I agree with Chad. Cro might be needed. Cut Reggie
Celtics, Lakers, Sixers need 'Allan Houston
The "Allan Houston Rule" allows teams a one-time opportunity to release a player and avoid paying the luxury tax on his salary.
The teams asked for the rule as part of the collective bargaining agreement, and it gives teams a unique opportunity to save money now and in the future that could be better spent on bringing in players.
But now that they have it, most teams, it appears, will shun the opportunity, including several teams in danger of paying the luxury tax this season and in future seasons.
Here is our team-by-team report, based on conversations with a number of team executives, that reveals what each team is expected to do, and what each team should do.
Note: Salaries are estimated numbers, as of the morning of July 25, based on committed payroll and updated to reflect recent agreements on free agents and trades. Salaries in red denote teams that are expected to have to pay the luxury tax (expected to start at between $60-64 million) for next season.
The Allan Houston Rule:
Atlanta Hawks $25M None
The Hawks don't have a lot going for them right now. However, one thing they do have is an absence of bad contracts. GM Billy Knight has done a good job of stripping the books of any long-term deals. They have zero use for the amnesty rule.
Boston Celtics $51M Mark Blount
The Celtics have two pretty bad contracts on the books and are dangerously close to paying the luxury tax. Raef LaFrentz has the worst contract, with four years, $47 million remaining on his deal. However, he still a productive player when he's healthy. Blount signed a six-year deal at the mid-level last summer, and it immediately looked as though the Celtics had made a mistake. He was a major disappointment and the Celtics could use relief from the five years, $33 million remaining on his contract. Dumping Blount would be admitting an expensive mistake, but it could also free up the Celtics to spend more money down the road.
Charlotte Bobcats $25M None
GM Bernie Bickerstaff has kept the Bobcats' payroll thin so they'll have big cap room going into summer 2006. The Bobcats have zero bad contracts on their books and no real use for the amnesty rule.
Chicago Bulls $36M None
GM John Paxson has done a great job of getting the Bulls' books in order. The Bulls should have major cap room in 2006 if they don't go hog wild re-signing Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler this summer. They don't have any bad contracts left on the books and won't need to use the amnesty clause.
Cleveland Cavaliers $46M Eric Snow
This is a tough one. The Cavs' payroll is under control, but they do have a bad contract they could dump. Snow has four years, $25 million left, and his talent doesn't justify that. Then again, he is the Cavs' only point guard, is a solid veteran presence and still can play defense. If the Cavs aspire to make a run at a championship this year, dumping Snow wouldn't be smart. However, if the team wants maximum flexibility in the future, he would be worth cutting.
Dallas Mavericks $88M Michael Finley
Owner Mark Cuban loves Michael Finley, but he might have little choice but to waive him. The Mavs are hopelessly over the luxury tax threshold and could save as much as $51 million in tax penalties by letting him go. Cuban was a carefree spender his first few years in the league, but he has gotten more conservative lately. As good as Finley has been, there's no way he's worth the extra $51 million in taxes. Look for Finley to be the most sought-after amnesty-rule casualty.
Denver Nuggets $44M Eduardo Najera
The Nuggets made a slight misstep in February when they traded the expiring contracts of Nikoloz Tskitishvili and Rodney White for Najera. Not only did his contract prevent them from getting far enough under the cap to make a run at a top free agent, it also could hurt them down the road as they continue to make forays into the free-agent market. Najera's a nice hustle player, but he's not really worth the three years, $13 million he has left on his contract. I'm not sure the Nuggets will waive him, but they probably should.
Detroit Pistons $54M None
President Joe Dumars has done a great job of keeping a winner on the floor without overpaying for players. The only contract on the books that could be considered bad is Rasheed Wallace's. Wallace is due $50 million over the next four years, and with Larry Brown's leaving the Pistons, it's unclear whether Wallace will continue to stay under control. Still, it's highly unlikely that the Pistons would waive Wallace, and given their cap position the next few seasons, they probably don't have to.
Golden State Warriors $56M Adonal Foyle or
The Warriors look as though they're on the cusp of being a playoff team, but a couple of rookie mistakes by GM Chris Mullin might come back to haunt them. Mullin gave huge deals to Foyle and Fisher last summer. Foyle has four years, $35 million left on his contract. Fisher has five years, $32 million left on his. Although both players provide a veteran presence on a young roster, they can't produce at the rate they're getting paid. If the Warriors are going to avoid future luxury tax problems and retain some flexibility to use their mid-level exception down the road, they'll need to swallow their pride and let one of these players go this summer. Look for it to be Fisher. Although he was more productive than Foyle last season, his contract is longer and the Warriors need him less.
