As expected, the Los Angeles Lakers roster moves in the aftermath of Dwight Howard choosing to join the Houston Rockets have been pedestrian. As currently constructed, the Lakers simply aren’t capable of outright signing marquee players.
Though they aren’t franchise-changing additions, Chris Kaman and reportedly Jordan Farmar, should help stabilize a bench that failed to meet expectations last season. The Lakers have also announced they have re-signed Robert Sacre. The next question the Lakers face is whether or not they should use their amnesty provision; with a decision necessary by July 16.
The Lakers’ luxury tax bill for the 2012-2013 season was a league-leading $29 million. That’s quite a hefty check to write for a team that greatly underachieved. Understandably, the organization is interested in lowering that amount moving forward. That desire reportedly has left Metta World Peace as the player most likely to amnestied.
According to NBA salary cap expert Larry Coon, if the Lakers choose to amnesty World Peace, they would save roughly $14 million. Had Howard stayed, amnestying World Peace would have resulted in saving approximately $30 million. By losing Howard, the Lakers essentially have already decreased their luxury tax bill for the 2013-2014 season.
The prospect of World Peace costing $14 million certainly isn’t attractive given the fact that he is closer to the end of his career than the peak of it. However, while it is true the Lakers would be saving money with the amnesty provision, it is important to note the net savings isn’t $14 million.
The one-time use amnesty provision allows a team to release a player, removing them from the team’s salary cap, but not exonerating them from having to pay the player’s remaining salary. With World Peace set to earn $7.7 million next season, the net savings would be closer to $6 million.
Assuming a player is signed at the veteran’s minimum (only contract option available for the Lakers) to replace World Peace, which would appear to be necessary, the net savings amount then lowers to roughly $5 million. That cost is much easier to absorb than the initial belief of $14 million. Further complicating matters is the lack of depth at small forward currently on the roster and the limited, realistic options available as a replacement.
With all of that on the table, we must wonder how much ownership (namely Jim Buss), values loyalty and being competitive next year. World Peace’s play last season certainly wasn’t always pretty, but he competed night in and night out- which may be more than can be said for a certain ex-Laker who has moved on to the Lone Star state.
As news of the potential amnesty leaked yesterday afternoon, Kobe Bryant took to Twitter and sent out a series of tweets indicating he is not on board with cutting World Peace loose. Bryant has routinely expressed his support for World Peace, and admired him for his competitive fire. The Lakers have already made decisions that went against Bryant’s public comments (hiring Mike Brown and not Brian Shaw). Would it be smart for them to make another?
Even by retaining World Peace, the Lakers would still be able to maintain their financial flexibility for the 2014 offseason. Unlike Howard, World Peace understands the demanding culture and embraces the challenge that comes with being a Laker. With minimal risk involved, it’s only right to reward him with one more season.
Coming off a disappointing season, it is imperative for the Lakers to put their best foot forward and assemble the most competitive team possible. With the ability to carry over some cohesiveness from last season’s team, you never know what can happen. The removal of the toxic presence that was Howard may inspire this team to play above its projected expectations.