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Updated: Most likely amnesty cuts

Brandon Roy, Gilbert Arenas and Mike Miller could be playing on new teams at the start of the season. AP Photo, US Presswire, Getty Images

It's a lot less of a mystery now.

Pretty much everyone in the NBA has a decent handle on how the return of the so-called "amnesty" clause, conceived in 2005, is designed to operate in 2011.

That's the good news.

The bad news: Looks like the magic bullet that teams will be granted in the new labor agreement, inviting them to take a mulligan on their most unpalatable contract, will not lead to the sort of free-agent bonanza that so many of us transaction-game lovers were anticipating. At least not immediately.

And here's why: Teams will be permitted to waive one player with pay prior to any season of the labor deal -- only for contracts in place with the team making the move as of July 1, 2011 -- and have 100 percent of the player's salary removed from a team's payroll for both salary-cap and luxury-tax purposes. That means teams can save this mulligan for next season or beyond, unlike in 2005 when teams had just two weeks in August to use or lose the original amnesty clause forever.

Also: Players who are released via the new amnesty clause don't instantly become free agents like they did in 2005, when Michael Finley was not only paid millions to leave the Dallas Mavericks but also had the right to head straight to San Antonio and collect a championship ring with the Spurs within two seasons. Players released through the 2011 amnesty clause have to go through a modified waiver process before becoming a free agent that gives teams with salary-cap space first crack at submitting offers in the manner of a blind auction to claim an amnestied player by bidding the amount of the player's contract they're willing to eat.

The combined effect of those restrictions are what prompted one unnamed team executive to tell The New York Times earlier this week that three to six teams, at most, will release players via amnesty before the Dec. 25 scheduled start of the 2011-12 season. No one is disputing that estimate, either, because the temptation to save the amnesty card, as insurance against truly dire circumstances down the road. is going to be too tough for most teams to resist.

All teams, though, continue to draft their own mock amnesty lists, attempting to forecast which players do or don't have a shot to ultimately join the free-agent pool through the amnesty hatch. And we've re-done our own team-by-team breakdown of the amnesty thought process for each of the NBA's 30 front offices, in consultation with various team executives and agents, since these mulligans have to be cashed in between Dec. 9 and Christmas Day or pocketed until the summer of 2012 at the earliest.

ATLANTA HAWKS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Amnesty candidate: Marvin Williams

Analysis: The Hawks won't immediately burn their amnesty card on Williams for a few reasons.

(1) Atlanta's ownership situation is still in flux after the collapse of the team's sale to California businessman Alex Meruelo. (2) Sources with knowledge of the Hawks' thinking insist that they apparently still believe a trade market can be found for Williams despite a longstanding inability to find any trade takers for his contract ($25 million to go through 2013-14) in recent months. (3)The unspoken truth in the corridors of the Hawks' offices is that saving their amnesty clause as an insurance policy for Joe Johnson's gargantuan contract is their smartest play.

Although there can be no conceivable motivation left within the organization to try to camouflage the grave Williams mistakes (drafting him and then extending him) of the past -- since the guy (Billy Knight) who drafted Williams ahead of Chris Paul when Paul wanted to land with the Hawks is long gone -- immediately releasing the No. 2 overall pick from 2005 creates no cap space for ATL. So it's better to bypass amnesty in the short term in case Johnson starts to seriously slip.

BOSTON CELTICS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Amnesty candidate: Jermaine O'Neal

Analysis: The focus in Boston these days is keeping Rajon Rondo plugged into the program amid rampant speculation that the Celts are shopping him aggressively.

Amnesty? Not on Celtics president Danny Ainge's radar right now. (Ainge told the media today he will not amnesty anyone.)

