Feb 27 2013 12:56PM

Kobe Or Not Kobe: The Amnesty Question

Doug Pensinger/NBAE/Getty Images

Kobe or not Kobe.

That was the amnesty question posed last week when Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban openly speculated whether the Los Angeles Lakers should amnesty Kobe Bryant next season to avoid a severe luxury-tax penalty hit.

Despite the fact that 34-year-old Bryant is still playing All-NBA-level ball, it really is a legitimate question.

If you think otherwise, let me ask you a question: Is it worth paying $115 million to have Kobe on your team for one more year?

When the NBA's new more-punitive, luxury-tax penalties take effect in the 2013-14 season, the penalty--of having a high payroll like the Lakers do--will go through the roof.

This year, the Lakers, who have a $100 million team payroll, will pay a $30 million luxury-tax fine for being $30 million over the $70 million luxury-tax line, bringing their total players payroll to $130.

Next year, the Lakers, who could field a similar $102 million team payroll, will then hypothetically pay a $85 million luxury-tax fine for being $30 million over the estimated $72 million 2013-14 luxury-tax line, bringing their total players payroll to $192 million.

By contrast the typical NBA team's payroll in 2012-13 is $69 million.

Get the picture?

Take away Kobe's $30.5 million salary and the Lakers can save themselves that ridiculous $85 million luxury-tax penalty (Note: to see the details of the new luxury tax, hit this link at Larry Coon's website and go to item No. 21).

Amnesty would somewhat fix the problem, with the Lakers still having to pay Kobe $30.5 million or so to play for someone else (minus the amount his new team pays him after clearing amnesty-bidding waivers).

Add it all up and it really is a legitimate question: Kobe or not Kobe?

That said, there are several other, SMARTER ways the Lakers could handle pending luxury-tax problems.

Such as, simply trade Kobe for draft picks.

Glenn James/NBAE/Getty Images
If the Lakers did that, they could save themselves $115.5 million overall--$30.5 million in Kobe's salary and the disappearance of the $85 million luxury-tax penalty as well.

Let's say the Charlotte Bobcats find someone to take Ben Gordon's $13.2 million contract. They then would be in salary-cap position to trade, let's say, a 2014 first-round draft pick for Kobe.

Imagine that.

The Lakers could save themselves $115.5 million without amnestying Kobe, not have to pay him $30.5 million to play for another team, plus they could take a Bobcats future first-rounder for their troubles.

This trade makes sense for Charlotte too.

The Bobcats can pay Kobe $30.5 million and face no additional luxury-tax penalties because they'd be well below the luxury-tax line.

Plus, who knows?

Maybe that would convince Bobcats boss Michael Jordan to divest his ownership shares to return to play again in the NBA at age 50, as rumors suggest, this time alongside his Heir Jordan, Kobe.

Just think about it all.

Kemba Walker, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bismack Biyombo and a likely Top 3 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Not a bad old-school/new-school lineup.

I betcha Phil Jackson might even dust off his old triangle, come out of retirement and make this the greatest fairytale ever told in the 21st Century.

I digress.

I really, really digress.

But you can see my original point.

The Lakers should never amnesty Kobe and pay him $30.5 million not to play for them when other teams--squads that can get $30.5 million below the cap (Bobcats, Hawks, Cavs, Pistons, Jazz)--might be happy to trade draft picks for him.

That being said, there are other ways the Lakers can keep Kobe on their 2013-14 roster and still save themselves a lot of money after signing Dwight Howard to his inevitable max contract.

The Lakers could terminate Metta World Peace's $7.7 million and save themselves $34.1 million in the aforementioned hypothetical $102 million luxury-tax scenario.

The Lakers also could deal Pau Gasol's $19.3 million contract--which becomes a $22.2 million deal when he's traded due to a 15-percent trade kicker--to a team that has the cap room and land themselves draft picks, not to mention $65.8 million more savings in luxury-tax penalties, bringing their fine down to $19.2 million.

So if you are Lakers controling owner Jim Buss or GM Mitch Kupchak, these are the summer money-savings decisions you face, in a nutshell:

Trade Kobe for future draft picks and pay $0 in luxury-tax penalties (alternative: keep Kobe and pay $85 million in penalties).

Or trade Pau for future draft picks and pay $19.2 million in luxury-tax penalties (alternative: keep Pau and pay $85 million in penalties).

Or terminate Metta's contract and pay $50.9 million in luxury-tax penalties (alternative: keep Metta and pay $85 million in penalties).

To be or not to be.

This summer, it will be a question that pertains to several Lakers, not just one named Kobe.