Coming out of the recently agreed upon CBA (apart from unrelenting sweet tears of joy) is a brand new intriguing amnesty provision, allowing each team the right to cut one cap-clogging contract from their books. The result is two immediate changes to the organization: 1) Obvious enough, the money owed on the previously agreed upon contract is no longer a financial burden to the team’s active decision makers—the player will still receive his checks in the mail, affecting nobody but him and the ownership group who has to pay, and 2) The player who’s amnestied is waived, no longer a member of the team, and is a free agent allowed to sign with whoever will open their arms for a warm embrace.
As we discussed yesterday in our take on three CBA alterations which could have a direct impact on the Wizards, the amnesty issue could be a significant one. By my count, the team has two rational options staring them in the face. Both contracts wouldn’t qualify as money well spent, and removing each could only be seen as movement in a positive direction. (Movement in a positive direction is something the Wizards desperately need.)
1. Rashard Lewis — The obvious answer, and the one who could create a mini uprising among fanatics in the DC area should it not be used. Lewis is due to make $45 million over the next two years. Next season he’ll be the league’s second highest paid player behind Kobe Bryant, and by 2012-13, the most overpaid person in existence. Since taking the elephantine deal Orlando practically begged him to sign in 2007, almost all of Lewis’ numbers have taken a gradual turn for the worse. His points per 36 minutes fell from 21 to 17 to 15 to where it lies now, around 13.
Chances are he isn’t going to have a renaissance year on a rebuilding team thats clear focus is making John Wall as comfortable as possible. In 32 games with Washington last season Lewis’ usage percentage was 16.8, good for the lowest of his entire career. Also, his PER dropped to a debilitating 12; qualifying him as a finalist for the professional athlete with the worst dollar to case of useful production ratio on the planet. To top it all off, for reasons unbeknownst to common sense, Lewis attempted just 4.4 three-pointers per game—his lowest number in a decade—while slightly increasing his try at long range two-point jumpers. To be fair, all of these numbers take just 32 games into account, and being that Lewis is a human being, chances are it took him some time to acclimate himself within the Wizards’ offense, and adjusting to the affects of a trade that blindsided him.
When he’s on the court, hanging around the three-point line, Rashard Lewis makes his defender stick to him like paint on a wall. That’s good for spacing, and great for natural penetrators like John Wall, Nick Young, and Jordan Crawford to hit the lane, but for $45 million he should be doing a whole lot more; maybe dunking from half court or dribbling with his goatee. Until then, Lewis is primed to be set free.
2. Andray Blatche — When word first leaked a couple months ago that an amnesty clause could be a realistic possibility, I wrote a piece making the case for the Wizards using theirs on Blatche. Yes, Rashard Lewis makes sense and having it used on him would be fine and dandy, but the key difference here is time. Lewis will be on the final year of his deal next season, and his expiring contact could be used as legitimate trade bait to teams attempting to get under the cap. On the other hand, Andray Blatche is here for the long haul. For all his off the court uproarious actions, Blatche produces more headaches for his bosses than someone guaranteed $35 million should. Forget about getting into fist fights over strippers (with a teammate!), even more deplorable is the way Blatche plays defense. The Wizards are trying their hardest to wrap a contender’s flag around John Wall, and keeping players like Andray Blatche on board turns that that goal into an uphill battle.