Ainge has never entertained thoughts of cutting loose any of his three veteran stars -- Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen -- and remains reluctant to let O'Neal go as well. Boston's payroll is such that releasing O'Neal through the amnesty mechanism wouldn't get the Celts under the salary cap. Factor in Ainge's fondness for O'Neal and you can understand why the Celts are prepared to overlook the fact that the 33-year-old played in just 24 regular-season games in his first season in green and averaged just 5.4 points and 3.7 rebounds.

CHARLOTTE BOBCATS

Most likely amnesty cut: DeSagana Diop

How likely to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Other amnesty candidates: Matt Carroll, Boris Diaw, Corey Maggette

Analysis: Nothing has changed here. The Bobcats' roster is teeming with players carrying weighty contracts. And Michael Jordan, one of the hardest-line owners during the lockout summer, doesn't want to pay someone not to play but desperately needs to create some payroll flexibility.

Diop made nearly $6.5 million last season, played 13 games and averaged 1.3 points and 2.5 rebounds, resulting in a player efficiency rating of just 5.4. With two more seasons totaling $14.2 million left on the books -- and with Diop having never posted a PER higher than 12.4 in his nine seasons -- Jordan surely won't be able to resist shedding that contract if the Bobcats can get anywhere in free agency.

Word is that Jordan thinks he can make at least one move to improve the roster if the Bobcats can get farther under the salary cap than their current $6 million. There will be calls to oust Carroll, Diaw and Maggette, too, but Diop is one of the easier calls on the board.

CHICAGO BULLS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Amnesty candidates: None

Analysis: The Bulls, as stated previously, will be interested in the amnesty process when the season starts, but strictly in terms of the players released by other teams. Grantland's Bill Simmons graciously suggested that the Bulls use the amnesty provision on Carlos Boozer to create salary-cap space for the potentially loaded 2012 free-agent class, but sources familiar with Chicago's plans insist that it's not even a consideration.

Boozer's debut season in Chicago was an undeniable struggle, but the Bulls like the roster they've assembled -- filled with recent free-agent signees and players on their rookie contracts -- and are focused on adding to it. ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard reported earlier this week that Chicago lusts after likely Portland amnesty casualty Brandon Roy, but Roy is a virtual lock to be snagged by a team with cap space.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Most likely amnesty cut: Baron Davis

How likely to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Other amnesty candidate: Antawn Jamison

Analysis: The Cavs dumping Davis has been widely regarded as one of the inevitabilities of the second amnesty wave in NBA history. Especially since the Cavs landed Kyrie Irving with the No. 1 overall pick in June and still have Ramon Sessions on the roster ... with Davis owed $13.9 million this season and $12.25 million of his $14.8 million salary in 2012-13 guaranteed even if he's waived by June 30, 2012.

Yet sources close to the situation insist, even more loudly than they did in our first extended amnesty discussion a few weeks ago, that the decision to dump Davis and hand the keys to Irving on Day 1 isn't nearly as automatic as outsiders presume. Sources told ESPN.com that the Cavs have tried to engage teams in Davis trade talks in recent weeks, while coach Byron Scott privately clings to the hope that the Cavs keep Davis to move him to 2-guard and put him in the same backcourt as Irving.

Sources with knowledge of Davis' thinking maintain that owner Dan Gilbert's fears that Davis will join Miami if he was released through amnesty and went unclaimed in the subsequent waiver process are unfounded, because Davis prefers at least three destinations (Knicks, Lakers, and Bobcats in a Charlotte reunion with former coach Paul Silas) to South Beach. But the Cavs are known to have little interest in cap space -- aiming to stockpile trade assets and future draft picks instead -- and are thus exploring every other option with Davis apart from amnesty.

DALLAS MAVERICKS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Amnesty candidates: Brendan Haywood, Shawn Marion

Analysis: No one made a splashier amnesty move in 2005 than the Mavs' release of Michael Finley, but Mark Cuban felt he had no choice in that circumstance because of the millions and millions saved in luxury tax by parting company with a longtime franchise cornerstone.

