Written by Garrett Catalana – @GarrettCatalana
The 2016 NBA Trade Deadline has come and past with the Sixers playing a minimal role. In the last two years the franchise has traded away contributors like Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, KJ McDaniels, and Michael Carter-Williams, & has acquired draft picks in salary dump trades. This year was pretty quiet, only leading to one trade involving the 76ers. Here is the full three-team trade:
Pistons get: Donatas Motiejunas & Marcus Thornton
Rockets get: Top 8-protected 2016 1st Round Pick (from DET), & rights to Chu Chu Maduabum
Sixers get: Joel Anthony, 2017 2nd Round Pick (from DEN via HOU)
In this trade, the Pistons got a frontcourt player that can work long-term with franchise center Andre Drummond (Motiejunas) and someone who helps with backcourt depth (Thornton). The Rockets were able to get a first rounder that is likely to convey this season as well as getting out of the luxury tax, while the Sixers were able to reach the salary cap floor and picked up an extra asset in the process.
The Sixers have made bigger trades and they have made smaller trades, but this trade has come to represent what the early stages of the rebuild have been about. Let’s dive deeper into this trade:
First, this is the classic Hinkie trade: taking on salary for a future draft pick. In this case, Hinkie took on Joel Anthony for a Denver 2017 2nd round pick. This is somewhat significant because the team had already traded away its own 2017 second round pick when they reacquired Ish Smith from the Pelicans on Christmas Eve. So now the Sixers have a second round draft pick in 2017. But they also lost an asset in this trade by sending the rights to Chu Chu Maduabum to the Rockets. Maduabum will never play in the NBA, but he represents a trading asset that is the equivalent of trading away a heavily protected second round pick. Before the trade, the Sixers had the draft rights to three players: Dario Saric, Vasjile Micic, and Maduabum. Since something of value needs to be exchanged in any trade, these draft right players can be valuable to execute smaller transactions. In this case, the Sixers used one of their assets to recover one of its lost second round picks as well as to avoid the salary cap floor.
Prior to the NBA Trade Deadline, the Sixers were about $1.73 million below the salary cap floor and that remaining cap space would have been distributed to all the players still remaining on the roster at the end of the season. If the season ended just before the trade deadline, each of the current fifteen Sixers would have gotten about $155,333 by just being on the roster. The Sixers were obligated to spend that $1.73 million.
At the last second, Sam Hinkie sneaked his way into the trade between the Rockets and Pistons, acquiring Joel Anthony from the Pistons. While Anthony has gotten paid a certain percentage of his total salary, the number that appears on the Sixers cap sheet is his cap number for the entire season: $2.5 million.
Since the Sixers were $1.73 million below the floor, adding Joel Anthony’s $2.5 million put the Sixers above the floor, meaning that the remaining money doesn’t have to get distributed.
Since a team can’t have 16 players on a team, someone currently on the Sixers roster had to get cut, and that player was JaKarr Sampson. The Sixers will pay him whatever remains of his $845,000 salary, but his full year salary will still count against the cap.
According to Albert Nahmad of heathoops.com, Joel Anthony has received 68% of his total salary from the Pistons. This means the Sixers are responsible for the remaining 32% unless the Sixers cut him, which sounds imminent. That 32% in salary represents $808,824.
Just like trade deadline moves last year for Thomas Robinson and JaVale McGee, the Sixers actually saved money in this trade. So while the Sixers added $2.5 million to the cap sheet, they really only added $808,000 in actual payments. When that remaining salary is subtracted from the $1,731,651 the Sixers were below the luxury tax, the team saved $922,827.
Even though it has come at the expense of winning games, the Sixers have maneuvered around the cap these last three seasons to keep its actual payments at a minimal level. In addition to the near $1 million the team saved in the Joel Anthony trade, they received $1 million in cash considerations from the Warriors in the Jason Thompson-Gerald Wallace swap, they only had to pay $4 million of the $12 million that JaVale McGee was owed this season, and they will once again be one of the beneficiaries of luxury tax payments made by the six NBA teams currently in the tax (around $2.34 million). By not paying top dollar for NBA talent, the Sixers have maintained the lowest obligation in payments in the entire NBA. At this moment, the current Sixers obligation (about $52 million) is less than the Cavalier’s luxury tax payment (about $53 million). But have these lowered expenses helped other areas of the franchise?
While has yet to really grow on the court, they have really grown off the court in multiple areas such as the massive expansion of the sales and marketing team (the largest sales team in the NBA), the purchasing of the Delaware 87ers, the development of a new practice facility in Camden, the creation of an analytical team, and the capital to acquire some of the best technology, equipment, personnel, and staff that professional sports has to offer. Or maybe since Josh Harris and his organization is a tenant at the Wells Fargo Center, basically meaning he can cash in on about 40% of all possible revenue that comes with owning a team, would prefer to keep expenses low.
I honestly believe that when Sam Hinkie, Brett Brown, and Scott O’Neil came on board, it wasn’t just about rebuilding the basketball team that was left in ruins after the Andrew Bynum trade; it was also about rebuilding the entire organization. An organization that was stuck in the past in an Allen Iverson-hangover failing to grow with the league and staying mediocre on and off the court. Ever since Pat Croce left the organization in 2001, the team was lacking a creative and innovative spark in the front office. I believe Josh Harris has collectively found that with the Brown/Hinkie/O’Neil trio.
So while the Sixers weren’t busy during the trade deadline, by just making one move that won’t help at all on the court, it perhaps might make a difference off the court as the franchise continues to grow and expand as one of just 30 organizations in the fastest-growing global sports league. The Sixers have won just 45 games total in the two and a half years that this regime has been in place. It’s a losing basketball team, but it’s not a losing culture. It’s a culture that continues to expand from top to bottom, from when Josh Harris bought the Sixers in 2011 for $287 million, to its current worth of $700 million. Even if Brown and Hinkie don’t succeed on the court, I will always be grateful for the contributions they made to make the organization stronger. The groundwork they laid, both in terms of future basketball assets and off-the-court assets, have made the organization the strongest it has even been in the last 20 years.