Deeper look at amnesty candidates reveals Spurs’ slim chances at landing big

As an active Twitter user and after browsing our reader’s comments every day, I try to get the general LSconsensus of what fans are discussing regarding the San Antonio Spurs.

A few readers keep bringing up the idea of the Spurs signing Elton Brand now that he’s been amnestied by the Philadelphia 76ers. With word coming out of Houston late Wednesday evening that the Rockets were thinking of using the amnesty clause on Luis Scola, my twitter followers started inquiring about the possibility of Scola playing with the Spurs.

To see if the Spurs could have a chance at any amnesty candidates, one must understand how the amnesty clause works first.

I’ll admit, I’m not the “Larry Coon” of Project Spurs when it comes to team salaries and all the details of player contracts; I usually leave the economics up to our own Trevor Zickgraf. However I was interested in getting a general understanding of how the amnesty clause works.

Here’s my simple explanation of the amnesty clause using a player who is not in the NBA, Italian Gianluca Basille. Let’s say I’m a General Manager and I sign Basille to a 4-year, 40 million dollar deal. After the first year of Basille’s contract, he’s performing terribly on my squad and he’s eating my cap space, so I decide to amnesty him.

Now I have to pay the rest of his contract and he goes into what’s called a “silent auction” where teams below the salary cap get to bid to claim him. Whoever has the highest bid, they get Basille and Basille’s salary is reduced from the bidding price. So let’s say the highest bidder put forth 10 million dollars for Basille. That means I’d only have to pay 20 million (30-10) of his remaining three years.

Now the team that won the bid has to keep Basille for the next three years, the length of his original contract.

But what if no one bids for Basille? Teams have 48-hours after a player gets amnestied officially through the league to bid for the player. If no team claims the player after 48-hours, then Basille becomes a free agent and is able to sign with whomever he chooses.

Before analyzing if the Spurs could land any of these potential amnesty candidates, here are a few details to keep in mind via a Larry Coon article about the Amnesty for ESPN.

  • Teams have six days after Moratorium (July 11) to decide if they’re going to use the amnesty clause on a player. This means this years last date to amnesty a player is July 17.
  • Each team is only allowed to use the Amnesty clause once in the span of each new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
  • Because no contract financial figures have been made public in the Spurs’ recent signings, the salary of the team is still unknown. Andrew McNeil of 48 Minutes of Hell estimates that the Spurs are still over the salary cap, therefore they’re one team that cannot bid on any amnesty players. The Spurs’ only chance of getting any of these players would be to wait and see if the player made it through the bidding round without being auctioned to a team.

Now let’s look at some of the amnesty candidates. I’ll first give the players current situation and then my own take on whether or not this player has any chance of landing in San Antonio this coming season.

Elton Brand – Brand was officially amnestied from the Philadelphia 76ers on July 11. This means teams below the cap have until this Friday (July 13) to make a bid for Brand. Brand only had one year remaining on his contract so any team that bids for him would only have him for this coming season. The Dallas Mavericks are the favorite to claim Brand, but the New Orleans Hornets and Phoenix Suns are also expected to make a bid for him. According to David Aldridge of NBA.com, Brand would prefer to play in Dallas if he’s picked through the amnesty route.

Brand’s number one option however is to not be picked up and instead become an unrestricted free agent. Aldridge thinks that the Brooklyn Nets and Spurs would have a chance at landing Brand if that happened. 

Update (7/12-5:39 PM CST): With the Mavericks now looking to pursue Luis Scola as well according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports! It would mean the Suns or Hornets woud likely take over in the pursuit of Brand. 

  • My Prediction: I think the Mavericks claim Brand and as it’s been said by Aldridge, Brand has familiarity with Chris Kaman, who used to play with Brand with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Brendan Haywood – According to multiple reports, the Mavericks will use the amnesty clause on Haywood, and Haywood has three yearsBH remaining on his deal. The Charlotte Bobcats are expected to bid for Haywood since they’re under the cap, plus he’s almost guaranteed a starting job and works out in Charlotte in the offseason according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.