Circumstances are different in the Mavs' post-championship universe. Going down the amnesty road with Haywood won't even be considered, sources say, until the Mavs know whether they can keep highly coveted free agent Tyson Chandler. And even if it does manage to hang on to Chandler, Dallas contends that it could have traded Haywood last season if it wanted to and thus should keep Chandler's backup to see what kind of trade market is out there for him if necessary. Given that the final year on Haywood's contract -- worth $10.5 million in 2015-16 -- is fully unguaranteed, Dallas would also argue that his deal isn't as ghastly as it looks on paper.

In short? With the new luxury-tax scale that will ramp up charges for big spenders not being phased in until Year 3 of the new labor deal, Dallas has sufficient incentive to hold off making a decision on releasing Haywood (unless waiving him immediately becomes critical to the re-signing of Chandler) or Marion (coming off a strong playoff run as the Mavs' defensive co-anchor on the perimeter alongside Jason Kidd) until the summer of 2012.

DENVER NUGGETS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Amnesty candidate: Al Harrington

Analysis: Harrington is on the list of presumed amnesty slam dunks thanks to the $27.7 million left on his contract ($16.5 million guaranteed). Be advised, though, that cutting someone and still paying them huge dollars goes against the eye-on-every-penny nature of Stan Kroenke, whose influence in the organization obviously continues to be felt hugely even though son Josh is technically operating the franchise.

Thanks to the exodus of Nuggets free agents to China in the offseason -- Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith -- it's not inconceivable that Harrington hangs around for a while. The deciding factor figures to be Nene's impending free agency and whether the resulting flexibility from releasing Harrington could somehow help that cause.

The Nuggets simply don't have enough players under contract at present to start giving away proven NBA talent.

DETROIT PISTONS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Amnesty candidates: Rip Hamilton, Charlie Villanueva, Ben Gordon

Analysis: It's widely assumed that the Pistons will waive Rip after all of last season's chaos. He's scheduled to earn $12.5 million this season and he has a partially guaranteed contract worth $9 million in 2012-13. Throw in the fact that the 33-year-old was seriously unhappy throughout the short-lived John Kuester era, plus Detroit's longstanding struggles to find a trade taker for him, and amnesty sounds like a natural solution.

Yet sources say the Pistons still believe Hamilton has some trade appeal to contending teams, particularly as he moves closer to the end of his contract. Debatable as rival teams might find that stance, sources close to the situation add that the Pistons' preference is keeping everyone.

Villanueva has $24 million left on his contract and averaged a mere 3.9 rebounds per game last season while earning $7.5 million. Gordon, meanwhile, is still owed $37 million and coming off a similarly punchless season for a team overflowing with guards. Cutting ties with either would be an expensive admission for Joe Dumars that the Pistons' substantial 2009 summer funds were misspent, but the bigger factor that might keep those two in Detroit is the reality that the Pistons just aren't regarded as a free-agent destination these days.

Maybe that will eventually change under new owner Tom Gores, but for now Gores is realistic. The Pistons could move roughly $15 million under the cap if they used amnesty on Villanueva, but sources say they'd only do that for Nene, who hasn't given any indication that Motown is on his list.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Amnesty candidates: Andris Biedrins, Charlie Bell

Analysis: The Grantland duo of Abrams and Simmons helpfully nominated David Lee as an amnesty possibility, but sources with knowledge of Golden State's thinking openly scoffed at that idea, insisting that the Warriors continue to have a high degree of fondness for Lee, who happens to be one of owner Joe Lacob's favorite players no matter how daunting his contract figures (owed nearly $69 million through 2015-16) might seem.

Sources have likewise maintained that the Warriors are leaning against ditching Biedrins, irrespective of the Latvian lefty's ongoing (and frightening) funk at the free throw line, corresponding reticence to get involved on offense in any meaningful way and the $27 million owed to him through 2013-14. The Warriors' new brass feels no pressure to scrub Biedrins from the book, subscribing to the well-worn NBA maxim that says established NBA big men are routinely overpaid and always tradable somewhere.