Houston Rockets $59M Clarence Weatherspoon or Juwan Howard
The Rockets have done a good job of ridding their team of bad long-term contracts. Only two, Weatherspoon's (1 year, $6.4 million) and Howard's (four years, $26.5 million), remain on the books. Given their current tax situation, the Rockets could just dump Weatherspoon and be done with it. As it stands the Rockets will be under the cap next season. But long term, they need to seriously consider Howard. With Yao Ming entering extension talks soon and the recent signing of Stromile Swift, they might want to get Howard's contract out of the way to facilitate a large payroll bump in the coming years.
Indiana Pacers $78M Austin Croshere or
The Pacers are a small-market team with a large-market payroll. They certainly have an excuse to take advantage of the amnesty rule. Croshere is the most obvious candidate. He has two years, $15.2 million on his contract and hasn't lived up to expectations. However, team president Larry Bird loves Croshere and the Pacers have made it clear that they're going for a title this summer. Dumping a player, even a role player, doesn't necessarily fit with that goal. The team also could choose to dump Reggie Miller's contract -- since he's retiring anyway. But the savings would be much more modest with that move.
Los Angeles Clippers $40M None
Give Donald Sterling some credit for being a cheapskate. When you hardly ever sign free agents (including your own), and seldom trade for a big contract, you don't have too many bad deals on the books, and you don't pay the luxury tax.
Los Angeles Lakers $69M Brian Grant
The Lakers are another year away from getting big-time cap/tax relief, but you can expect owner Jerry Buss to start the party early. Grant didn't play a big role in L.A. last season and isn't worth the two years, $30 million left on his contract. Given that the Lakers are already in luxury tax land, and they've brought in Kwame Brown and rookie Andrew Bynum to patrol the paint, this one seems to be a slam dunk.
Memphis Grizzlies $65M Brian Cardinal
Owner Michael Heisley wants the team to start trimming the payroll. The Grizzlies can get under the luxury tax threshold by doing nothing this summer. Unfortunately for Grizz fans, that means letting three important role players -- Stromile Swift, Earl Watson and Bonzi Wells -- walk out the door. Still, the Grizzlies might need to swallow their pride and let Cardinal walk, as well. The five-year span (totaling $29 million) left on his contract is too much to bear and takes away any cap flexibility the Grizzlies might have for future signings. Cardinal is a great asset at 1 or 2 million a year, but not at 6 million apiece.
Miami Heat $63M None
You'd think the Heat would dump Eddie Jones and the two years, $30 million left on his contract. Although Jones is still productive, cutting him would provide great savings and flexibility to keep spending. However, the Heat are determined to make a run at an NBA title this coming season. With Shaq not getting any younger, the window is closing. Jones might not be earning his paycheck these days, but he's an integral part of the team. Pat Riley insists that the Heat won't waive him, luxury tax be damned.
Milwaukee Bucks $57M Calvin Booth
GM Larry Harris went on a spending spree this summer. Once you factor in the new contracts for Michael Redd, Bobby Simmons, Dan Gadzuric, Andrew Bogut and possibly Zaza Pachulia, the Bucks will be looking at a payroll that comes very near the luxury tax threshold. If the team wants to retain any flexibility, it'll dump the two years, $13 million of Booth's contract. He is unnecessary, given the pieces the Bucks have acquired, and could save them a tax payment next season should the team decide to add another player with the mid-level exception.
Minnesota Timberwolves $58M Troy Hudson
Minnesota is trying its best to trade away Sam Cassell and Hudson. Cassell shouldn't be too hard to move, being in the last year of his deal and still productive (though temperamental). No team, however, wants to pay the $29 million (for five years) left on Hudson's deal. That puts the Timberwovles in a quandary. Given their problems at the point, they probably need Hudson. But he's so overpaid as a backup that the team is likely to invoke the luxury tax if it spends any more money. This one is really a toss-up.
New Jersey Nets $59M None
President Rod Thorn and GM Ed Stefanski have done a great job assembling the Nets and doing it in a cost-conscious way. They wisely resisted the temptation to pay Kenyon Martin the max and now have landed a better player (Shareef Abdur-Rahim) for half the cash. The truth is that the Nets have no bad deals on the books and therefore no use for the amnesty rule.
New Orleans Hornets $37M None
The Hornets are well under the cap and don't need to take advantage of the rule. The closest thing they have to a bad contract is the two years, $16 million left on P.J. Brown's contract. However, Brown is veteran role model and a local celeb who is providing solid production, so look for them to keep him around.
