Minnesota Timberwolves’ Amnesty Options

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In the aftermath of the infamous labor talks between the NBAPA and the owners, there is an interesting clause in the new CBA. The amnesty clause.

The amnesty clause is similar to waivers, in that a team releases a player and has to pay out the remainder of the contract. But in the case of the amnesty waiver, the player’s contract doesn’t count against his former team’s salary cap.

This money can be used to avoid salary cap penalties or to sign free agents. This clause is often referred to as the “Get Out of Jail Free Card” for the owners. It allows for hideous contracts to be wiped clean off of the salary cap books.

In 2005, the Minnesota Timberwolves used their amnesty clause waiver on Fred Hoiberg. In 2011, the question is, who or what should the Timberwolves do with their amnesty clause.

Before we get into it, lets look at the three rules, restrictions, or requirements– whatever your “r” word of choice is– that need to be met in order for a team to use this clause.

1) Each team gets one and only one amnesty clause

2) The player being amnesty-waived must’ve been signed before July 1, 2011. (You know, that one day in our history where a bunch of greedy owners and naive players began an asinine five-month lockout.) The clause is made for past mistakes, not for future idiotic decisions.

3) The player must be on the current roster

Now that we have the ground rules taken care of… Lets get to the list.

5) Martell Webster— Owed 5.3 million this season with a 5.7 million dollar team option in 2012-13.

The often injured Webster is starting the 2011-12 campaign out indefinitely. A history of back problems have made the 25-year old Webster seem more like 45. Unless the Wolves add a scorer on the wing of the likes of Jamal Crawford, I don’t see the need in clearing Martell’s 5.3 million off of the books.

My conclusion: An injury riddled 2011-12 season results in the Wolves passing on picking up his option for next season.

4) Nikola Pekovic— Owed 4.3 million this season and 4.6 million in 2012-13.

As pitiful as Pek was to watch last season, we must remember that it was his first season playing professionally in America. With Kevin Love rumored to be getting some run at the 5 this season…

My conclusion: Pek will get very limited playing time and the phrase “DNP- Coach’s Decision” will become the norm next to Pek’s name. Look for the Wolves to try and flip Pek later in this season or next offseason for cash considerations, a 2nd round pick, or a new bouncer at Sneaky Pete’s.

3) Brad Miller— Owed 4.8 million this year and 5.1 million in 2012-13.

The injured Miller was acquired at the deadline from the then Rick Adelman coached Houston Rockets. Miller knows Adelman’s offense playing for him not only in Houston but also in Sacramento.

My conclusion: Miller will be kept around as a veteran who can show some of the younger Wolves how to effectively do a beer bong… I mean run Adelman’s offense.

2) Luke Ridnour— Owed 3.7 million dollars this season, 4.0 million dollars in 2012-13, and 4.3 million dollars in 2013-14

Ridnour, in my opinion, will be the most likely player to be waived via the amnesty clause. Ricky Rubio is expected to receive the majority of minutes at the point guard position this season. Also, the Wolves signed 6’0″ guard J.J. Barea to a 4-year contract on Monday. While Barea is a natural point guard, he can also be used at the shooting guard position causing match up problems for opponents. And lets not forgot about 2nd round pick and former UCLA combo guard Malcom Lee.

While the backcourt seems relatively filled, my main reason for using the amnesty clause on Ridnour is that he has, counting this season, three more years on his contract in Minnesota. By that point, one would hope, Rubio is ready to play 30-35 minutes per night.

My conclusion: The Wolves look to move Ridnour to a team looking for backup point guard help. Like my buddy Eren said, “I’m sure there’s a team out there looking for a point guard that takes and misses long 2s.” What I really think will happen is that the Wolves will…

1) Sit and wait

The Wolves are in no rush to amnesty anyone. They are sitting pretty financially. Say what you want about David Kahn, but somehow he has constructed a team with no real head-scratching contracts. Granted Darko’s contract seems steep, but the price for centers continues to grow and grow.

(Question: Who would you rather have Darko for 4.8 million this year or Kwame Brown for 7 million this year? Darko. Exactly. Moving on.)

I excluded Darko from this list because the Wolves don’t have a true center aside from him. Offensively Darko is challenged at times (calling all sugar coating police), but defensively he protects the interior relatively well.

My conclusion: I expect the Wolves to wait out and see really what Rubio has in an NBA game. If after two months, one year, two years, or however long it takes for the Wolves to feel Rubio can handle running an NBA team for 30-35 minutes a night, then it will be time for Mr. amnesty to claim the contract of Ridnour.

But until then, amnesty, you stay put. I don’t expect Kahn and company to be calling your name anytime soon.

-Brett Cloutier

Brett is a Contributor to The Sports Bank. He covers all things Minnesota sports. You can follow him on Twitter @brettcloutier

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