let’s get real here.

    The real reason why Toronto won’t

    As usual this team is on the treadmill to nowhere and it’s selling it’s fans on the merits of second rate players. We won’t K.O. one of those contracts because we’re too damn cheap.

    Call me a hater if you will… but I’ve watched / attended 60+ raps games a season 2001 and I have a well developed taste of $%!T

    • “Call me a hater if you will… but I’ve watched / attended 60+ raps games a season 2001 and I have a well developed taste of $%!T”

      If you can’t see next year’s team will be miles ahead of this year’s, the drunk ravings in this sentence are actually your brain stone cold sober. But, since you saw 60+ games 11 years ago, you already know that.

      As for the amnesty… if Amir screws his head on straight this year as we win more games, we won’t use it at all, as he can be very effective off the bench.

  7. Made sense not to amnesty Calderon because it would not be that financially advantageous to the Raptors. Toronto is below the salary cap,

  8. Use amnesty on Landry Fields.

  9. Amnesty bargnani ? How did u even get a job as sports analyst or blogger ?

    How many 20 points + players play in toronto and wanna stay in toronto ? Kris humphries gets paid 12 million a year… Come on douche

    This team is gonna be a surprise team and will for sure make the playoffs unless of injuries… They have decent/good starters every position, and have decent back ups at every position except center aaron gray needs to go, amir could spare yonas some minutes or barg go 5 wen yonas out n amir 4

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