Should Cleveland Amnesty Baron Davis?

The new CBA agreement includes an amnesty clause which allows each NBA team to waive one player for salary cap relief. The players that are waived are still paid by their original team, but can then be claimed by another team off of waivers. So, while it does not get the original team out of the financial obligation, it does open up cap room that they would not have otherwise.

Here are the details of the amnesty clause as they appear in the new CBA agreement:

Amnesty

  • Each team permitted to waive 1 player prior to any season of the CBA (only for contracts in place at the inception of the CBA) and have 100% of the player’s salary removed from team salary for Cap and Tax purposes.
  • Salary of amnestied players included for purposes of calculating players’ agreed-upon share of BRI.
  • A modified waiver process will be utilized for players waived pursuant to the Amnesty rule, under which teams with Room under the Cap can submit competing offers to assume some but not all of the player’s remaining contract. If a player’s contract is claimed in this manner, the remaining portion of the player’s salary will continue to be paid by the team that waived him.

It is expected that teams would use this ability to free themselves of some really bad contracts and open up cap space. The ideal candidate for the Cavaliers to use the amnesty clause on is Baron Davis. The Cavs acquired Davis in the trade that sent Mo Williams and Jamario Moon over to the Los Angeles Clippers (the Cavs also got the draft pick that turned into Kyrie Irving in that deal). The reason the Clippers wanted to get rid of Baron so badly is his absurd contract. Davis is slated to make $13.9 million this season and then $14.8 million. By using their amnesty ability on Baron Davis, the Cavaliers would open up quite a bit of cap space.

While it seems obvious that the Cavaliers would want to relieve themselves of one of the worst contracts in the league, I'm not so sure that they should. If they waive Baron Davis, you are essentially paying for him to play for another team. The Cavs are still responsible for paying his salary and he is free to be claimed by another team. It is well known that teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat would be interested in acquiring Davis' services for relatively cheap.

If you are going to pay Baron Davis the same amount of money, why not have him play for the Cavaliers? After the trade brought him over from LAC, Davis was perhaps the Cavaliers most productive player, posting a PER of 19.3 in that time span. He emerged as a veteran leader (I was shocked, too), and seemed to be motivated again. Although Baron Davis may not be able to live up to his contract anymore, he still brings something to the table. In his prime, Davis was one of the best point guards in the league. With the Cavaliers hoping that Kyrie Irving can develop into a franchise point guard, Baron Davis could provide some guidance to help the process along. Furthermore, before you decide that you'd rather cut Davis in exchange for extra cap room you need to have a plan for using that cap room. Are the Cavs anticipating in making a run for one of the available free agents this year or next? Cleveland is an unlikely destination for a premier free agent in 2012 such as Dwight Howard or Chris Paul. The 2011 free agent class is underwhelming at best. Tyson Chandler, David West and Nene highlight the possible targets this year, none of whom seem to fit with the Cavaliers' rebuilding plans.

Overall, it is much more complicated than just ridding yourself of the worst contract on your books. Baron Davis may be grossly overpaid, but there doesn't seem like much of a reason for the Cavs to simply cut him. They are paying him regardless and would be foolish to let him go play somewhere else just to clear up cap room. Cap room is good in theory, but unless you have some sort of plan to use it to sign free agents, it's relatively useless. Cleveland would be better off keeping Baron Davis around to ease Kyrie Irving into the starting PG position. If the presence of BD proves to be detrimental to the young point guard's development, they can always amnesty him at a later date.

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