The NBA's amnesty clause exists to help teams navigate the financial regulations of the new collective bargaining agreement, allowing each squad to release one player to get his contract off their salary cap books (while still paying the player his money). For team's up against or over the luxury tax, it's often a necessary aid to save a team funds. For others, it's simply a chance to open up some cap room to sign a more useful player.
The 2013 amnesty window closed on Tuesday, and several teams exercised their right to waive players right before the deadline. Our Dan Devine already hipped you to the Miami Heat's decision to release key playoff performer Mike Miller to lessen their salary cap burden. They were joined by the Milwaukee Bucks, who cut ties with veteran forward Drew Gooden, and the Toronto Raptors, who waived scoring forward Linas Kleiza, as reported by Yahoo!'s own Marc Spears. Both players will go through waivers and unrestricted become free agents if they are not claimed through that process. They join Miller, Metta World Peace of the Los Angeles Lakers (who was quickly signed by the New York Knicks), and Tyrus Thomas of the Charlotte Bobcats to make up this summer's five amnestied players.
Neither the Bucks' nor the Raptors' decision will send shockwaves through the league. Gooden was widely identified as overpaid when he signed his five-year, $32-million deal in 2010, particularly given that he was set to turn 29 before the start of the next season. While Gooden put up solid per-36-minute averages in the first two years of the contract, he also struggled with injuries, contributed little at the defensive end, and played only 16 games in 2012-13 as the Bucks attempted to trade him. With Gooden set to make a little under $6.7 million in each of the next two seasons, this decision was something of a no-brainer.
Meanwhile, Kleiza signed a four-year, $18.8 million deal in 2010, was pushed back in the Raptors' rotation by various acquisitions (Terrence Ross, Rudy Gay, and Landry Fields, especially), and played only 20 games with an 8.2 PER in 2012-13. The Lithuanian scorer played for Olympiacos in 2009-10 during a season off from the NBA and may find better offers overseas this time around, as well.
Both Gooden and Kleiza signed the kinds of contracts the amnesty clause exists to address, so it's safe to say that the system worked in these two cases. Yet these are also useful examples of how NBA teams have adjusted to signing free agents in the era of the new CBA, as well. Although hindsight affords us advantages the teams didn't have at the time, Gooden and Kleiza were not exactly highly coveted free agents three summers ago. Nevertheless, they were able to sign lengthy, well-paying deals if only because their teams had the cap space to do so. This summer, teams have been far more selective over which players they sign to long-term deals, with negative examples like Jose Calderon being few and far between. And while some long-term deals will likely become more oppressive to teams when they reach their end — Andre Iguodala's new four-year deal with the Warriors is a fine example — these decisions were also value propositions in which teams plan to take a hit later in the hopes of getting significantly better in the short term.
The upshot here is that a good number of these new contracts are likely to look just as bad as those handed to Gooden and Kleiza do now. However, we're already seeing far fewer offers of this sort, which suggests that the CBA is working as designed. Plus, those teams that make mistakes now won't have the excuse (or safety valve) used by the Bucks and Raptors on Tuesday. Those contracts won't be relics of an earlier era — they'll just be bad decisions.