On Thursday, the Houston Rockets waived Virginia rookie forward Akil Mitchell. Mitchell will earn $150,000 for his participation in training camp and the preseason with the Rockets.
Why would the Rockets invest $150,000 in a player they clearly had no room for, with 15 guaranteed contracts and room needed to keep at least a 16th and possibly 17th (Patrick Beverley and Tarik Black)?
The answer is the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and the NBA Development League.
A number of teams have given relatively minor guarantees to players they fully intend to cut, as payment for joining their D-League affiliate (in addition to a light salary for playing in the NBA’s growing minor league).
The result is a small chunk of dead money on the books, but teams look at the play as an investment in the future.
Of course, there’s the other end of the spectrum, where teams are obligated to pay former players not to play for the organization. In the case of amnesty waivers, teams are obligated to compensate the unwanted player but gain salary cap relief.
In other circumstances, some teams are willing to use their salary cap space to buy-out players, often taking on trade assets from other franchises, who are desperate to avoid luxury tax, or just need salary cap space themselves.
The Orlando Magic are paying out a whopping $14.2 million in dead money to Glen Davis, Al Harrington, Jameer Nelson and Anthony Randolph. Technically, Orlando is also still paying out money to Gilbert Arenas, whose amnestied contract is technically off their books, but the team elected to pay him out over a longer period of time.
While Steve Nash (back) won’t play for the L.A. Lakers this season, his $9.7 million expiring contract can still be used in trade – so it’s not entirely dead.
The best use of waived funds is from the Philadelphia 76ers, who paid Pierre Jackson $400,000 after he tore his Achilles’ tendon in a summer league game.
The following is a list of teams locked into dead money, which will grow before the start of the season as players are cut to join the D-League, or veterans with guaranteed contracts are sacrificed to make room for others:
Atlanta Hawks: $1 million (John Salmons)
Boston Celtics: $100,000 (Erik Murphy)
Brooklyn Nets – $4 million amnesty (Travis Outlaw)
Charlotte Hornets – $9.4 million amnesty (Tyrus Thomas)
Chicago Bulls – $333,000 for 2014-15 and 2015-16 (Richard Hamilton)
Cleveland Cavaliers – $20,000 (Chris Crawford)
Dallas Mavericks – $150,000 (Eric Griffin); $7.7 million amnesty (Brendan Haywood)
Denver Nuggets – $35,000 (Jerrelle Benimon)
Houston Rockets – $150,000 (Akil Mitchell); $6.2 million amnesty (Luis Scola)
Los Angeles Clippers – $950,000 per year over five seasons (Carlos Delfino’s $650,000 and Miroslav Raduljica $300,000)
Memphis Grizzlies – $437,080 for 2014-15 and 2015-16 (Fab Melo); $163,296 per year over five seasons (Jamaal Franklin)
Miami HEAT – $100,000 (Tyler Johnson’s $75,000 and Larry Drew II’s $25,000); $6.6 million amnesty (Mike Miller)
Milwaukee Bucks – $6.7 million amnesty (Drew Gooden)
Minnesota Timberwolves – $1.8 million (Darko Milicic)
New York Knicks – $555,000 (Metta World Peace)
Orlando Magic – $14.2 million (Glen Davis’ $6.6 million, Al Harrington’s $3.9 million, Jameer Nelson’s $2 million, Anthony Randolph’s $1.8 million)
Philadelphia 76ers – $2.5 million (Eric Maynor’s $2.1 million, Pierre Jackson’s $400,000 and Jarvis Varnado’s $75,000)
Phoenix Suns – $778,000 per year over three seasons (Michael Beasley); $7.3 million amnesty (Josh Childress)
Portland Trail Blazers – $19.3 million amnesty (Brandon Roy)
Sacramento Kings – $924,000 per year over three seasons (Wayne Ellington); 35,000 (Sim Bhullar)
San Antonio Spurs – $20,000 (John Holland)
Toronto Raptors – $647,000 (Marcus Camby); $4.6 million amnesty (Linas Kleiza)
Utah Jazz – $195,000 (Dee Bost, Kevin Murphy and Jack Cooley at $65,000 apiece)
Washington Wizards – $8.5 million via amnesty (Andray Blatche)
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