As with part 1 (which you can read here), I'm calling them guesses, not predictions, because this way if I'm completely wrong, I won't look as stupid. Will I do something as crazy as amnestying Kobe freaking Bryant again today?
My original version of this post did not include a lot of content. Until Chris Sheridan shed some light on the secondary waiver process, amnesty looked like a pretty bad deal for most teams. However, the secondary waiver market changes all of this. See part 1 for my reasoning.
So, here are my amnesty predictions guesses. I got my salary data from Hoopshype.com. I'm assuming the cap will be around $60 million, which makes the league minimum payroll around $45 million. I also make the assumption that both Dwight Howard and Chris Paul will opt out of the last year of their contracts next summer. This has a heavy impact on some teams' 2012 salary targets (i.e. getting low enough to bid on those players in summer 2012).
- Miami Heat: I've heard many rumors on Twitter from NBA Journalists claiming that the Heat have already let Mike Miller know through back-channels that he'll be amnestied. Like Mosi over at the Miami Heat Index, I think this is a lot of white noise. Although this would make some financial sense (he's likely to be bidded on), it wouldn't make team-building sense: there isn't a better (available) option at wing than Miller. And it doesn't free up enough cap room for them to do something like sign an impact player like Nene or (gasp) Chandler. It's true that if someone takes Miller off the first waivers, they could save $5-$8 million (depending on where the tax threshold is), but I don't think that's very important to this franchise. The Heat are in a bizarre position: their contracts are all pretty great. Wade and LeBron are way underpaid, and everyone else is more-or-less fairly paid, so they can't benefit much from amnesty.
- Milwaukee Bucks: Stephen Jackson is both overrated and overpaid, and therefore the perfect candidate for Amnesty. Someone will bid on him, so the Bucks can save a lot of money by dropping him.
- Minnesota Timberwolves: the smart play (which Kahn will not make) is to amnesty Wes Johnson. He had a terrible rookie year, but GMs around the league like youth and potential so some GM might bid on him. Darko is the more likely candidate, and this is ok, even though no one will bid on him (in this case it isn't about money -- if he's amnestied than the coach cannot play him any minutes, and that alone probably nets 3 extra wins for the Wolves). Don't forget that the wolves do actually need some cap room, because Love is likely to get a large contract in the summer of 2012.
- New Jersey Nets: Like Denver, they should spend the money to sign Nene or Chandler (or two of the cheap-but-still-good FAs), and amnesty Outlaw, even though no one is likely to bid much on him, because Outlaw, like Harrington, is really that bad, a case of addition-by-subtraction.
- New Orleans Hornets: This is such a weird one, because the NBA owns them. How frugal are they supposed to be, ethically? They'll probably re-sign West, which is a mistake because he's overrated, overpaid, and old (a very bad combination, and if Paul leaves, West's contract will be an albatross on the rebuilding process), and given that, they probably want to amnesty Ariza, but he's not likely to garner many bids. If I owned the franchise, I'd let West go (or sign-and-trade if there is a suitor, but only if I don't have to take back 2012-13 salary), amnesty Okafor (who's likely to be gobbled up for nearly his whole contract's worth, saving lots of money), then grab some cheap-but-decent FAs (Dunleavy, Wilcox, Moon, Battier, Jordan, Reggie Evans, etc) or other team's amnestied players, and then try to make a play to get Chris Paul and Dwight Howard on the same team in 2012/13. And obviously try to sell Paul on this idea first so that Amnestying Okafor and not signing West don't piss him off. But it's doubtful the NBA-as-owners would do anything that bold, so they'll probably sign West and amnesty Ariza.
- New York Knicks: I like these, because here's another team where I'd do something that everyone else thinks is crazy. I'd amnesty Carmelo or Amare, neither of whom are worth anywhere close to $18 million, but whom most GMs think are worth that much (so the amnestied player will get grabbed on first waivers), then, with Billups and Turiaf coming off the books, I try to get Howard or Paul in 2012 (maybe I can convince them to roll LeBron/Wade style for cheap together?) and boom! instand contender (especially if they can re-sign Billups for the mid-level or cheaper). I'd probably choose Amare; although they are both similarly overrated players, Melo is younger so he'll be less overpaid in a couple of years. Also, his perceived value is probably higher so you he'll be easier to trade in 2013 if you cannot land Howard/Paul. Of course, Knicks fans everywhere still keep insisting on using the nickname "Stat" for a player who doesn't actually...you know...stuff the stat sheet (beyond just points)...so this suggestion is bound to get me lots of hate mail. And, oh yeah, there last attempt to cut salary to sign a couple of superstars in the summer of "the decision" didn't work out too well.
- Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant is the obvious choice here.
- Sorry, had to work that one in after terrifying our light-hearted readers with Kobe (!), Melo (!!) and Amare (!!!), just to see if anyone was still reading. OKC is like Miami in that their contracts are all great, but unlike Miami, they are already under the cap so amnesty benefits them even less. I think they should pass on making Cook a qualifying offer, and try to pick up a good FA like Dalembert or Dunleavy. If they can convince Nene to take less money for a shot at a championship, there's an argument for amnestying Mohammed just for the few extra $$ to give to Nene (I doubt Chandler accepts less money now that he already has a ring, so this strategy wouldn't work with him).
- Orlando Magic: Oh my, the choices. The first question is, how much does the market bid on Arenas if you amnesty him? What about Turkoglu? I think Arenas is the smart play, since someone might bid around $10 million to see if he'll recover the old glory, and this is probably your only chance to get rid of arguably the worst contract in the NBA. Getting rid of Turkoglu doesn't get you under the cap, so it doesn't help you as much, and if Howard signs somewhere else, which contract would you rather be stuck with as you enter a rebuilding phase? Yeah, I thought so. Waiving Arenas might send a signal to Howard about your commitment to winning, but you have to frame the conversation with Howard appropriately. "Look, you're the franchise player. If I want to surround you with talent in 2013 and on, I can't be paying some other guy more than you!". The worst possible situation you can have is if Arenas stays and Howard walks anyway.
