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Miami, Chicago & Detroit Should Not Amnesty These 3 Players

To amnesty or not to amnesty, that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler to keep an expiring contract or shed the player to suffer the slings and arrows of the cap hit—while still paying the amnestied player—is a question 11 teams will decide in the ensuing week. We’ve got three amnesty candidates who should stay with their respective teams, but are at risk this week.

The 2011 CBA allows teams to amnesty players who were under contract before July 1, 2011, and have remained on a team’s books since that time. With 18 teams—most recently the Lakers and Metta World Peace—already electing to amnesty a player, that leaves just 12 teams (the Pelicans don’t have any amnesty candidates left on their roster) who can use the clause between today’s end of the July moratorium and July 16. It’s a brutal week for a small contingent of NBA players, which Marc Stein at ESPN.com helpfully lists in this TrueHoop post.

Right now, with 18 teams already having used the amnesty provision, and the Pelicans unable to use it, that leaves 30 players from 11 different teams who could be amnestied in the next week. But we can knock a few more off, like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Mike Conley, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh—you get the idea.

Of those 30 players, only about seven of them are in true danger: Linas Kleiza,Charlie Villanueva, John Salmons, Mike Miller, Kendrick Perkins, Drew Gooden and Carlos Boozer.

Of those seven, here are three who should not be amnestied:

3. Mike Miller

Miller, unlike another player on this list, has two years remaining on the five-year, $29 million deal he signed with the Miami Heat in that fabled summer of 2010. Yes, the same one where ‘Bron, Wade and Bosh all threw a victory party before they’d won a thing. Three years, three Finals appearances and two back-to-back championships later and here we are with Miller due $6.2 million next season and with a player option (which he’d be a fool not to exercise) for $6.6 million in 2014-15.

If the Heat amnesty Miller, they’d effectively drop down a tier in the NBA’s non-repeater luxury tax system. Right now, they’re at the top of the third tier ($10-14.99 million), which taxes $2.50 for every $1 over the $71.7 luxury tax line for the 2013-14 season. The Heat organization owes over $86 million in salary for next season, including some cap holds that will come off the books. By amnestying Miller, they would drop down to the $5-$9.99 million range—which only taxes $1.75 for every $1 over. That’s substantial luxury tax savings, but it’s not really worth it since they’re still paying Miller’s salary and just shaving some—but not all—off the taxes they’ll owe.

It’s also important to note Miller hit a bunch of three-pointers in this year’s playoffs and especially in the resounding 2012 Finals defeat of the Thunder. Maybe his clutch shooting isn’t so replaceable. Yes, the luxury taxes are going to hurt, but for a team that’s appeared in the NBA Finals the last three season, why mess with a good thing? Miller might look like a geriatric who got lost on the way to a Shuffleboard court as he’s ambling down the hardwood like Pinocchio, but he’s money when it counts. So if the Heat are wise, they’ll spend the money in luxury taxes for Miller’s money performances every spring and summer, regardless of the temptation to amnesty him.

2. Charlie Villanueva
The Pistons just brought Josh Smith in with a four-year, $54 million deal, and with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe already taking up spots, the Pistons’ front court is almost too crowded at this point. Playing Josh Smith at power forward would mean Pistons fans get to watch a lot of ugly three-pointers, and for all his downsides, Villanueva was always an OK shooter from deep.

In 2010-11, Villanueva averaged over four three-point attempts per game (per basketball-reference), but still managed to shoot well above the league average at 38.7 percent on the season. Charlie’s play has tapered off since that final season in Milwaukee (the only time he’s averaged over 20 PPG per 36 minutes), which lead to the big payday from Detroit. Everyone immediately spoke about that ’09 deal as a cautionary tale of over-compensation. But now Villanueva is entering the final year of that dreadful deal, and his expiring contract could be a valuable trade asset later this season if the Pistons want to make some more moves to shore up a backcourt to go with their front court stars.

At the very least, Villanueva can show Josh Smith how to consistently hit from beyond the arc, even if Villanueva hasn’t shot over 40 percent from the field in the last two seasons. With Greg Monroe at power forward presently, and now Smith at small forward and Drummond at the five, the Pistons are going to have spacing issues next season with teams daring them to shoot from long-range. Smith will unfortunately oblige, and Monroe and Drummond don’t like the outside game at all, so having Villanueva as a release valve for a packed paint will be beneficial. Teams have to respect his shooting, unlike the other Pistons options at forward.

Plus, expiring contracts can be like gold for teams looking to shed cap space and rebuild. Just ask the Jazz, who took on the contracts of Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson just so they could also acquire more cap space in 2014-15. Combined, those two are set to make over $20 million next season with little producton to show for the dollars, but by making the move the Jazz hit the cap minimum ($52 million) and loaded up on draft picks they got in the deal: two first-round picks from the Dubs in 2014 and ’17. Plus three second-rounders, two from the Dubs in ’16 and ’17, and one from the Nugs in ’18. This is how teams re-build with the new CBA and it all started with expiring contracts. Joe Dumars should hold on to Villnueva’s since he’s still gotta pay the man his money if he elects to amnesty, so why not keep him as a trade asset?

1. Carlos Boozer
Another Central Division amnesty candidate and one who has survived amnesty rumors the last two off-seasons, is Carlos Boozer. Whether Boozer makes it past this summer and next, hinges on what teams are willing to offer for a guy who is set to make over $32 million over the next two seasons—all of it guaranteed.

Boozer’s plasticine hair stylings notwithstanding, he’s a good fit for this Bulls team. They need a 4 who can knock down an outside shot, and Boozer’s mid-range floater isn’t bad. His shooting suffered last season, but that was without Derrick Rose, which meant defenses could key on him as one of Chicago’s only marginally consistent offensive threats. Plus, Boozer has battled a string of injuries since coming over from Utah, and he’s nowhere near the 20 and 10 guy he was with Utah when paired with Deron Williams. That being said, Rose’s return—with a vengeance—will help.

But why amnesty him when the Rose-Jimmy ButlerLuol Deng-Boozer-Joakim Noah starting five hasn’t ever gotten a chance to gel and take on the Heat and Pacers in the East. Rose’s injury in the first game of the playoffs last season came after the team again had the best regular season record in the league for the second straight season.

Keep Boozer this season and hope that his shooting jumps back above the 50 plus percent range he’s shot for his entire career, and if he disappoints in the playoffs this coming spring, you’ve got his expiring contract as a trade chip next summer.

Would you amnesty any of these three players? If so, why?

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