That stance on Biedrins would naturally change, sources say, if Nene decides he wants to play in Oakland. In the interim, Golden State can either use amnesty on Charlie Bell if it decides that excising his $4.1 million expiring contract creates needed cap space … or the Dubs can save amnesty for down-the-road insurance on the Lee, Biedrins and Monta Ellis contracts.

HOUSTON ROCKETS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Amnesty candidate: Hasheem Thabeet

Analysis: Don't look for Houston to make use of the amnesty provision unless releasing someone with an expiring contract -- which pretty much comes down to Thabeet -- provides immediate cap space to clinch the difference-making signing of a difference-making big man. (Perhaps you've heard this one before … but that plan changes if Nene says he wants to be a Rocket.)

The only players on the size-craving Rockets' roster with substantive contracts at the moment are the highly regarded Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry.

INDIANA PACERS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Amnesty candidates: Dahntay Jones, James Posey

Analysis: The Pacers' financial flexibility is as enviable as any team's in the league. Larry Bird and David Morway have gradually cleared away all of Indiana's bad contracts and head into the next free-agent period scheduled to start Dec. 9 with a ton of cap space. As a result, Indy doesn't have to amnesty anyone.

But the Pacers are weighing whether to cast aside Jones, who has two years left on his contract compared to Posey's expiring deal. The clincher figures to be what Indiana gets done in free agency.

If Indy can land a coveted signing or two, Jones or Posey might have to be cast aside. If the Pacers struggle to spend all the cap space they have going into this season, they'll save the amnesty clause for the summer of 2012 and keep Jones or Posey (or both) to make sure they fulfill any minimum-salary requirements.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

Most likely amnesty cut: Ryan Gomes

How likely to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Other amnesty candidate: Randy Foye

Analysis: Sensible as it seems for the Clippers to consider releasing Gomes when he has two seasons and some $4 million in guaranteed money left on his contract, don't forget who owns this team. Donald Sterling, remember, isn't exactly known for paying people to stop working for him.

Many veteran Sterling-watchers don't even think he could have brought himself to use the amnesty provision on the since-traded Baron Davis, whose deal is far richer, so there's conceivably only one scenario that would prompt Sterling to pay Gomes to go away. And that's if matching an offer to restricted free-agent center (and Blake Griffin favorite) DeAndre Jordan gets so pricey that the Clips have no alternative.

If Gomes' departure can create the sort of cap room that enables the Clips to re-sign Jordan and upgrade at small forward, that's when you'll see it. Maybe. But the Clips -- who, according to sources, are among the teams with strong interest in Shane Battier -- are focused on other things. Like getting Eric Gordon signed to an extension.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Most likely amnesty cut: Luke Walton

How likely to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Other amnesty candidates: Metta World Peace, Steve Blake

Analysis: Despite some undeniable exasperation within the organization after the former Ron Artest's erratic play in 2010-11 -- followed up by his all-too-real name change to Metta World Peace -- sources say L.A. is targeting Walton (owed $11.5 million this season and next season) as its amnesty player.

The only apparent disclaimer is the possibility that the Lakers could double-dip in terms of savings in the form of injury relief should Walton elect to retire, which would then make a subsequent amnesty divorce from the mercurial Metta hard to resist financially. One team insider said that Walton, though just 31, has indeed begun to contemplate retirement because of a debilitating back condition, with Walton himself telling ESPN.com's Andy Katz earlier this summer that he's seen multiple doctors who have advised him to stop playing. So stay tuned.

