Thursday’s NBA trade deadline was the craziest in years, a flurry of trades that sent over 30 players to new teams.
At the center of the action was the Philadelphia 76ers, who made three different trades to pick up future draft picks.
The 76ers are in the midst of radical rebuilding plan. General manager Sam Hinkie has sacrificed short-term success to collect a bundle of cheap, young players and draft picks in hopes of creating a core of future stars down the road.
Philadelphia seemed to be on that path already this season. They’re well on their way to another top-three draft pick, with one of the worst records in the league. They had center Nerlens Noel (the No. 6 pick in the 2013 draft), point guard Michael Carter-Williams (the No. 11 pick in the 2013 draft), and breakout rookies like K.J. McDaniels and Robert Covington. Additionally, they have center Joel Embiid (the No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft) and European star Dario Saric (the No. 12 pick in the 2014 draft) waiting to join the team next year.
The Sixers then blew up a portion of that young core for more draft picks.
They sent Carter-Williams to Milwaukee in a huge four-team trade, traded McDaniels to Houston, and acquired disgruntled Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee.
In each of these trades, Philadelphia got draft picks in return. Here’s a look at their draft pick status for this year alone:
- Their own draft pick, projected top three
- The Lakers’ draft pick (top-five protected), via the Suns from the Carter-Williams trade
- The Heat’s draft pick (top-10 protected), via last summer’s Thaddeus Young trade
- The Thunder’s pick (top-18 protected), via the JaVale McGee trade
All of these picks could make this summer’s draft a massive haul for the 76ers. If they don’t get some of these picks this year, they transfer over to 2016 with lesser protections.
The moves make sense.
Carter-Williams is a stat-sheet stuffer, but has been slogging through an inefficient season, shooting 38% from the field, 26% from three, while turning the ball over four times per game.
Carter-Williams’ future with the Sixers was always in doubt, going back to the 2014 draft when the Sixers picked another point guard, Elfrid Payton, forcing Carter-Williams to give an awkward interview about whether he was going to be traded. The Sixers later traded Payton to the Magic for Saric.
Trading K.J. McDaniels may have been the Sixers’ most surprising move of the trade deadline, but it comes down to a financial decision McDaniels made at the start of the season. McDaniels opted to sign a one-year, unguaranteed contract for the minimum salary in hopes that he’d play well enough — he has — to earn a big contract as a free agent this summer.
Given McDaniels’ strong play through this season, Philly would have been in a tough position to negotiate this summer. They could give him a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent, allowing them to match any offer he receives. However, that offer could have been much higher than what they wanted to pay, so they would have risked losing him for nothing. Instead, Philly flipped McDaniels for a young guard in Isaiah Canaan and a second-round pick.
The 76ers took another step back at Thursday’s deadline, but it could be worth it in the long run. Hinkie and the Sixers front office are basically giving themselves as many chances as they can to acquire assets (despite Hinkie denying that thinking), run them through a strainer, and see what catches. In a few years, it could be a promising young core to build around.
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