As reported by several outlets, including the Washington Post’s Michael Lee and Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears, it’s looking like the Washington Wizards will not be using their Amnesty Option on Rashard Lewis. There are many reasons why this makes sense but probably the most important factor is the raised minimum salary teams must spend each season. If the Wizards were to chop Lewis’ contract from their books, they would have roughly $18 million in guaranteed salaries in need of payment (not including Nick Young, a restricted free agent Washington is expected to resign). In order to meet the salary floor, Ernie Grunfeld would be forced to sign players who’re possibly even worse than Lewis in order to fill the void left by his contract. Fight fire with fire and everyone gets burned.
Also, Owner Ted Leonsis would be forced to pay Lewis the $45 million left on his contract to go away, which is something nobody on this planet would want to do. Is Rashard Lewis overapaid? Yes, quite possibly the most overpaid player in the league. But these two financial reasons make using the amnesty on him a questionable decision. This from an article Lee wrote back on Halloween:
Wizards owner Ted Leonsis is going to have to pay Lewis at least $32 million no matter what. So, would he rather pay Lewis to play for him or simply pay him to leave to join the contending team of his choice? Lewis was plagued by injuries last season and won’t ever return to his all-star form of three seasons ago. But he is healthy again, still has some game left, and could provide a veteran presence for a team that otherwise has Andray Blatche – or Young, if he comes back – as the oldest player on the roster.
And, if you haven’t noticed, this is not necessarily the best summer to have a lot of salary cap space, with a less-than stellar free agent class featuring unrestricted free agents Tyson Chandler, Nene, David West, Caron Butler, Tayshaun Prince and Jamal Crawford and restricted free agents Marc Gasol, Jeff Green, Thaddeus Young and Rodney Stuckey. No need for the Wizards to overpay for somebody who isn’t going to put them over the hump and possibly place the franchise in the same troubles that forced other owners to push for this current lockout.
Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams will be the biggest names on the market next summer, but JaVale McGee will also become a restricted free agent, so it might be best to hold on to some money in anticipation. So the best scenario might just be to pay Lewis to play this season, write him a $10 million check to leave next season, then have money set aside to make more improvements, possibly in the draft, when the 2012 class should be incredible (that is, unless the age minimum is increased to 20).
It probably is a slam dunk that the Wizards will eventually cut Lewis, but it doesn’t have to be immediate.