What the Sixers Trade Means for the Team Moving Forward
Last night the 76ers announced they had traded Jason Thompson to the Golden State Warriors for Gerald Wallace and a draft consideration.
Later on that evening, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer clarified the draft consideration as the right to swap either the Miami 2016 1st round pick or the Oklahoma City 2016 1st round pick for the Warriors 1st round pick.
Thompson, acquired by the 76ers earlier this month in the Nik Stauskas deal, has two more seasons left on his contract, with his entire $6.4 million contract for 2015-16 fully guaranteed and $2.65 million of his $6.8 million contract guaranteed for 2016-17. Gerald Wallace is owed $10.1 million this season, the final year of his deal.
For the Warriors, who, with over $94 million in payroll are well over the $84.7 million luxury tax line, the trade has two benefits. First, it gives them the better player, as the 29 year old Thompson is a more productive player than the aging Wallace is at this point of his career. Second, it shaves $3.7 million off of their salary commitments, which after luxury tax penalties could save Golden State over $10 million total. Getting a better player and saving money is a situation great teams very rarely find themselves in.
For the Sixers, the benefits are less drastic, and less guaranteed.
The first benefit is that it opens up playing time for Richaun Holmes and Furkan Aldemir. Holmes, the 37th pick in this past draft and the MAC’s defensive player of the year, was just signed to a 4 year contract (1st 2 years guaranteed, year 3 is non-guaranteed, year 4 is a team option). Aldemir is on the 2nd year of a 4 year contract, the last year that he has guaranteed. The Sixers will likely want to give both considerable playing time to develop and/or evaluate.
The second benefit for the Sixers is removing $2.6 million in guaranteed salary for the 2016-17 season. The cap is set to jump to $89 million next offseason, up from the $70 million this year, and the Sixers currently have less than $35 million in salary commitments for the 2016-17 season (not counting the salaries for the 4 1st round draft picks in 2016 they’re currently set to have), so another $2.6 million in space isn’t too big of a deal, but it’s something.
Finally, the Sixers have the right to swap either OKC’s 2016 1st round pick or Miami’s 2016 1st round pick for Golden State’s 2016 1st round pick.
Obviously, nobody expects the Warriors, who finished with the league’s best record at 67-15 last season, to have a high draft pick next year. If you had to put odds on it, the odds would be that Golden State will finish with a better record, and thus a worse pick, than either Miami or Oklahoma City, and in this scenario nothing would come from the pick swap. If, say, OKC does finish with a better record than Golden State (not impossible if OKC can get healthy), the swap would be something like the 26th pick for the 29th pick. Nothing to get too excited over.
(Note: The Sixers cannot swap a pick that doesn’t convey. So, if the Miami Heat pick falls in the top-10, and thus doesn’t convey to the Sixers this year, the Sixers cannot then “swap” that pick, or the rights to that pick, for Golden State’s 2016 1st).
However, as Sixers fans saw last year, unexpected things can happen in basketball. Golden State had an incredible amount of luck, health wise, last season, something that would be tough to duplicate again this season. If the inverse happens, and they have horrible injury luck like Oklahoma City did last year, the swap could pay big dividends.
The odds on that are low, and the expected outcome on this is that the pick swap will be irrelevant, but the Sixers are putting themselves in the position to benefit in the event that something unexpected does happen. It’s the “playing the margins” kind of move that this front office, and ownership group, truly believes in.
The downside is the Sixers will lose Jason Thompson, a 29 year old forward who can play either power forward or center. Thompson’s a backup quality big with little upside remaining, and by the time the Sixers are good enough to truly need his services, father time may have stripped him of the ability to be even that. Still, if the Sixers were looking to fill the “Luc Mbah a Moute role”, Thompson had the ability to provide some of that, while also adding value on the basketball court.
Thompson wasn’t the worst guy to have around the team, but that role is also something that can be filled rather easily. Getting the rights to a pick swap, even one that has so little chance of actually meaning something come draft time, was probably the right move to make.
In the end, the most likely outcome of this deal is that it has little, or no, impact on the Sixers future. But little was given up, and it’s the kind of deal that has the (very low probability) chance to cause the Sixers to fall into some luck.
The Sixers are almost guaranteed to waive the 33 year old Gerald Wallace, who played just 286 minutes last season for the Boston Celtics. If that happens, the Sixers roster would stand at 16, which means at least one person would have to be cut before the start of the season. Carl Landry and T.J. McConnell, would seem to be the most likely candidates, although Scottie Wilbekin or even Pierre Jackson could be a possibility if they are severely outplayed in camp. It is, of course, possible the Sixers will make more moves/signings before training camp, which could necessitate more than one player currently signed to be cut before the start of the season.
You can keep track of the Sixers upcoming draft picks over at the Sixers Draft Pick Tracker.