World Peace could also move back ahead of Walton in the amnesty line if the Lakers do some research and find out that Metta would definitely be picked up by another team off the amnesty waiver wire with cap room, thereby reducing how much L.A. would owe him. Just don't forget that L.A. has as much incentive as any team out there to save its amnesty card for the summer before the 2013-14 season, when the tax rules get so much more punitive for big spenders.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Amnesty candidates: None

Analysis: Owner Michael Heisley and GM Chris Wallace have trimmed the fat over the past few seasons to the point that the Grizzlies legitimately don't have a bad contract on their roster. The far more pressing question in Memphis is how the Grizz are going to find a way to re-sign restricted free agent Marc Gasol without having to slice the payroll somewhere else.

That's led some to speculate that perhaps even Rudy Gay might be an amnesty candidate. But that's a total fantasy, according to sources with knowledge of the Grizzlies' thinking. The Grizz believe that, had Gay been healthy, they would have been in the Western Conference finals last season. So the last thing they're going to do is set a potential All-Star free, even if some around the league still question whether Gay can justify the $69 million left on his deal.

Beyond letting unrestricted free agent Shane Battier walk away, Heisley has left the distinct impression that he's going to (A) match any offer on Gasol and (B) essentially bring last season's Cinderella team back.

MIAMI HEAT

Most likely amnesty cut: Mike Miller

How likely to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Other amnesty candidate: Eddie House

Analysis: The Heat had the highest hopes when they signed with Mike Miller to a five-year, $34 million deal in 2010. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all took less than the max to open up the requisite cap space for Miller because they were so confident in his ability to provide the outside shooting Miami obviously needs. Miller, too, took less money with the Heat than he was offered elsewhere. But Miller's luck has been all bad since joining the Heatles, as evidenced by the hernia surgery he was required to undergo this week.

That's the fourth surgery for Miller in the space of a year and the third since the end of last season. He's now had operations on both thumbs and his left shoulder in addition to the hernia procedure, on top of problems with concussions with previous teams.

The Heat were already seriously considering using the amnesty clause on Miller before his latest health setback, with four years and $29 million left on his contract and new rules forthcoming that limit the use of the mid-level exception for luxury-tax teams. The Heat's preference, of course, is to avoid paying Miller to leave, especially when it would potentially allow him to wind up with a fellow Eastern Conference contender like the Chicago Bulls. But Miami's payroll is already at $67 million and it has holes to address at point guard, center and wing depth behind Wade and James.

So ...

Shedding Miller's $5.4 million this season and next season's $6 million would create flexibility that the Heat need as much as outside shooting. Expect Pat Riley to exhaust all options to avoid going the amnesty route with Miller -- including trying to work some sign-and-trades -- but Miller's trade value has obviously taken a hit thanks to the latest injury news.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Amnesty candidates: Beno Udrih, Drew Gooden

Analysis: After trades to undo the ill-fated acquisitions of Corey Maggette and John Salmons, Milwaukee's amnesty choice seemingly comes down to two players: Drew Gooden or Beno Udrih.

Except that the Bucks prefer Option No. 3: Keeping both for now.

Gooden's salary figures (he's due $26 million over the next four seasons) jump off the page as pricey, but sources say that the Bucks intend to keep him for at least one more season because they badly need frontcourt depth and rebounding.

Milwaukee, meanwhile, has also made it clear that it wants to keep Udrih, at least for the short term, despite the fact that Brandon Jennings is the clear starter at the point and both Shaun Livingston and Keyon Dooling play the position. It initially appeared as though Udrih, coming off a fairly useful season with the Kings, might wind up on the free-agent market, but the Bucks have let it be known that they think the Slovenian guard can be a productive player for them.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Amnesty candidates: Darko Milicic, Brad Miller, Nikola Pekovic, Luke Ridnour, Martell Webster

Analysis: The Wolves might be a terrible team but they don't currently have any egregious contracts on their books. Although Darko doubters may beg to differ, Wolves officials still believe in the enigmatic big man from Serbia.

Management might privately acknowledge that the nearly $15 million he's owed over the next three seasons is high, but the reality is that Minnesota would miss Darko's interior presence and shot-blocking ability on a nightly basis. Another valid question: Who would replace him?

