NBA Handicapping: Betting on the Philadelphia 76ers after the Trade Deadline
by Trevor Whenham - 2/22/2015
The popular wisdom after the trade deadline - and before it really - is that Sam Hinkie has lost his mind and that the Philadelphia 76ers are spinning completely out of control. They trade away any player they get who seems to have any potential, they accumulate draft picks in bulk, there are teams with payrolls for their stadium ushers that are higher than what Philadelphia pays their team, they are openly and aggressively tanking, and they have waived more players this year than some teams have played.
It's easy to pick on them, but I'm just not buying it. In fact, I love what they are doing - or, at the very least, I love watching what they are doing. It's theater, but it could also turn out to be very effective. They are not content to just try to beat everyone else out by doing the same things as everyone else. They have their vision and the courage to pursue it. This is something to watch because you may not see anything like it again. So, why do I like this all so much? And why is it important for bettors to ignore the public wisdom and really understand what the team is doing before judging them over the long term? Let's take a look:
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Carter-Williams deal was brilliant: There is one thing you need to understand above all else here - the fact that Michael Carter-Williams was Rookie of the Year last year is completely meaningless. It certainly isn't a reason that the team should have kept him. The Sixers are looking, over the long term, to find every opportunity they can to add superstar-caliber players to their team. They are going to be focused on defensive intensity and strong shooting to define those superstars. Carter-Williams isn't likely to turn into a superstar - at least not in the eyes of Philadelphia. His shooting is really lousy and not improving, and his defensive play is lacking. He's just not good enough for what they are trying to do. They picked him with the 11th pick last year. Instead of trying to fit him in when they weren't happy with him they converted him into a first-rounder originally from the Lakers - as high as the sixth pick this year or fourth next year. In the short term they don't have a starting point guard, but they don't care - they now have more chances to find the key players they need down the road. It's not about accepting mediocrity in Philadelphia. Epic move.
McGee deal was even more genius: The Sixers had to spend money no matter what - they were below the salary floor, so they were committed to spending that money at some point. Taking on Javale McGee and his bloated contract from Denver, then, meant nothing to them. They are intending to play him now, but if they decide down the road to buy him out it doesn't matter. He's filling cap space they don't need anyway. Where the genius of the deal lies is that they also got a first-rounder from Denver for doing the deal. Basically a free first-round pick - with the potential that McGee can actually be a contributor and add value over the next year and a bit he is under contract. Truly excellent use of dead cap space.
The more picks the better: Joel Embiid won't play this year, so he is essentially like a high lottery pick in next year's draft - just like Nerlens Noel was this year. The team also has their pick for this year and next year -- and both will be very high. And they have that pick from the Lakers that will very likely be a Top 10 pick in one of the two years. That is four shots at landing a superstar. Then they have more first-rounders and essentially all of the second-round picks in the draft - or so it seems, at least. They are going to have a ridiculous number of chances to strike gold in coming drafts - and as we have learned time and again, it takes chances and luck to hit a winner.
Their pick gets better: Carter-Williams wasn't a long-term solution, but he was making this team better this year. By cutting him out now they not only got an asset, but they got worse in the short term. That means more balls in the lottery and a better chance at great players in what is shaping up to be a pretty good draft this year. If you are following a bold plan you might as well commit to it absolutely, and they are certainly doing so.
Emotionless commitment to a plan: They knew trading Carter-Williams was going to draw ridicule and disdain from the media and the general public. They knew that any number of moves before this one would as well. They just plain don't care. They do what needs to be done and ignore the consequences. Most teams would have blinked by now. Heck, every team would have - except this one. I'll tell you this - if the Sixers were a stock I'd be buying and holding in bulk.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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