New York Knicks $120M Allan Houston
Well, it's called the Allan Houston rule. However, we could call it the New York Knicks rule -- because most of the roster Isiah Thomas has assembled needs to be discarded under the amnesty provision. Though, to be fair, Thomas didn't sign Houston to his monstrous contract. By waiving Houston, the Knicks will save $40 million in luxury tax fees over the next two years. We'll see whether they use it wisely.
Orlando Magic $73M Doug Christie
Christie was one of former GM John Weisbrod's biggest missteps. The Magic needed Cuttino Mobley more than they realized, and Christie didn't want to play in Orlando. He has asked for a trade. The problem is that no one is beating down the door to pay him $8.2 million next season. The Magic will be taxpayers next year, and the $8.2 million in savings will be worth losing Christie. There's talk that Grant Hill would be a more financially prudent way to go, given that the Magic could save $32.5 million in tax penalties by waiving him. The problem is that fans and the media would stage a revolt. And after years of rehabbing a bad ankle, Hill is finally earning his salary.
Philadelphia 76ers $80M Aaron McKie
Their payroll is already out of control and they added another $14 million by agreeing to terms with Samuel Dalembert, Kyle Korver and Willie Green in free agency. That gives them a payroll of nearly $80 million (though that number will likely be reduced to $70 million in March once Jamal Mashburn retires). Chris Webber has a terrible contract. He has 3 years, $62 million left and no one believes he's going to be able to earn it. However, the Sixers just traded for him in February and with new head coach Mo Cheeks running the show, they believe they'll be able to get some value out of Webber for the next couple of years. McKie was once a solid role player, but he's way past his prime. He turns 33 in October, and there's no way the Sixers can justify keeping the three years, $20 million left on his contract on the books. The team would save $20 million in luxury tax penalties by letting him go.
Phoenix Suns $52M Howard Eisley
The Suns bought out Eisley's contract at the start of last season and still owe him $5.6 million in 2005-06 and 162,660 in 2006-07. Under the amnesty rules, the Suns would be allowed to apply for amnesty for Eisley's contract, even though he's no longer with the team. While the team isn't currently in danger of paying the tax, if they're forced to match a Hawks' max offer for Joe Johnson, they're looking at a potential $64 million payroll next season, which means Eisley's contract could provide some serious tax relief.
Portland Trail Blazers $55M Derek Anderson or Theo Ratliff
GM John Nash says the team has no intention of dumping Ratliff. Maybe that's because Nash signed Ratliff to a ridiculous three-year, $35 million extension last summer. With owner Paul Allen preaching fiscal responsibility and a host of young players starving for playing time, Ratliff looks like a luxury the Blazers no longer can afford. Instead, look for the Blazers to dump Anderson who, mostly because of injuries, has been a big disappointment in Portland. Dropping Anderson would save the Blazers $18 million in luxury tax penalties over the next two seasons.
Sacramento Kings $58M None
Some will argue that Kenny Thomas and Brian Skinner are overpaid, but the truth is that neither is in serious danger of being waived. Look for the Kings to sit this one out.
San Antonio Spurs $59M Rasho Nesterovic
The Spurs tried to pawn off Nesterovic to the Blazers for Abdur-Rahim but look as though they're now out of luck. Given where their payroll seems to be heading, they might want to get out of the four years, $30 million left on Nesterovic's deal before it's too late.
Seattle SuperSonics $39M Danny Fortson
The Sonics are not in danger of paying the luxury tax unless they start spending like crazy for their remaining free agents. Fortson is the only guy in danger of being waived. He's an excellent rebounder who nonetheless seems to fall out of favor with every team he plays for. He has two years, $13 million left on his contract.
Toronto Raptors $56M Jalen Rose
The Raptors are very close to the tax threshold, and Rose is one of the most overpaid players in the league. He's still fairly productive, but if the team continues to spend this summer, it will be tough to justify the two years, $32 million left on his contract. That said, a source in Toronto says the team is leaning strongly toward keeping him. Go figure. Instead, look for them to use Alonzo Mourning's buyout as the contract they try to get amnesty for.
Utah Jazz $49M None
The Jazz never have been big spenders, which keeps them off the taxpayer list this fall. They paid too much money to Mehmet Okur and Carlos Boozer, no question. But both players are productive and neither will be waived by the Jazz.
Washington Wizards $52M None
The Wizards have stayed out of trouble. Etan Thomas' contract is a bit excessive, but only if he can't get healthy.