Update: In contrast to ESPN's report yesterday, Charles Gardner writes that the Bucks do NOT plan to use the amnesty on either Gooden or Udrih. That seems much more consistent with what we know about the Bucks.
The possibility of the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement including an amnesty provision has been floating around for at least a couple months, so it's not surprising to see a new, more flexible version of the 2005 "Allan Houston Rule" among the many key items that the owners and players have essentially agreed on for inclusion in the next CBA. The basic idea remains similar to the rule introduced as part of the 2005 CBA, with a couple key differences:
- Teams would be allowed to waive one player whose contract would no longer count against either the salary cap or luxury tax. The player becomes a free agent but would still be owed the full value of their contract. The big difference with the new rule is that it provides true cap amnesty--the 2005 iteration only provided luxury tax relief, while still counting the contract against the cap.
- The provision could be used only once at any point during the new CBA, though it could only be applied against a contract signed before the lockout. As a result, teams more concerned with cap flexibility a year or two from now can put off using the provision until they actually need it. This is especially relevant for teams with young stars that will need big contract extensions. In contrast, the 2005 rule was only available in the first summer of the CBA.
- ESPN is further reporting that only 75% of the contract's value would be shed for cap purposes, though like many aspects of the CBA it's not clear if that's how the final rule will look.
4) You're rebuilding, trying to tank for the loaded 2012 draft and want to get rid of a high-priced veteran who's no longer integral to the plan. This might be good rationale for Cleveland to dump Baron Davis, but for better or worse the Bucks seem intent on competing in the short term.
So with those basics in mind, let's consider the guys on the Bucks' roster most likely to be waived.
1) Drew Gooden ($6.2 million 11/12 salary, $26.2 million over next four years)
A not insignificant portion of Bucks fans would rather see Gooden hit by a meteor than suit up for the Bucks again, so perhaps I sound like an optimist (or moron?) stating my belief that Gooden could still be a useful rotation player in Milwaukee [ducks]. Do you want him starting next to Andrew Bogut for the remainder of his contract? Maybe not. But Gooden's shown throughout his career that space cadets can still be useful in the right situations, and it's not like the Bucks have anyone else this side of Bogut with Gooden's combination of size, rebounding and occasional offensive usefulness. I'd rather have Carl Landry, but then again the Bucks might not need to waive Gooden to get him anyway (though they could still opt to dump Gooden down the road). The fates of Ilyasova (will the Bucks force him to come back? Will they trade him? Let him walk for nothing?) and Mbah a Moute will no doubt be major factors here as well.
2) Beno Udrih ($6.9 million 11/12 salary, $14.3 million over next two years)
I know Ford and Stein specifically stated that their source believed the Bucks would waive Udrih over Gooden, but I'm still struggling to see how it adds up. Gooden is owed nearly twice as much money over twice the contract length, and Udrih does seem like a nice fit on an offensively challenged team that missed Luke Ridnour's steady perimeter game last season. Am I just drinking the press conference Kool-Aid?
Waiving Dooling (even if it's not with the amnesty clause) would seem a more talent-optimizing approach to offloading one of their PGs--unless the Bucks have plans to spend their cap space in a big way. Again, I'm skeptical that cap space would net them a player better than Udrih, and it's awfully difficult to imagine them getting a better value when they have to pay Beno either way. Stein/Ford's analysis seems rooted largely in the positional scarcity argument--the Bucks have lots of PGs but only one center--but I'm still not sold that the Bucks' best route to adding a big man and/or swingman requires them to eat Udrih's contract.
3) Stephen Jackson ($9.3 million 11/12 salary, $19.3 million over next two years)
Like Udrih, Jackson is relatively overpaid (two years, $19 million) but expected to play an important role in the Bucks' current plans, especially given the relative lack of wing scoring currently on the roster. For better or worse, Jackson is guaranteed to get 33-36 minutes per game and as many shots as he feels like; in return the Bucks are hoping he provides versatile play on the wing and the kind of vocal locker room presence they lacked last season.
The argument to waive Jackson is pretty simple: only Bogut ($12 million) will earn more money than Jackson ($9.26 million) this season, so if you're goal is to maximize cap space then Jackson fits the bill. That said, it seems like the Bucks want to give it a go with Jackson's veteran presence complementing Bogut and Jennings, and if they don't use the amnesty this summer then they could always opt to waive him a year from now ($10.06 million). Moreover, the same questions about the Bucks' free agent options apply here: who exactly would they sign with that potential cap space?
4) Keyon Dooling ($2.2 million 11/12 salary)
Given his modest deal (one year, $2.2 million) and his status as the most likely odd man out at PG, Dooling is probably the player most likely to be waived without an amnesty clause. So would the Bucks use the amnesty on him in order to get the extra benefit of $2 million in additional cap reductions? I doubt it for two reasons. First, the cap benefits of using the amnesty clause on a small deal are by definition small even in the best case, and it wouldn't provide any incremental space to teams with just the MLE to spend anyway. That could be the case in Milwaukee, especially if Mbah a Moute is re-signed. Second, teams will likely be loathe to waste the amnesty on a small deal in the short term since they can save it for use down the road on a bigger deal. The Bucks would no doubt hate to use the amnesty on someone like Dooling and then see Udrih, Gooden or Jackson suffer a career-limiting injury shortly thereafter. Put simply, the amnesty is for big-game hunting, not Keyon Dooling.