Update (7/12-5:43 PM CST): As of Thursday, Haywood has officially been amnestied. His bidding period will end on Saturday. 

  • My Prediction: If Charlotte is serious about Haywood, I’m sure they’ll claim him. Even if he does make it to become an unrestricted free agent, I’m not sure he gives the Spurs what they’re looking for though he has height. He doesn’t have the speed or offensive skill set to be efficient in the offense. Even though he can guard the rim defensively, he still has trouble defending perimeter power forwards because of hid limited speed.

Luis Scola – The Rockets are considering using the amnesty clause on Scola to make room for a potential blockbuster that will allow them to clear cap space to make a deal to trade for Dwight Howard. Scola has three years remaining on his contract and my first reaction was, “should Scola get amnestied, there’s no way he’d make it out of the auction without getting a bidder to take him.” But then, Trevor brought up a good point, what if the teams below the cap like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Phoenix Suns, and New Orleans Hornets don’t want Scola for the next three years? He’d be 35 in his final year of his current deal.

Update (7/12-5:40 PM): Wojnarowski is reporting that the Rockets will indeed amnesty Scola on Friday. Wojnarowski is also reporting that the Mavericks will target Scola in the amnesty bidding. Scola’s amnesty winner will be announed on Sunday if he’s amnestied on Friday. What this means for the Spurs, is the Rockets now have a package that Orlando might accept to trade for Dwight Howard. Imagine the Spurs having to face Howard four times a year? It’s now possible. 

  • My Prediction: I highly doubt the Rockets amnesty Scola unless they have some sort of verification that they’d be getting Howard back in the process. But if they do, I think the Cavaliers look like a team that could bid on Scola if their goal is to make the playoffs beginning this year. Scola and Anderson Varejao could give Kyrie Irving a formidable frontline along with the development of Tristan Thompson. Remember, the Cavaliers will be losing Antawn Jamison to free agency. Should Scola make it to free agency, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind finishing his career with his Argentine pal Manu Ginobili and teaming with Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter, and three parts of team France for the veterans minimum.

Andre Blatche – The Wizards are undecided at the moment if they’ll amnesty Blatche according to Aldridge. Blatche has three years remaining on his deal, and if he were amnestied, the Bobcats would be one team likely to bid for him since Aldridge states they’re already interested in him.

  • My Prediction: Blatche likely wouldn’t make it past the amnesty round without getting scooped up. Even if he was a free agent and he has some size, he has too many immaturity issues. I could see the Spurs trying a year with him, but not three years.

Tyrus Thomas – There haven’t been any major reports of the Bobcats looking to amnesty Thomas, but his contract looks eligible as he’s owed 26-million for the next three seasons. Thomas is just 25 years old and amnestying him that young, where there still may be more progress, is a TTmove the Bobcats are unlikely to make. The Bobcats will instead continue to keep him on the trading block, though his contract would be tough for any team to take.

For those wondering if the team should look into using the amnesty clause on Matt Bonner, let’s look at that situation. Bonner is set to receive roughly 7.6 million over the next two seasons, though his 13-14’ season is unguaranteed. So if the Spurs were to use the amnesty clause on him, they’d be paying 3.6 million on this years contract. Let’s say a team put a 1 million dollar bid on Bonner, then that would drop the price the Spurs have to pay to 2.6 million. It’s not a bad idea; the problem is that Bonner is the fourth most important piece in the frontcourt right now. Unless the Spurs find a free agent, make a trade, or find a Summer League big man who has a shot outside of 10-feet within the next five days, then Bonner could be amnestied. Although, that’s very unlikely to happen.

The likelihood of the Spurs signing an amnestied player is almost zero to none. Their best way to improve their roster for another frontcourt player will be to either to make a trade, or hope that they have a hidden gem on their Summer League roster.

Paul Garcia

About Paul Garcia

Paul is a San Antonio Spurs credentialed media member for Project Spurs. He covered the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston, TX, and the 2013 and 2014 NBA Finals. Paul has been featured on WOAI, Fox 29, and numerous nationwide radio shows.

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