In his piece on Rashard Lewis, Michael Lee reports something I've also heard a couple times: the Wizards are going to try to move Lewis at the draft to a team searching for payroll relief rather than immediately buy him out. Here's what Lee wrote:
But the Wizards view Lewis as a valuable trade chip. Now, no team is going to deal for Lewis with the belief that it is getting a player that is anything close to being worth his nearly $24 million salary (or even the $13.7 million buyout) next season. Lewis, though, could represent a chance for a team to shed salary in anticipation of the summer of 2013, when the true economic impact of the new CBA truly kicks in.
As noted before, if a team releases Lewis before June 30, they are only on the hook for just over $13 million of his salary next year, which represents $11 million of instant savings. That's why the Wizards are going to at least try to move him before draft day.
And they should.
Mostly, they should because there's no reason not to try. Personally, I'm skeptical that Lewis will yield much in a deal, because over half the teams in the league are either under the cap or an obvious Amnesty move away from being so. They can improve their cap number that way instead of dealing a good player for $13 million of dead weight and $11 million of savings.
At the same time, we've seen similar contracts yield useful players in trades in the past. Two summers ago, the Mavericks acquired Tyson Chandler from the Bobcats using Erick Dampier's instant expiring deal, and Chandler ended up being huge in their 2011 title run. The free-agent market is relatively weak this summer -- there's lots of demand, but not a ton of supply -- so this is a good way to potentially acquire a solid piece already under contract from a team looking to shed salary in preparation for the more punitive luxury-tax penalties that will kick in after the 2013 season. As Larry Coon explains.
-A team with a team salary $12 million over the tax level in 2011-12 pays a tax of $12 million.
-A team with a team salary $12 million over the tax level in 2013-14 pays a tax of $21.25 million (the incremental maximum of $7.5 million for $0 to $4,999,999, plus the incremental maximum of $8.75 million for $5 million to $9,999,999, plus $2 million times the incremental rate of $2.50 for $10 million to $14,999,999).
-A team with a team salary $4 million over the tax level in 2015-16 pays a tax of $10 million ($4 million times the repeater rate of $2.50 for $0 to $4,999,999) if they also were taxpayers in three of the previous four seasons, or pays a tax of $6 million ($4 million times the non-repeater rate of $1.50 for $0 to $4,999,999) if they were not taxpayers in at least three of the previous four seasons.
In other words: expect teams that have lots of long-term salary already committed to start cost-cutting. This is where the Wizards can benefit from keeping payroll down over the past couple years.
If it doesn't work? The Wizards can still buy Lewis out and use their cap space -- up to $12 million if they use the Amnesty clause on Andray Blatche -- to take on more salary in a trade. So, nothing is really lost.
This is what good front-offices do. They explore every avenue to improve and have backup plans in case those don't work.