Much is unknown about the Sixers’ offseason, but what is known are the loads and loads of cap space the team has this summer.
Without including two possible top-10 picks or Furkan Korkmaz, the Sixers will have over $52 million in cap space this summer. If they cut Gerald Henderson before his guarantee date (6/30), they will have over $60 million in cap space.
There are some intriguing free agents options this summer, both restricted and unrestricted, but the Sixers need to be wary of the upcoming extensions for its current talent in the next couple of years. Even though the Sixers can go well over the cap to resign its own players, they could very well end up in the tax sooner than later.
Here are the players and years where possible extensions would kick in:
The Sixers will have to dish out potentially two max contracts to Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, a good-sized contract for Dario Saric, and dramatic pay increases for TJ McConnell, Richaun Holmes, and Robert Covington from their minimum contracts.
Bryan Colangelo should avoid what young teams with massive amounts of cap space did this past summer: sign veterans to long-term contracts that will essentially be dead money by the end of the deal, like the Bucks and Lakers. The Lakers have already burned valuable cap space in the next three years by signing two of the worst contracts in the entire league this past summer: Luol Deng (4 years, $72 million) and Timofey Mozgov (4 years, $64 million). The Bucks overspent on Matthew Dellavedova and Mirza Teletovic, while giving Miles Plumlee an insane contract extension (but have traded him since). Colangelo needs to avoid these contracts to remain flexible with the team’s cap space moving forward. Before looking at outside free agents, he should be focusing on resigning two of his own players first.
The upcoming Joel Embiid contract extension negotiations will be fascinating and worth a whole separate article, but I would like to focus on the team’s unheralded glue guy: Robert Covington.
RoCo is in the third year of a four-year “Hinkie Special,” meaning the Sixers would have “cut” Covington to make him a free agent this summer. They would release him with the understanding that he would resign with the team on a much larger deal.
This is RC3’s third year in Philadelphia, presumably making him a restricted free agent at the end of this season (any player with 3 or less years of experience are restricted, except rookie scale). However, Covington is a fourth year player and would be an unrestricted free agent this summer (as well as next summer if the Sixers play out the final year of his contract). This is the case because he played seven games for the Rockets in 2013-14, which is considered a full season of experience.
So Covington is unrestricted regardless, but the Sixers will be better off declining RoCo’s team option (option date of 6/24), making him a free agent, before resigning him to a new contract.
It’s hard to judge Covington’s worth in the open market but there are some comparable contracts around the league, signed in different offseasons, and under different salary caps:
- Kent Bazemore: 4 years, $70 million
- Marvin Williams: 4 years, $54 million
- Wesley Matthews: 4 years, $70 million
- Wilson Chandler: 4 years, 46 million
- Khris Middleton: 5 years, $70 million
- Evan Fournier: 5 years, $85 million
- DeMarre Carroll: 4 years, $60 million
- Alec Burks: 4 years, $42 million
Average contract: 4.25 years, $62.125 million ($14.6 million annual value)
There aren’t many players in the NBA that have the unique skillset that Covington brings to the table. He’s first in the league in player deflections per game, he’s a career 36% three-point shooter (39% in 2017), he’s the team leader in rebounding (minus Joel Embiid), and he’s is one of the most versatile defenders in the league, often guarding the opponent’s best perimeter player.
Based on scarcity of position, the available cap space around the league this summer, and his overall skillset, Covington is probably worth somewhere between $12 million to $18 million on the open market.
The Sixers will have a ton of cap space this offseason, and once Bryan Colangelo saw that Nerlens Noel wasn’t worth the investment this summer, he created all the flexibility needed to resign Covington a year before Joel Embiid’s future extension would kick in.
One might argue that the Sixers should hold off on a potential Covington extension until 2018, when he has a minuscule cap hold ($1.5 million) as opposed to a new salary on the books, which is a difference of at least $10 million in cap space. For me, I’d rather spend the money on Covington this offseason rather than overspending on an outside free agent who may not work out (Jerryd Bayless?).
Covington is the franchise’s original diamond-in-the-rough prospect. He is the epitome of The Process: using the final spots on the roster to find potential keepers. His game has developed so much in just three years under Brett Brown to where he has grown from a launcher off the bench to possibly the team’s long-term answer at small forward.
With so much cap space available, the Sixers should look to grow from within by resigning one of its core pieces before seeking outside help. This is the team that took a chance on him, developed his game, and made him one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. Even though he will be unrestricted, I highly doubt that Covington would sign elsewhere, knowing this was the team that took a chance on him and developing him into the player he is today. If that’s not enough, check out his Instagram post from a couple of weeks ago:
The team has done well to create so much cap flexibility for the future under both Sam Hinkie and Bryan Colangelo, but they need to spend wisely this offseason knowing the Joel Embiid extension is just on the horizon. By resigning Covington this offseason, the team gets closer to the (rising) salary floor by rewarding a player they developed in-house. Resigning Robert Covington, one of the team’s core pieces, this offseason would be a very smart decision for the Sixers organization.
Photo via Baca Aku (Flickr)