Berry Tramel

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Oklahoma City Thunder: Amnesty Kendrick Perkins?

by Berry Tramel Modified: May 16, 2013 at 2:20 pm •  Published: May 16, 2013
Should the Thunder amnesty Kendrick Perkins? / Photo by Sarah Phipps
Should the Thunder amnesty Kendrick Perkins? / Photo by Sarah Phipps

The question of the day in Thunderville shifts to Kendrick Perkins. Will the Thunder consider cutting Perk through the amnesty clause of the new collective bargaining agreement.

Jon Hamm is a reader and an Oklahoman who is a contributor t0 Larry Coon’s website that tries to decipher the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement. He often keeps me straight on economic issues regarding the NBA. Hamm on Wednesday night sent me an interesting analysis of the Perkins situation. It adds a lot of light.

Hamm has explained the amnesty clause before. Here’s a quick refresher. Each team can cut one player and, while still having to pay the player, not have it count against the salary cap and luxury tax. Any team under the salary cap can claim all or part of the contract. The team that places the largest bid wins, and the team that cut the player has to pay the remainder of the contract not paid by the team that claims him. If no team claims him under such a provision, he is a free agent and free to sign anywhere.

So here is Hamm:

“Quick terminology refresher for those that don’t obsess over these details like me: There’s a salary cap, a luxury tax line, and something the NBA calls an Apron. Teams under the salary cap can do pretty much whatever they want up to the amount of the cap. Teams can exceed the salary cap with salary cap exceptions. The tax kicks in at roughly $12-$13 million above the cap. The apron is an amount $4 million above the tax line that can potentially serve as a hard cap for teams for a year, if they use certain salary cap exceptions. Teams over the apron lose access to certain salary cap exceptions. That’s a quick glance at the cap rules, but hardly comprehensive.

“I’ve stated before that I didn’t think it likely that the Thunder will use the amnesty provision on Perkins. I’m sticking to that even in light of his play of late. I do think his role needs to change next season if he’s still in OKC. I even think it’s possible he could be traded. But I don’t think he’ll be amnestied. The simple reason is money.

“If OKC were to use the amnesty provision on Perkins they would still have to pay him over $18 million (due nearly $9 million next season and over $9 million the year after). Now, other teams have paid out that kind of cash and more in an amnesty transaction. Some used the amnesty to create salary cap room in order to sign other players. A couple of teams used the provision to rid themselves of a questionable character. Some used the provision to put some players out to pasture.

“But the Thunder would not create any room under the cap by waiving Perkins. And Perkins is far from a questionable character (he’s welcome at my dinner table anytime). And while overcompensated for his skill at this point, he’s nowhere near the stage of a Baron Davis or Darko Milicic. So that leaves the question of tax savings.

“Let’s assume (though we can never know, can we?) that the Thunder don’t do anything wild between now and after the draft. They could find themselves mildly in tax territory just by drafting with the picks they will have. Even if they wound up, say, $4 million over the tax line (a very high estimate), that would be a tax of $6 million. Does it make sense to spend $9 million (in Year 1 and over $18 million overall) to save $6 million? I’d have a hard time justifying that.

“Only they wouldn’t really save that. It stands to reason that OKC would need to sign someone to replace him. The Thunder could always adopt a smaller starting lineup next season by moving Ibaka to the 5 (center) and KD to the 4 (power forward), but that’s going to require either a new coach or a major philosophical programming change in Scott Brooks.

“So who’s going to be available this summer in terms of a true center? Let’s logically eliminate Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum and Nik Pekovic. That leaves folks like Zaza Pachulia. Old friend Byron Mullins. Chris Kaman. Timofey Mozgov (an admittedly intriguing idea a year ago). Tiago Splitter. That’s about it before you start moving from questionable ideas to very questionable ideas. Do any of those ideas move the needle at all? And if you do that, now you’re spending $13-$15 million on the center position next season with little to no improvement over what you would have had.

“Could the Thunder trade for someone like Phoenix’s Marcin Gortat? Sure, if there was a deal that made sense. But that can happen regardless of whether the amnesty provision is used or not used.

“Perkins has become the de facto lightning rod for Thunder fans in ways I don’t completely understand. It probably has to do with the myth that his salary wound up pushing James Harden out of OKC, for the most part. It’s led to an irrational dislike of a guy who should be a fan favorite for his hard work and the way he carries himself in the face of daily criticism. It’s unfortunate. But running him out of town with an $18 million paycheck is even more irrational.

“These are just a few of my thoughts. To be perfectly candid, I’m no smarter than the worst NBA executive in NBA history, so I don’t claim to be all-knowing. And I stand prepared for Sam Presti to surprise me and make this move anyway. But I can’t see it happening at this point.”


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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