Let’s briefly talk amnesty.
For those of you who don’t know, the amnesty clause in the new CBA allows teams to essentially erase one contract from the books. This player still gets paid the money owed to them, but their salary doesn’t count toward the team’s cap limit. This allows teams who have made terrible signing decisions to increase their cap space significantly.
So who would be the most likely candidates from Minnesota to get amnesty’d?
Actually, we don’t have any obvious choices. Say what you want about the T-Wolves roster, but it is chalk full of combo forwards good contracts.
But what about Darko?
It’s ironic that the excellent blog FreeDarko.com closed down this year, since Minnesota has the opportunity to do just that. He remains the most obvious choice for amnesty, followed distantly by Michael Beasley, who, though he owns the largest contract on the team, is still an intriguing talent and also happens to be a restricted free agent after this year.
I can understand if Minnesota decides to keep Darko around. After all, if I had to pay someone $5 million a year just to stay away from my business, I would absolutely balk as well. Without Darko, Minnesota has no centers, and they face uncertainty in free agency, with no guarantees of bringing home an improvement over Milicic. For every Nene in the current market, there are three Kwame Browns and Theo Ratliffs. Signing these guys would be moving sideways rather than forward.
But it’s a bit of a catch 22. The center position is going to hurt for Minnesota all year, if they find themselves relying on Darko. Rick Adelman will suffer a cerebral hemorrhage trying to coach him. None of Adelman’s styles fit. You want this team to run? Darko can’t. You want this team to play better team defense? Darko can’t (he remains a good shot blocker, but a bad team defender). Need some offense from the post to free up your perimeter guys? Unless your opponent ABSOLUTELY can’t defend the left handed baby hook, Darko can’t do that either.
In some ways, this is ok. Centers don’t dominate the league anymore. Dwight Howard, Nene, and Andrew Bynum will cause serious matchup problems for the Wolves, but they cause serious problems for anyone they face.
On the other hand, players like Nene and Tyson Chandler will be available on the upcoming free agent market. While both players will probably be looking for more of a contender than Minnesota, there are several other upgrades from Darko available, such as Samuel Dalembert, whose defense would be a big help, or even someone like Nenad Krstic, who can stretch the floor nicely. (Note: Krstic is currently committed to playing in Russia. He does have an opt-out clause.)
Kahn could also attempt to outbid several teams for restricted free agent centers, including the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, the league’s leader in dunks last season.
A tangent: I’ll admit that DJ is my pipe dream for Minnesota. (There is nothing to indicate that the Wolves will make a run for him, this is just speculation.) The Clippers are owned by Donald Sterling. This man doesn’t care what’s best for his team. He just cares about cutting costs. If the Wolves offer DJ a decent amount of money, do you really think Sterling is going to match it? Of course not! DJ is a freakish athlete, an excellent shot blocker, and great at running the floor. Plus, his alley-oops are ridiculous, and we just got Rubio, who would treat Jordan like his new SportsCenter Top 10 toy. Don’t stop believin’.
Don’t be surprised if Minnesota doesn’t use their amnesty clause this season, which is a testament to the cap friendly contracts they’ve already signed. It’s also a little disappointing for those of us who like debating contracts and roster moves. But if Minnesota ends up making a move, it very well might be time to Free Darko.