You're likewise bound to hear Ridnour's name as an amnesty possibility in the wake of Ricky Rubio's arrival, but someone is going to have to mentor the Spaniard. And if Rubio shines right away, there will still be a trade market for Ridnour. So there's no amnesty urgency in Sota.

NEW JERSEY NETS

Most likely amnesty cut: Travis Outlaw

How likely to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Other amnesty candidate: Johan Petro

Analysis: Signing Outlaw to a five-year, $35 million deal was one of the most head-scratching moves in the summer of 2010. Outlaw rewarded the Nets with the worst season he's ever had, registering an abysmal PER of 8.8 last season. The Nets, as a result, have to be relishing the return of the amnesty clause as much as anyone.

There are also strong indications, sources say, that Outlaw could be claimed by another team with cap room after being released through the amended waiver process, which only gives New Jersey more incentive to make the move. The Nets, in that scenario, would no longer be on the hook for Outlaw's whole salary, while also freeing up some cap space to sign a new small forward (such as Caron Butler, Tayshaun Prince or Andrei Kirilenko).

Given how aggressively the Nets are chasing free agents such as Nene and Tyson Chandler to upgrade the roster around Deron Williams -- while continuing their trade pursuit of Dwight Howard -- Outlaw's exit in Jersey via the amnesty door is as close to a sure thing as there is on this list.

NEW ORLEANS HORNETS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Amnesty candidates: None

Analysis: The yet-to-be-sold, league-owned Hornets have a mere five players under contract. They thus have, by all accounts, zero appetite to exercise amnesty for anyone. That includes Trevor Ariza, who's still highly regarded within the organization despite a subpar season in 2010-11 and a contract worth almost $22 million over the next three seasons.

As for Emeka Okafor … guess again. With fellow big men David West and Carl Landry both headed for free agency? Okafor is a Hornets cornerstone now.

NEW YORK KNICKS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Amnesty candidates: Renaldo Balkman, Ronny Turiaf

Analysis: Looking at the Knicks' post-Donnie Walsh roster -- after he shed contract after contract without the benefit of amnesty -- it's downright lean. Balkman doesn't make much money, but no one whom the Knicks would seriously consider waiving really does.

They like Turiaf's size and toughness far too much to let him go, so the expendable Balkman appears to be the lone Knick in danger. But New York has little motivation to part with a minnow contract like Balkman's $1.67 million salary, since it doesn't need cap space until the summer of 2012.

Look for the Knicks to waive Balkman next summer before free agency if they need the extra pinch of cap room then. Saving the amnesty clause for at least one season makes the most sense, if only to retain it as an insurance policy against Amare Stoudemire's big contract.

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Amnesty candidate: Nate Robinson

Analysis: Robinson is the only Thunder player that you could even conceive of them ushering through the amnesty exit door. But then you remember who we're talking about here. OKC paying someone not to play? That's not in the Sam Presti playbook.

The far more likely scenarios are a contract buyout that reduces the Thunder's payout -- and theoretically frees up some extra cash for the pursuit of Shane Battier -- or Presti continuing to shop Robinson's $4.5 million expiring contract around for potential trades.

ORLANDO MAGIC

Most likely amnesty cut: Gilbert Arenas

How likely to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Amnesty candidate: Hedo Turkoglu

Analysis: Unlike in Washington, where the prospect of cutting ties with Rashard Lewis would lead to huge salary-cap benefits, Orlando can't create any significant cap room by exiling Arenas. So why would the Magic pay off the $62.4 million left on Arenas' contract through 2013-14 when there's little immediate financial benefit to them?

