Who Would Be Cut? Part 1.
Candidates: Ronny Turiaf (1 year, 4.4 million), Renaldo Balkman (2 years, $3.4 million)
The Knicks (like the Heat) don’t have a lot of cap space to spend on role players. Hence the Knicks have no terrible contracts (unless you don’t think Chauncey Billups is worth $14.2 million next season). Turiaf’s deal may be a little excessive for his skillset, but Balkman is the worst player on the team (congrats Andy Rautins!) and should be playing for the league’s minimum at best.
Final Verdict: Renaldo Balkman
Turiaf’s hustle, energy and defense aren’t easily replaced, regardless of his lack of size or offensive ability. Meanwhile, Balkman could certainly be superseded by a number of free agents at a cheaper price tag.
Candidates: Gilbert Arenas (3 years, $62.4 million), Hedo Turkoglu (3 years, $34.8 million), Chris Duhon (3 years, $10.8 million)
Where do I begin? Can the Magic buy multiple amnesty clauses from other teams that don’t need them? Despite playing impressively in New York (for one season), Duhon is the least productive point guard not named Ronnie Price. Turkoglu is no longer an All-Star, or even a top-notch closer anymore, limiting his value on the basketball court. Arenas’ best skills are blind dates and planking. That’s not what you want from a guy making over $20 million to come off the bench and average 8 points on .344 shooting.
Final Verdict: Gilbert Arenas
This is an easy call. Arenas has one of the most ludicrous contracts in the NBA (along with Joe Johnson and Rashard Lewis), and does not seem to fit well in Orlando. Look on the bright side Gil, you’ll have more time to tweet, give away free merchandise, and entertain the public.
Candidates: Elton Brand (2 years, $35.2 million), Andres Nocioni (2 years, $14.2 million)
The Sixers are currently being held back by a huge mistake that occurred in the summer of 2008: signing Elton Brand to a multi-year, mega-million dollar deal. Instead of getting the franchise big man they’ve sorely lacked, the Sixers got an injury-prone, past-his-prime power forward. Additionally, Nocioni isn’t going to get any playing time with Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young (possibly), Evan Turner, Louis Williams and Jodie Meeks ahead of him in the shooting guard/small forward rotation, making him replaceable and his contract exorbitant.
Final Verdict: Andres Nocioni
Brand still has value with his size, strength, and versatility, and will be an asset for Philadelphia as a starting or back-up power forward (behind Thaddeus Young). Nocioni’s gritty Chicago days are long gone, and has become too pricey for a non-rotation player.
Candidates: Amir Johnson (4 years, $25 million), Jose Calderon (2 years, $19.3 million), Linas Kleiza (2 years, $9.2 million), Leandro Barbosa (1 year, $7.6 million)
Father time is slowly catching up to both Barbosa and Calderon, as neither is enjoying their primes despite being in their late 20’s. Johnson is actually an underpaid player, but his future presence won’t be needed with the drafting of Jonas Valanciunas and development of Ed Davis. Kleiza is a skilled role player who makes this list because of a knee injury that may cause him to miss part or all of next season.
Final Verdict: Amir Johnson
Calderon is still an above average point guard, with no capable back up behind him (I consider Bayless a combo guard). Barbosa has one year left on his deal, and isn’t as washed-up as perceived. Kleiza’s scoring and toughness are useful, and his contract isn’t too bad to begin with. Johnson is expendable with Andrea Bargnani, Davis and Valanciunas on the roster (hopefully sooner than later).
Candidates: Rashard Lewis (2 years, $43.8 million), Andray Blatche (4 years, $29.8 million)
Lewis is insanely overpaid despite boasting average numbers and production at best. The former sharpshooter is still a decent player, just not in the $20 million plus range. Blatche is a skilled and talented big man, yet he lacks the motivation and maturity to turn into an All-Star level player. At some point, the Wizards may have to move on.
Final Verdict: Rashard Lewis
Besides Arenas and Outlaw, Lewis is probably the only other lock to be released from his contract. Luckily, he’ll have company.
Jovan Buha is a sophomore at the University of Southern California majoring in print & digital journalism. He also writes for ESPN TrueHoop’s ClipperBlog.com.