CBA Roundtable: Amnesty 3.0


Oct 23, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Now-former Chicago Bull Carlos Boozer (5) gets a rebound against longtime amnesty candidate Kendrick Perkins (5). Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Hello everyone and welcome to a new CBA Roundtable. Since the first seven days after the July Moratorium are Amnesty Week, we decided to tackle what we think Amnesty 3.0 should look like in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.

There are a few compelling ideas out there and our panel fleshed out some of the major benefits and downsides of them as well as the amnesty system as a whole.


Daniel Leroux (@DannyLeroux):

Over the last two CBA negotiations, the amnesty provision has become something close to a mainstay for a logical reason: it carries heavy support with players and enough owners are on board to make it a point both sides can agree on in a minefield of contentious issues.

It would be wonderful for front offices if they did such a good job negotiating contracts that there was no need for Amnesty 3.0. However, we already know that the uncertainty of the NBA coupled with the pressure of the free agency process means teams will always have contracts they regret.

With that in mind, the system I would like to see for Amnesty 3.0 takes the current system and provides incentives for teams that keep their books clean enough to not need to use their amnesty. While there are more convoluted ideas out there, mine only requires a change to VII (f) (5) that eliminates the requirement that the team using the amnesty provision have the player on their roster prior to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

A system that just changed this rule would allow a franchise to amnesty players they acquired at any point in the new CBA as long as the player signed his contract under the 2011 CBA. Teams with clean books would then be able to have another team trade them their player to dump under the provision with gobs of compensation.

The difference between this proposal and the ability to trade an amnesty is that my system rewards owners willing to spend on the amnesty rather than just those who did not have bad contracts. While each proposal has merit to be sure, I would rather see a team like the Thunder have to actually pay the player rather than simply hand a card to another team for compensation.


Mark Evans (@JrMarkyMark):

It is not surprising that both the players and the owners came to an agreement on the amnesty provision. The players are still going to earn their money and the teams can get some significant salary cap and luxury tax relief. I get it but that does not mean I like it.

It provides a bit of a “get out of jail free” card for owners who don’t mind paying a player to go away without rewarding the teams who avoid toxic contracts. This is a reward for teams that took poorly calculated risks and tilts the playing field slightly less in the favor of the good general managers.

Teams should be allowed to trade their amnesty clause. If a general manager has been responsible and has no use for it, he should be able to flip it into an asset, which would reward responsible fiscal behavior. Additionally, a team should be able to use the amnesty clause on a player regardless of when they acquired him. This would be a further incentive for good behavior.

To me, it’s all about incentives and disincentives. Let’s reward the responsible teams because the current amnesty clause does not do so.


Dan Litvin (@KnicksFanBlog):

I am not really opposed to giving general managers what you have rightly identified as a “get out of jail free card”. As Daniel pointed out, the NBA is inherently uncertain and even the best general manager can sign a player who ultimately suffers a debilitating injury. For example, Portland was probably justified in giving Brandon Roy a large contract but his degenerative knee condition unfortunately curtailed a very promising career. Portland used their amnesty provision on Roy, and all teams share equally in the comfort of such an insurance policy.

That said, there will certainly be times when a general manager has both acted responsibly and benefited from luck in terms of injury and will have no use for the amnesty. In those situations, enabling a team to trade their amnesty seems like a compelling idea and irresponsible or unlucky teams would value that opportunity greatly.


Seth Partnow (@WhrOffnsHppns):

My quick take on the matter: Is the current CBA’s “Stretch Provision” not intended to replace the old “Amnesty” system? While not quite as forgiving as a rule that allows a player to be instantly wiped from the books, teams are far less limited in their ability to lessen the short term blow of an albatross contract. Further, the practical effect of the current CBA is shorter contracts anyway. Introducing a full-fledged amnesty into this system, especially if amnesty rights were transferable would provide a fairly powerful competitive advantage to larger market teams.

On the other side of the ledger from the questionable competitive benefits is an increase in complexity. The rules are plenty difficult to understand as it is (to the point the Mavs and Rockets weren’t sure if they could execute the Parsons signing as a sign-and-trade or not and asked the league for guidance). Without a clear benefit to doing so, why add more to that? Is salary cap wizardry really the front office skill which should be rewarded most?


Leo Sepkowitz (@LeoSepkowitz):

I’m fully with you, Daniel.

I love the Amnesty Provision. I love it as a weapon for those trying to build super teams (even if that contradicts the supposed ideals behind the new CBA, in which the provision was introduced). I love it as a wild-card tool to help a rebuilding team. I love it because it let Brandon Roy get his money while launching the Blazers into true contention.

Only Portland’s success story is really a rarity. The truth is, I love the Amnesty Provision for how bad it made James Dolan look and how badly the Knicks need it now. I love it because the Warriors used it on Charlie Bell instead of Andris Biedrins to open up cap room for DeAndre Jordan (even though Biedrins had a worse contract), waived Jeremy Lin to create a roster spot for Jordan, subsequently had their offer to him matched by the Clippers, and, finally, had to ship valuable picks away later on to dump Biedrins. I love it because the Sixers used it on Elton Brand and then spent the freed-up dough on Nick Young and Spencer Hawes. I love it because the Wizards used it on a recently-extended Andray Blatche before his extension even kicked in.

Anything that raises the possibility of a front office completely whiffing while reaching for gold is fantastic for the league. The provision is intended to protect general managers from themselves but has only exposed the vast divide between those who know how to use league rules to their advantage and those who do not.

So why not make this gift, supposedly for front offices but truly for the fans, a little more interesting? First, I hate the idea of only being able to waive guys who were under contract when the CBA was signed, so let’s ditch that.

More importantly: Being able to acquire another team’s Amnesty Provision would be off-the-charts intriguing. There’s no precedent for it. What would the Knicks have coughed up to dump Amar’e Stoudemire when LeBron James was still on the market weeks ago?

Deron Williams will likely count for nearly $22.5 million against the Nets’ cap in Kevin Durant’s Summer of 2016. How highly would they value that cap room?

Brooklyn already owes its 2018 pick to Boston. What would Billy King surrender to amnesty Williams? There is absolutely no telling. The idea of the Nets paying a high price to free up cap room, only to strike out in free agency and further eliminate long-term fits so their profile perfectly that it’s actually freaking me out a little.

So let’s get this done. The Amnesty Provision 1.0 further separated the smart GMs from the, um, overly-aggressive ones. Why not run it back and this time let them play with no rules?



Thank you so much to all of the participants and feel free to join in the conversation either in the comments here or on Twitter- even though the new CBA feels a long way away, it is still fun to think about and clarify subjects like this which should have a huge impact on the trajectory of more than a few franchises.