Luis Scola says goodbye to all that. (Getty Images)
Lost in the shock over the Houston Rockets using the amnesty provision on a starting-quality big man with an appropriate contract, and the possibility that this move could result in the Rockets potentially trading for Dwight Howard with the resultant space, was the realization that Luis Scola could actually hit the free-agent market this summer. Scola is just a year removed from averaging over 18 points and eight rebounds in only 32 minutes of play, and though those numbers dipped a bit in 2011-12, he is still the sort of power forward that could put an almost-there team straight over the top.
And because of the strange rules behind bidding on Scola's services as he clears waivers over Friday and the weekend, Luis could become an unrestricted free agent. And because so many teams are out of cap space after the initial free-agent bidding wars, he could be had for a very reasonable contract.
And, also, this is nuts.
Because in the three offseasons that the NBA has allowed its teams a bailout provision (2005, 2011, and this summer), this is only the second time a team has used the amnesty clause in a maneuver of sorts. The only thing that comes close was when the New York Knicks surprisingly said goodbye to Chauncey Billups in order to free up cap space to sign eventual Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler. That was less of a risk, mainly because the Knicks had a bead on Tyson and knew that the interest in signing the free-agent center was there.
Houston? It has no such bead. Nary a single bead, as Orlando figures out what to do with Howard. Bored with that angle, we're moving on to what the rest of the NBA is set to do with Scola.
Technically, Scola is on the books for just under $31 million over the next three seasons, but the final year of his contract was only guaranteed by the Rockets for a million dollars. Still, because of the largesse behind the contract Scola signed, teams hoping to bid on the power forward would have to start their minimum bid at a rate that might not be worth their while, even considering Scola's significant gifts.
As confirmed by cap guru Larry Coon, a player with a partially guarantee salary requires a minimum bid of the non-guaranteed amount. Scola is set to make $9.4 million and $10.2 million over the next two years. His final season is for $11.0 million with just $1 million guaranteed.
Therefore a minimum amnesty claim for Scola would start at the non-guarantee portion of exactly $10,041,037. That amount needs to be paid over three years, so the lowest claim would be $3,347,012.
There are teams, once all the cap holds have been extinguished and actual space freed, that could bid on Luis with that sort of cash. Still, his age (he'll turn 33 in the first week of the 2012-13 playoffs, and a few of these cap-wielding teams might not have designs on the playoffs for next season) will give these squads pause. As will his drop off in production last year. He's not fit for a rebuilding team.
Scola is fit for a team attempting to take the next step. Or one that already took that step, prior to taking a few steps backward.
Early scuttle has Dallas and San Antonio attempting to hop on board, which makes sense because you have to be over 30 to ride those rides. The Spurs, in one of their rare missteps, actually had to give up on Scola's rights for a song back in 2007 because they had leveraged themselves too close to the luxury tax to sign the versatile power forward through his prime. The Mavericks are scrambling after attempts to bring a youngster star fell through, and appear to be deciding just how much savvy they want to grab off of the amnesty pile at once — be it in the form of Scola, or former Philadelphia 76er Elton Brand.
Then you have the crews that don't appear to be treating money as if it were a significant stumbling stone, these days. The Los Angeles Lakers. Your New York Knicks. That Nets team that you just started to remember to call "the Brooklyn Nets."
All three teams are pretty loaded up front, but Scola's ability to pick and pop but also muscle in the low post is superior to even Pau Gasol and (sadly) Amar'e Stoudemire on some nights. Stoudemire is working hard to recover from an embarrassing 2011-12, and Andrew Bynum enjoyed a healthy season last year while shedding that "oft-injured" tag, but both could use support. As could the Nets, who are working with the undersized Gerald Wallace up front and could really form something special with Scola setting screens for pick and roll master Deron Williams.
Boston and Chicago are likely too close to the luxury tax threshold to take a shot. Miami doesn't need him, nor does an Oklahoma City Thunder team featuring a GM (Sam Presti) that was in-house when the Spurs drafted Luis back in 2002. Of course, the same luxury tax concerns that bothered San Antonio when it dealt Scola in 2007 are still in place.
Which means in an offseason that has seen 30-year-old Gerald Wallace handed around $10 million a year, Jason Kidd given a contract to play until he is 42, and Omer Asik tendered the potential to make over $14 million a year in 2015, an intelligent and productive player at a hard-to-fill position could be on the outside looking in as interested teams have to pass. Scola will get his Rockets money, despite being waived, but he might "have" to also play out his final productive years with in-between teams like the Suns or Timberwolves.
And that would be a drag.
Of course, we're just getting started here. Or, we're wrapping up the crazy part of the offseason. With the NBA, it's always to hard to tell.
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- Luis Scola
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