As we wait for the NBA owners and union to cool off after last week's implosion. As we wait for the two sides to realize each passing day is like lighting money on fire and they should probably return -- immediately -- to the bargaining table, let's tackle one specific question that keeps popping into my inbox.
The Sixers' front office (Rod Thorn, Tony DiLeo, Courtney Witte, etc) is preparing for the college scouting season. So in that singular way, it's life as usual for them. The front office still must continue its overseas scouting operation as well as its college recruiting operation. In addition, Thorn has to be thoroughly prepared for the moment the NBA hits the "play" button again. Because, very likely, when the NBA does come to a resolution, there will be an abbreviated free-agent/trade season. A lot of the leg work must be done in advance. As we talked about last week, new chief executive officer Adam Aron is probably working 100-hour weeks right now. At last week's press conference, he unveiled a heck of a lot of change within the franchise, which also created a heck of a lot of work for himself. He made promises (changes to in-game, changes to branding, changes to communication) and now he's working to follow-through on those promises. For anyone who missed Sunday's Inside the Sixers addressing a couple of crucial changes the new ownership needs to make, here's the link: Inside the Sixers.
Here we go, the go-to question the last couple of weeks:
1. If the next collective bargaining agreement includes an amnesty clause, what does that specifically mean, and would the Sixers use it on Elton Brand?
This seems to be a favorite topic for many because it's an interesting concept. The idead of an "amnesty clause" must ignite the same part of the brain as trade speculation because people love discussing which player on each team would be "amnesty claused." This clause is absolutely a part of the current labor discussion. Generally speaking, here's how it would work: it would allow a team a one-time exception to rid itself of a foolishly-signed contract. For example, if the Sixers signed Player X to a 5-year/$100 million deal and after two seasons it became clear Player X was massively overpaid for his production, the Sixers could waive Player X. The Sixers would still owe Player X the remaining $60 million on his deal (making the numbers easy for me here), but that $60 million wouldn't count against the team's salary cap. In this way, if the franchise was willing to pay out that kind of money without retaining the player's services, the Sixers would immediately buy themselves a chunk of free-agent money under the salary cap.
This is a simplified explanation of the potential "amnesty clause." It's possible there could be changes to how the waived contract is paid, if the contract is paid over a longer time frame and still impacts the salary cap, but to a lesser degree. The details would be figured out if the NBA and the union ever agree to the next CBA. But for our simplified purposes, let's assume it works out as explained above. Now comes the real question: Would the Sixers use it on Elton Brand? Brand has approximately $35 million remaining through the 2012-13 season. Brand is owed approximately $17 million for the 2011-12 season and approximately $18 million for the 2012-13 season.
My answer? Absolutely not. I just don't believe it makes any sense for the Sixers to use such an amnesty clause on Brand.
First, if the NBA does lose this season because of the ongoing labor negotiations, Brand will only have 1-year/$18 million remaining on his contract. At that point, he becomes a great trade chip, if nothing less. But more to the point, this amnesty clause is there to be used on players producing at very low percentages of their contract value. It's true that Brand is no longer worth a max contract or $17-18 million a year, but last season (81 games played, 15.0 points, 8.3 rebounds a game) he was probably worth 70-80 percent of that money. The franchise would be waiving a double-double player and only saving a few million dollars (if you consider that they'd have to sign a player to replace him, anyway). It's just not worth it to the Sixers to lose Brand's services, when he's producing at a solid level. In addition, Brand isn't a trouble maker. You could make the argument for waiving Brand under this clause if he was a disruption or if he was a liability in the locker room. But nothing could be further from the truth. Brand might make up for (some of) his diminished on-court value with his leadership skills and steady presence. Especially inside such a young locker room, Brand is a valuable presence of punctuality and professionalism.
(TO CLARIFY (because I read comments): If the NBA season is lost because of this labor negotiation, NBA players lose that year on their contracts. They lose the money, they lose the salary. For further clarification, if the 2011-12 season is lost, Brand loses that $17 million he's scheduled to be paid for the 2011-12 season. Brand's contract still expires after the 2012-13 season, regardless of whether they play this season or miss this season.)
So what move would make more sense if you took this approach to using the amnesty clause? Waiving Andres Nocioni. This is assuming the league and union agree to a new CBA this season because Nocioni has 1-year/$6.7 million remaining on his contract (and a team option for the 2012-13 season). But this illustrates the point of a low percentage of production against salary. During the 2010-11 season, Nocioni played only 54 games. He averaged 6.1 points and 3.1 rebounds a game. Maybe that's a 40-50 percent return on the value of his contract? You would expect a player making that kind of money to produce probably around 12-13 points a game. (This is all an approximate discussion of value.) If the Sixers waived his contract and bought themselves $6-7 million under the salary cap (whether it's a soft or hard cap), they could probably find a player to produce at Nocioni's level for much less, or they could spend the full amount and likely find a player offering more production.
The Sixers have no other player under contract who would even be under consideration for the amnesty clause. Everyone else's contract is either too low or their production is too great.
Each week, Kate will check in from the road and answer fan questions about the Sixers. Click here to ask Kate a question or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.