Here's why: Amnesty 2011 gives Magic GM Otis Smith an opportunity to undo a gamble on his good buddy Gil that backfired spectacularly and take at least some of the considerable tension out of the air after the toxic end to last season in that first-round exit to Atlanta … at a time when the weight of Dwight Howard's 2012 free agency happens to hang over all of Central Florida. The Magic, remember, have a deep-pocketed financier in Rich DeVos who would be on the short list of NBA owners who could withstand the huge financial hit required to send Arenas away.

Whether Howard lasts another season in the Magic Kingdom is already a matter of great debate, not even a week after the owners and players shook hands, but this much is clear in Orlando: Excising Arenas through amnesty and insisting that any team that trades for D-12 also takes back Hedo Turkoglu are no-brainer moves for the Magic.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Most likely amnesty cut: Andres Nocioni

How likely to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Other amnesty candidate: Elton Brand

Analysis: Scrap any thoughts you have about the Sixers ditching Brand, because sources with knowledge of Philly's thinking have made it clear that it's not an option, even with $35.2 million left on Brand's contract through 2012-13. Sixers coach Doug Collins is Brand's loudest supporter in the organization and will inevitably convince new owner Josh Harris that the focus should be on Elton's passable 2010-11 production as opposed to the big money he's still owed.

Most insiders surveyed believe that Nocioni, due to earn $6.7 million in 2011-12, will be the Sixer to go. Yet there's a growing sense that Philly will try to buy Nocioni out instead -- since the Argentine has expressed interest in finishing his career back home or in Europe -- and play amnesty wait-and-see with Brand.

PHOENIX SUNS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Amnesty candidates: Josh Childress, Mickael Pietrus, Hakim Warrick

Analysis: For all the understandable attention on Childress as a likely amnesty casualty, all available signals suggest Phoenix wants to hold off on cashing its amnesty chip. As bad as Childress' $34 million contract looks right now -- after he averaged just five points per game last season and struggled for court time -- sources say that the Suns haven't committed to anything beyond waiving Vince Carter before the start of the season to cash in on the cap-friendly final season of Carter's contract and move out of the luxury tax.

The Suns have less than $30 million committed to salaries in 2012-13, so they have some flexibility even if Childress hangs around a bit longer. So it all adds up to an interesting call for Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby -- who happens to be Childress' former agent -- but not nearly as interesting as the biggest conundrum in the desert: whether to trade Steve Nash before Nash's contract expires in June.

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

Most likely amnesty cut: Brandon Roy

How likely to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Other amnesty candidate: Marcus Camby

Analysis: If there's a more interesting amnesty conundrum out there in 2011, show us. Because of Roy's stature in the organization and the community, it's hard to imagine Portland going through with letting him go. Rewind to his franchise-player flashes in Game 4 of the Dallas series and it gets even harder. The reality, though, is that Roy has deteriorating knees, more than $50 million guaranteed left on a cap-clogging contract that runs through 2014-15 and little else on last season's highlight reel apart from that Game 4 eruption.

The Blazers are publicly insisting that no decision has yet been made and that they haven't ruled out giving Roy one more season to try to regain something resembling his old form, but cutting ties with Roy -- expensive as it'll be -- looks like what both sides need to start fresh. Portland can't use the full mid-level exception and can't re-sign Oden without cutting ties first with Roy.

Sources say that the Portland coaching staff has been told to brace for Roy's release and that the staff didn't object. The Blazers, if they kept him for even one more season, would have a payroll approaching $75 million when the season starts.

SACRAMENTO KINGS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Amnesty candidates: Francisco Garcia, John Salmons

Analysis: The Kings' need for Garcia, now that they've drafted Jimmer Fredette, is questionable at best, especially at the steep price of $18.3 million over the next three seasons. But there's going to be a minimum salary level in the forthcoming labor deal that Sacramento would conceivably struggle to hit as the roster is presently constituted unless big signings or trades are on the way when camps and a compressed transaction period eventually commence.

