Chris Andersen, Al Harrington, Timofey Mozgov, Ty Lawson.
That is the list of players on which the Denver Nuggets can use the amnesty provision from the current CBA. In order to be eligible to be amnestied, a player’s current contract must have been agreed to and signed prior to the ratification of the CBA.
Looking at the names above I think we can safely remove Ty Lawson from consideration and Timofey Mozgov is in the last year of a very reasonable contract that will pay him $3,140,429. His contract was only partially guaranteed through June 30 so if the Nuggets were looking to part ways with him, that would have been the time to do it as it would have actually save them money.
That brings us to our final two contestants.
The difference between Al Harrington and Chris Andersen is obvious, Harrington, despite going under the knife again today, plays a significant role for the Nuggets while Birdman has been completely removed from the equation.
If you are looking for more reasons to use the amnesty provision on Birdman instead of Harrington, consider the final two seasons of Harrington’s contract are only partially guaranteed buying out Harrington would be roughly equal in cost to amnestying Birdman (10,261,700 is guaranteed to Harrington over the next two seasons while Birdman is owed $9,344,000) and as mentioned above Harrington actually plays. Then again only one of them is currently under investigation by the authorities. Regardless of whether or not Birdman is innocent or guilty, the investigation is a at best a distraction and at worst a potential nightmare.
The idea of amnestying a player has never meshed with the Nuggets fiscal values. While under the purview of the Kroenkes the Nuggets have never been cheap, but also do not go out of their way to throw money away. I never thought it was likely for the Nuggets to use their amnesty provision, however, they are faced with a conundrum. They have at least 16 players who are either under contract or players they would like to have under contract. Under the CBA, they can only have 15 players on the regular season roster so obviously they need to make some difficult choices. (To read more on why the Nuggets should amnesty Andersen, check out this post by friend of RMC @denbutsu.)
Gary Woelfel from the Milwaukee Journal Times has reported that Denver is seriously looking at using the amnesty provision on Birdman. (Why is Woelfel breaking this story? As Charlie pointed out on Twitter, he covered the Bucks under George Karl and is in Las Vegas and probably heard it from George). What has changed? While I am certain that the Nuggets are not interested in paying players under contract for multiple season to go away, the fact is the cost for amnestying Andersen will likely be very low.
Denver is not looking to clear space for a major free agent signing, they are simply looking to create an open roster spot. In all likelihood the Nuggets are planning on giving Andersen’s spot to second round pick Quincy Miller. As a second round pick Miller will be a bargain to sign. He is probably in line to receive the minimum rookie salary of $473,604 and if he is offered a second season that minimum climbs to a still miniscule $762,195. Dumping Birdman to pay Miller will not even put a dent in the Nuggets budget while the cost of retaining Andersen and seeing a young talent like Miller sign elsewhere is potentially catastrophic.
It seems to make perfect sense to use the amnesty provision on Birdman, even if the Nuggets were not pressed up against the roster maximum, still, there is one potential drawback to implementing the amnesty provision on him.
After teams cutting payroll in preparation for the new CBA, we have seen spending on free agents skyrocket again. Teams are going to be faced with an increasingly exorbitant luxury tax system. While we saw so many teams under the cap that a huge expiring contract like Kenyon Martin’s $16.5 million expiring deal was practically useless, I predict that the value of expiring contracts will become more and more valuable. Between the contracts of Andersen, Andre Miller, Harrington, Mozgov and/or Koufos the Nuggets could potentially provide a cash strapped team with some nice financial relief heading into the summer of 2014.
The bad news is that is two years away, plus hanging onto a player just in case you can utilize his expiring contract in two seasons is a lottery ticket that is unlikely to bring back a huge jackpot. Still, the potential for utilizing Birdman as an midsized expiring contract is worth mentioning.
Ultimately, I would say the chance of the Nuggets using the amnesty clause on Andersen has risen to about 75%. It makes too much sense to simply let the opportunity to free up a much needed roster spot go away.
All salary data used in this post courtesy of Sham Sports.