- Philidelphia 76ers: Everyone always says that Iggy is overpaid and overrated but he's actually underrated and pretty fairly paid. I'm sure there are 5-6 smart GMs in the league just drooling over the prospect that Philly lets him go because he's "not a franchise player". Brand, on the other hand, looked almost like his old self last year, producing 12 wins. I wonder if the market is aware of this and bids anywhere close to his worth. If so, he might be a good amnesty candidate because he's 32 and likely to start declining, so by amnestying him now you "sell high". Of course, for that same reason, he's probably tradable, especially if he starts the season strong. The only other candidate is Williams, but Williams is only slightly overpaid and is unlikely to gather many bids, so amnestying him does not save anyone money. I expect they'll stand pat (and I hope for their sake that they don't make a qualifying offer to the terrible Hawes).
- Phoenix Suns: Carter is out, since just not exercising the team option on his contract would be more efficient than amnestying him, obviously, and the Suns are below the cap, so they don't need room unless they want to try for Chandler or Nene. If so, they might amnesty Gortat or Frye, since someone might bid $4-$5 million on either. I think Frye and Dudley both make sense in terms of future roster flexibility because of the lengths of their contracts, even if financially the impact of amnestying them would probably be negligible (or even negative). This is another team that might just stand pat.
- Portland Trailblazers: Ah, Brandon Roy. Once an MVP candidate, now old and washed-up all before the age of 30. Poor guy. The question here is whether anyone pays anything for him if you amnesty him. If not, all Portland saves is tax money, and there is the non-trivial chance that he might retire for injury reasons in a year or two, in which case insurance pays his contract, which is a better outcome for Portland than seeing him play somewhere else a couple of years while paying him the $10-$15million difference per year. Personally, I'd amnesty Babitt. His contract is not big but he's absolutely terrible and someone might bid on him for "potential's" sake. In fact, he's got David Kahn written all over him. With tax dollars, this can save the team $4million a year while freeing up minutes for players that don't stink. If there's a strong possibly someone bids enough on Roy, though, I think you'd have to roll that die.
- Sacramento Kings: My goodness, Salmons is overpaid for such an average player. The problem is, of course, the Kings already are going to have to spend to get to the minimum and cutting Salmons' $8 million off the cap won't help there (and it won't help them win more, either). They should stand pat and try to sign a cheap, quality free agent.
- San Antonio Spurs: This could go two ways. Richard Jefferson is overpaid, but someone's bound to bid $6 million or more on him, so amnestying him saves real money, since the spurs are over the cap. But, if they amnesty Tony Parker, someone will surely pay his entire $12 million salary and pick him up off waivers; this saves the Spurs a truly huge sum. With Duncan in his final year and McDyess coming off the books, they'd have real cap room in 2012. Can the Spurs roll the dice on signing Tim Duncan much more cheaply in 2012, while picking up Paul, Nash or Howard with the 2012 cap money? It would be a bold move, and if anyone can try this it would be this smart front office, but I suspect they just amnesty Jefferson and pocket the $5-$10 million (counting the tax impact). And let's also not forget that Parker has real trade value if the Spurs want to go bold.
- Toronto Raptors: Ah, Bargnani. Beloved whipping-boy of the Wages of Wins network. He's truly awful, and the Raptors should not hesitate to amnesty him, because some other team will bid a few million on him (you're guaranteed to hear the moniker "poor man's Nowitzki" thrown around). Now it's true that the Raptors are under the cap, but they can't pass this up, because the man's just not that tradable; this is the best chance to get out of his yoke of a contract. Then spend a few million on another tall white guy, Mike Dunleavy. He shoots the three just as well as Bargnani but he actually rebounds! Yes, I know he's an SF, but let's be honest, so is Bargnani, and everybody knows it. You can also pick up DeAndre Jordan to play the C for cheap. That's about a 15-win swing (instead of 5 losses from Bargnani's terrible play, you get 10 wins from Jordan and Dunleavy's decent play). Ok, so it's a 12-win swing in a 66-game season. You know what I mean, dammit!
- Utah Jazz: Al Jefferson's overpaid, and someone's bound to pay $10 million for him, but they are under the cap, so this only saves $5 million, AND they have to pay for someone to take Al's minutes. And Al's still a good player, even if he's overpaid, so I don't see a financial win in amnestying him. Unless Utah also wants to play the "get me Howard or Paul" game, but they've never been the type of market that attracts that kind of player, and they know it. They probably won't amnesty anyone.
- Washington Wizards: At first you might be thinking "Bye-bye Rashard" but the Wizards' payroll is currently $40 million, 44 if they make a qualifying offer to young, call it 50 after signing rookies. Then subtract Lewis' $22 million and they'd be way under the minimum, they'd have to spend to reach it. Then consider that no one's likely to bid more than a few million on Lewis, and you realize quickly that it doesn't make financial sense. Given that, the only remaining question is: If they amnesty Lewis, do they have a shot at Howard? Note that Paul is unlikely to want to play on a team that's put a bunch of eggs in the John Wall basket, so forget about him. I doubt that they have a shot at Howard, so financially it just doesn't make sense to amnesty Lewis. Blatche, however, is an overrated young player that someone might actually pay for on waivers, so amnestying him saves real money, and his contract is long.
So, after I suggested yesterday that the Lakers should amnesty Kobe, today I tried to get the Knicks to amnesty Stat or Melo! Go on, tell me how crazy I am in comments, you know you want to.