After the Celtics were eliminated from the playoffs, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders reported that Boston would be willing to give up a first round pick to move Gerald Wallace’s contract this offseason.

A first round pick to take on a bad contract? Speculation about the 76ers being a possibility is logical and inevitable. Wallace is about to enter the final year of the 4 year, $40 million contract he signed in the summer of 2012, and is owed $10.1 million for this upcoming season.

Boston has a collection of first round picks they’ve amassed during their rebuild, which includes two picks in the upcoming 2015 draft: their own pick (16th), and the Clippers (28th).

Boston Celtics 1st round picks

2016Mavericksprotected 1-7 through 2020, unprotected in 2021
2016WolvesProtected 1-12, after that turns into 2 2nd round picks
2017Nets(Can swap 2017 1sts with Brooklyn, w/Celtics getting Wolves pick or their own pick, whichever is better)
2018Memphis1-8 in 2018*, 1-8 in 2019, 1-6 in 2020, unprotected in 2021. * = Starts 2 years after Memphis gives a 1st rd pick to Denver.

Looking through that list, any of the Brooklyn picks are obviously the cream of the crop, but I would be surprised if the Celtics parted with them, since the Nets always seem like they’re on the edge of collapse. While the Celtics are going to be fighting for playoff spots in the weak Eastern Conference, those picks still have the chance to be top-20. That Memphis pick, while you have to wait for it, could be very underrated, as Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, and a number of key veterans could be in decline by then. The Wolves pick you can cross off the list, as it’s going to end up being 2 2nd round picks.

Most likely, it would be the Clippers 2015 1st or the Mavs 2016 1st that the Celtics would be looking to include.

The Celtics are currently on the hook for ~$42.3 million in salary for 2015-16, and will have an additional ~$3 million in commitments as a result of their 2015 1st round picks. With a salary cap projection of $67.1 million for 2015-16, the Celtics are already in place to have roughly $20 million in cap space for next year. Moving Wallace would push them up over $30 million.

However, the reason that they’re likely looking to dump Wallace is that, to have that full $20 million in cap space, they’d have to renounce some cap holds on some of their free agents, most notably Brandon Bass. With a cap hold of ~$10.35 million (150% of his previous contract), the Celtics will need to move Wallace to be able to retain Bass’ bird rights and still be able to offer a maximum contract to somebody else this offseason.

Would helping the Celtics be a good idea for the Sixers?

(Note: it’s assumed that the Sixers would waive Gerald Wallace after acquiring him).

Throw away the concern about helping a division rival. That’s an antiquated notion that’s unlikely to factor into Sam Hinkie’s thinking. The Sixers are competing against the NBA, and to do that they need to do what’s best for the Sixers.

First, let’s take a look at the Philadelphia 76ers currently salary structure.

76ers salary commitments for 2015-16

Player2015-16 SalaryNotes
JaVale McGee$12,000,000waived
2015 1st round pick$5,703,600(Note: assumed 1st overall pick)
Joel Embiid$4,626,960
Nerlens Noel$3,457,800
Furkan Aldemir$3,000,000
Tony Wroten$2,179,354
Robert Covington$1,000,000
Hollis Thompson$947,276
Isaiah Canaan$947,276
Jerami Grant$845,059
JaKarr Sampson$845,059
Jason Richardson($9,901,687)Cap hold, 150% of previous salary
Luc Mbah a Moute($8,326,894)Cap hold, 190% of previous salary
Thomas Robinson(~$15 million)Cap hold, maximum salary

(Note: Cap holds not included in commitment total, although I did list notable ones that the Sixers might have interest in not relinquishing. Non-guaranteed contracts included unless otherwise noted. More notes about cap holds at the bottom of the article).

(Note: I listed the 1st overall pick in the above table not because I’m an eternal optimist, but because I wanted to list the scenario that limited the Sixers cap space the most. Likewise, the number above is for the assumed 120% maximum that can be negotiated within the rookie scale).

What we’re left with is that the Sixers are currently in the neighborhood of having $31 million in cap space for this upcoming season, even after taking on JaVale McGee’s contract in the trade deadline deal last year. This means that the Sixers can take on Gerald Wallace’s $10.1 million contract and still have $20 million in cap space, and still be able to offer guys like Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, or Khris Middleton a maximum contract this offseason, if they decide to go that route.

(Note: especially with the upcoming national television deal, there are good reasons to make this offseason a year to target free agents, even if teams are likely to match. That will be a topic for an upcoming post).

In short, Sam Hinkie absolutely has a chance to pick up a “free” first round draft pick if the reports are true.

A few notes about cap holds that factor in to the above calculation, for those interested.

Note 1: Calculating cap holds is convoluted, since the scenario a player is in determines how much the cap hold is. To summarize the above situations:

  • Thomas Robinson: A rookie coming off of the 3rd year of a rookie scale contract has a cap hold up to the maximum salary.
  • Jason Richardson: A player with Bird Rights coming off of a non-rookie scale contract with a previous salary greater than the average salary has a cap hold of 150% of his previous years’ salary.
  • Luc Mbah a Moute: A player with Bird Rights coming off of a non-rookie scale contract with a previous salary below the average salary has a  cap hold of 190% of his previous years salary.

Note 2: Ish Smith has a cap hold of 120% of his previous salary. This number is so negligible, and the Sixers don’t have his bird rights anyway, that I didn’t include it in the table. Glenn Robinson is in the same boat. Henry Sims, as an early-bird coming off of a non-rookie scale contract, would have a cap hold of 130% of his previous salary. Again, because Sims isn’t likely to enter into the Sixers plans, and the cap hold is so small, it’s barely worth noting.

Note 3: Because the Sixers are so far under the cap, having bird rights on Richardson, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Thomas Robinson is mostly irrelevant. The Sixers will still have the ability to sign them if they renounce their rights, it would just limit the contract to 4 years rather than 5. Since none of these players are likely (at all) to sign for 5 years, renouncing their bird rights isn’t a major concern.

Note 4: Because the 4th year option on Thomas Robinson’s rookie scale contract was declined, he will be an unrestricted free agent even if the Sixers keep his bird rights, so holding on to his bird rights doesn’t give them an edge in that regard.

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