Minnesota Timberwolves: How would the Wolves use an amnesty clause?

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - FEBRUARY 08: James Johnson #16 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - FEBRUARY 08: James Johnson #16 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

If the NBA ends up offering an amnesty clause to teams before the start of the 2020-21 season, how might the Minnesota Timberwolves use the provision?

For the first time in a few years, the Minnesota Timberwolves don’t have many bad contracts on their books.

There was some chatter on Monday regarding the NBA considering some version of an amnesty clause prior to the start of the next league year. The idea behind the clause is that it would help with what might be a previously unexpected yet drastic shift in the 2020-21 salary cap.

The idea came from Brian Windhorst, citing former executive and current ESPN personality Bobby Marks, on his Hoops Collective podcast along with Kirk Goldsberry and Ramona Shelbourne.

It’s been a few years since the amnesty clause was a thing, so a quick refresher. Basically, it would be a free opportunity for a team to waive a player and get his contract off of their books. The player would still be paid out by the team, but the terms could change and it wouldn’t count against the cap.

Also, just to avoid confusion: amnesty is an idea being mentioned by the folks on ESPN, and has in no way been officially reported as something that is happening. That said, it’s worth considering the implications of such a clause.

Some of the big names that immediately come to mind as amnesty candidates are Washington’s John Wall and Detroit’s Blake Griffin. There are plenty of good players who are drastically overpaid around the league that could also be candidates for amnesty.

The counterpoint, as Goldsberry mentions on the call, is that if players like Wall and Griffin hit the open market and are still being paid their pre-amnesty salaries, they could join “super teams” for mid-level or lower contracts. Does anybody really want either Wall or Griffin joining either team based in Los Angeles? The NBA surely doesn’t want that outcome.

The Timberwolves are mentioned near the end of the podcast as one of the teams up against the cap, but Windhorst realized that Evan Turner ($18.6 million) and Allen Crabbe ($18.5 million) will both be coming off the books this summer, creating north of $37 million in space.

That would leave James Johnson‘s $16 million player option as the only unsightly figure on the sheet for the Wolves.

My initial reaction is that the Wolves would be fine to have Johnson at that salary next year. While he’s obviously overpaid, he can still be a positive contributor as a third big man and locker room presence during the season and his expiring contract could be shipped out at the trade deadline if the team falls out of playoff contention.

But depending on how expensive Malik Beasley and/or Juan Hernangomez might get in restricted free agency the Wolves might ultimately choose to jettison Johnson and save the cap space.

He’s the only real candidate to be amnestied; the only player not named Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell that is making north of $5 million per season is last year’s No. 6 pick, Jarrett Culver.

On the one hand, it’s a good sign that the Wolves don’t have an albatross of a contract on their books. On the other side of things, it would be too bad to not be able to take advantage of a mulligan offered by Adam Silver.

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To be clear, the idea of a new amnesty clause is complete speculation by Marks and Windhorst. But it’s far from outside of the realm of possibilities.