James Ham found a pretty incredible wrinkle in the NBA amnesty clause on Sunday (discussion in this FanShot), and it's added a new dimension of talk surrounding the rule. The very short, simplified version: when players are waived under the amnesty rule, teams with cap space can bid for portions of the contract. The highest bid wins. The new team pays the percentage of their bid, the old team pays the remainder. The old team still receives complete cap savings; the new teams takes on the amount it bid on their cap sheet.
Basically, the few teams with decent cap space will have dibs on anyone who hits amnesty. The players will have no say in where they end up, since they'll be getting paid the same regardless.
Zach Lowe has vital questions about the clause: will the winning auction be for the entire length of the contract or just 2011-12, and will these successful waiver pick-ups be able to be waived under the stretch provision in the future? Those are important.
Another wrinkle I didn't expect: only players on teams' current rosters can be waived under the amnesty rule. Based on reports, teams will not be allowed to acquire a player already under contract via trade and waive them with amnesty.
This is where John Salmons comes in.
Salmons will help the team in 2011-12. The small forward position in 2010-11 was dreadful. Salmons isn't anyone's favorite players, but he can play consistent, unspectacular basketball on both ends. He's an upgrade. He's overpaid based on the recent market, he's not a great fit with ball-dominant Tyreke Evans and ball-dominant DeMarcus Cousins and we have largely unimpressive memories of his last tour in Sacramento ... but he's an upgrade at the position, and the roster is better with him than without him based solely on the depth chart at small forward.
But things change, and free agency, trades, internal development (Donte!) or the draft (Harrison!) could make Salmons expendable next year.
Salmons isn't a great fit, but he'll help stabilize the position for now, and that should be worth wins for the Kings. That onerous contract? It's onerous. But the Kings don't have to worry about finding someone to take it on. They can lose it via amnesty next summer, or in 2013 -- whenever it makes sense.
Geoff Petrie knew amnesty would be in the new deal (just as it was in 2005), and I imagine he strongly felt that teams wouldn't be forced to use it in Year 1. In trading Beno Udrih for Salmons, Petrie took on some additional salary (some of which was recovered by moving down for Jimmer) to remove a logjam at guard and shore up a weak position in the immediate term while maintaining flexibility to undo the acquisition in the future. Thanks to amnesty, it ends up being a very low-risk move.
It's not fair to Salmons to accept his tenure as a placeholder. He was the Kings' best player for long spells (the spells in which Kevin Martin was injured) while he was in Sacramento. He was really good for Milwaukee and Chicago, and again -- he's much more consistent and productive than any other small forward the Kings have had since Ron Artest.
But this is his lot. He's the small forward of the Sacramento Kings for now, until something better comes along. At that point, I fully expect Petrie will send him away ... for good.