As ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reminded us this week, the league is running out of players eligible for the amnesty provision — that sexy and often misunderstood minx in the new collective bargaining agreement that allows teams to guillotine one player from their cap sheet. Teams were/are allowed only one bite at the amnesty apple over the length of this CBA. Use it on Charlie Bell’s expiring $4.1 million deal and you’re scrambling to offload $20 million in dead money to gain cap flexibility for Andre Iguodala or Dwight Howard. Pull the amnesty trigger on Chauncey Billups to slip Tyson Chandler into space, and you’re stuck with Amar’e Stoudemire, forever and ever, amen.
Teams can use the amnesty only on players working under contracts signed before the lockout, and only when said players are still on the same team they were on when the lockout started; players traded since then are not eligible for that sweet, sweet amnesty relief. Teams must still pay the players their amnesty.
Watching the Detroit Pistons try to score last season had a lot in common with being forced to watch a Whitney marathon. It was long, mildly offensive, and likely done against your better judgment. Finally feeling the effects of some disastrous personnel choices, the Pistons offense plummeted from 15th in 2010 all the way to 29th, only one ahead of the historically inept Charlotte Bobcats. Needless to say, "fun" was not a word used to describe their style of play.
This season has been a different story. Detroit has jumped all the way back up to 18th in offensive efficiency — and mere percentage points away from being firmly in the top half of the league — thanks in large part to the addition of rookie center Andre Drummond. The young big man not only has impressive individual numbers — posting a PER of 23.0 in limited minutes — but the Pistons’ offense as a whole is nearly five points better when Drummond is on the floor. What’s made the raw first-year player so good is the Tyson Chandler–esque role he’s taken on as part of a Detroit bench lineup that has quietly become one of the most entertaining in the NBA.
At the start of the second and fourth quarters, Drummond is often teamed with fellow reserves Charlie Villanueva, Austin Daye, Rodney Stuckey, and Will Bynum — a lineup that has completely demolished opposing defenses. In 81 minutes this year (small sample size alert!), that group has produced an astronomical offensive rating of 116.5 — good for the sixth-best mark in the NBA among five-man units that have played at least 80 minutes. Again, the sample size is small, but head coach Lawrence Frank has certainly found a way for his rookie center to thrive while still adjusting to the NBA game.