Amnesty's a hot topic these days, with Sactown Royalty and Grantland both tackling the subject yesterday. John Canzano wrote last week for the Oregonian that NBA owners would like the ability to waive one player per team and remove him from their books (luxury, cap sheet, etc). They'd still pay him, but the cap benefits would dovetail nicely with the pursuit of a hard cap.
Sactown Royalty and Grantland both list amnesty candidates for every NBA team; here are the relevant sections from each:
Trevor Ariza (3 years, $21.8 million), Jarrett Jack (2 years, $10.4 million). New Orleans is a tricky situation as they're owned by the NBA, so I don't know who would make the decision on amnesty here, but if it were up to me, I'd cut Jarrett Jack. Because Jarrett Jack is awful and the Hornets kind of have the point guard position covered (for now). If they lose Chris Paul in free agency, having Jarrett Jack as insurance isn't going to make much of a difference.
Abrams: Trevor Ariza. Freeing themselves of Emeka Okafor's contract ($40.5 million through 2014) makes sense, but the Hornets need an inside presence (especially if David West is lost whenever free agency commences). Ariza has $21.8 million remaining through 2013-14, and you can replace swingmen pretty easily.
Simmons: I can't believe I'm saying this ... but I think Okafor is fairly paid. Isn't $12 million a year market value for a starting center who defends the rim and grabs 10 boards a game? Anyway, I liked watching last year's Hornets team - I'd rather see them bring their core guys back; use their amnesty on David Andersen (our most random amnesty guy: He's owed $2.7 million this season); use the extra cap room (they'd be at $43.4 million post-Andersen) to either to re-sign West, splurge for a rebounder (Kris Humphries?) or target two cheaper veterans (Andrei Kirilenko and Kenyon Martin?); then tell Chris Paul, "Re-sign with us, let's make a run at the title here. We're close. We could be this year's Dallas."
(Important note: I don't have a Plan B if Paul shakes his head and responds, "Um, we don't have an owner.")
So that's three responses and three different answers- Jack, Ariza, and... Andersen.
In terms of actual Hornets, I probably disagree with Abrams' take the most - specifically the implication that Ariza can be replaced by any random swingman. While it's true that Ariza was probably a net zero last season, how he arrived there is just as important. His offense was awful, and his defense was excellent. The caveat, of course, is that his offensive productivity has been highly situational throughout his career. For all his struggles, I still think that in the right system (essentially anything that isolates him fewer than three or four possession a game), he's a very valuable player to have.
Simmons' choice of Andersen (who signed a three year deal in Italy more than three months ago) is certainly farcical, but nonetheless, I don't think there's a "right" answer here.
Essentially, your choice of amnesty player reflects your fundamental outlook for the team. If you think that the a Paul/Ariza/Okafor core stands a good chance of contending for the next three to four years with the addition of David West and smart free agent signings, waiving Jack (or a player that plays for a different team on another continent) would seem reasonable. That approach is, of course, contingent on two things - Chris Paul resigning and the new CBA allowing enough flexibility for another quality free agent addition outside of West.
If you think keeping Chris Paul is a pipe dream or that the Paul/Ariza/Okafor core is fundamentally flawed, cutting Okafor makes sense. He's the biggest contract we have, and whether you think he's fairly compensated or not (I lean towards Simmons' side on this), it's the closest the team can get to a completely fresh start.
The Oh Crap What Will Chris Paul Think Factor is ubiquitous at this point, and it also has to be considered here. Cutting a starting center isn't exactly a display of initiative.
Personally, I don't have a strong opinion on the Hornets' amnesty pick, and I won't until CBA figures come out. Whether the cap is hard or soft, what the cap figure actually is, and what future rules apply to player contracts are all questions that need to be answered before this will make any real sense. It's simply too early.