So it seemed safe to presume -- even before Kings president Geoff Petrie assured Sports Illustrated.com's Sam Amick on Wednesday that no amnesty move will be made in Sacramento -- that Garcia and John Salmons will have to start the new season with the Kings.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Amnesty candidate: Richard Jefferson

Analysis: The Spurs, remember, led the push for an amnesty clause that could be "pocketed" for later use in any offseason during the life of the CBA. That should be a pretty strong hint about their plans.

Jefferson, by all accounts, will get one more season to make it work in San Antonio, in spite of the $9.3 million, $10.2 million and $11 million he's scheduled to earn over the next three seasons.

It makes sense that the Spurs want to keep fielding the strongest team possible before Tim Duncan's window shuts for real, but bear in mind that even one more year of RJ is going to be expensive. The Spurs' payroll would still be above $65 million in 2011-12 if they did release him.

TORONTO RAPTORS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Amnesty candidates: Jose Calderon, Linas Kleiza

Analysis: Sources with knowledge of Toronto's thinking say that the Raptors' latest plans call for hanging on to their amnesty clause for down-the-road usage. Calderon might have more than $20 million left on his deal through 2012-13, but he'd most likely be the Raptors' starting point guard if the season started tomorrow. So Toronto's not just cutting him loose.

As for Kleiza and his three remaining seasons with the Raps at $4.6 million annually, Toronto will undoubtedly wait to see what sort of cap breaks teams get with injured players in the new labor deal before eating that contract. The Raps could well save a similar amount of money on Kleiza, who had knee surgery in February, through insurance mechanisms compared to the amnesty provision. Which means there's no obvious Raptor to be asked to head for the border.

One disclaimer: Sources say Toronto is trying to be as aggressive as it can be in the big-man market in free agency and has informed the players involved that it intends to lodge serious bids for Nene, Chandler and restricted free agent Marc Gasol. In the unlikely event that releasing a player through amnesty could clinch the signing of one of those players, rest assured that the Raptors will go for it.

UTAH JAZZ

Most likely amnesty cut: Mehmet Okur

How likely to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Other amnesty candidate: Raja Bell

Analysis: This will be a challenging call for the Jazz. Injuries kept Okur from contributing last season and, at 32, there are questions about how much he has left. With the team in rebuilding mode, Al Jefferson manning the middle and lottery pick Enes Kanter ready to contribute, it can be argued that Utah no longer needs him. (ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard reported earlier this week that Jefferson and fellow forward Paul Millsap were being made available via trade because of the presence of youngsters Derrick Favors and Kanter.)

Yet there are strong indications that the Jazz are weighing whether it's wiser to keep Okur for his potential trade value if nothing else, since there will always be a market for big men who (when healthy) can spread the floor. Another factor that could help keep Okur around: Jazz officials think the team's depth will matter this season because of the compacted schedule and thus like the idea of Okur sticking.

If the Jazz elect to keep the Turk, releasing Bell would save them about $5 million over two seasons.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Amnesty candidate: Rashard Lewis

Analysis: After the Magic grossly overpaid him in an attempt to win an NBA championship and then used his monster salary to trade for Gilbert Arenas, Lewis has been somewhat synonymous with the league's new amnesty rule since we started hearing about it in the spring.

The reality, though, is that Washington looks like it's going to end up keeping Lewis around for one more season.

The Wiz can instantly become one of the most cash-flush players in both the free-agent and trade markets once they shed the nearly $30 million in guaranteed money left on Lewis' deal, but they have repeatedly insisted in recent weeks that there's no rush because they have no grandiose plans for a roster makeover between now and Christmas Day.

Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld left only a hint of wiggle room Thursday when he met with local reporters, saying: "In all likelihood, we won't amnesty anybody this year."

If that strategy holds, Lewis would continue to rank as the NBA's second-highest paid player this season, with his $21.1 million salary-cap figure for 2011-12 trailing only Kobe Bryant's $25,244,493.

ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst and Larry Coon and ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne contributed to this report.

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