These trade value rankings arose from the intersection of three different events. The first seems obvious: I’m currently reading The Hobbit for the first time after having seen the movie, and I am enjoying the experience very much. Sadly, I never read Tolkien during my childhood (I was a Harry Potter guy) and missed out on it. The second was John Hammond’s re-signing in Milwaukee, which inspired me to look at the trade scenarios and values for each Buck, which made me wonder what the Sixers looked like in that view. And the third was the Rajon Rondo injury, which may inspire the Sixers to make a move to improve their odds of making the playoffs. So now I’ve written... this.
LEVEL 1: Our Preciouses
"Precious" refers to the ring from the LOTR mythology – Gollum, some horribly fiendish thing, owned the ring and referred to it as his "precious", which Bilbo Baggins (the hobbit) steals from him. Gollum valued the ring more than anything else in the world, and it was all he had.
These are two young players on below-market value contracts for the foreseeable future who also happen to be the team’s only consistent players. Teams don’t trade these contracts – they build around them.
Potential Return: Smaug’s Treasure (that is, massive)
Trade Likelihood: Zero
LEVEL 2: The Ring-Holder
As you may or may not know, the famed ring makes its holder invisible, with only a shadow visible when in the light. Andrew Bynum might as well be invisible if it weren't for his hilarious hair. But his physical presence is missed, especially when watching his replacements.
It says a lot about the roster that an injured player with a $16 million expiring contract is the team’s third most valuable trade commodity. Bynum has yet to return from injury (though that might happen soon!) and is unlikely to be moved, as this team’s only chance of being relevant in the near-future depends on his presence.
Potential Return: Another franchise or near-franchise player, like a Rudy Gay type
Trade Likelihood: Very Low
LEVEL 3: We Shouldn’t Think We Can Go On Without You, Bilbo Baggins
The dwarves initially wonder why Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit not necessarily fit for fighting or travel, has to accompany them on their journey. But eventually, they find that the hobbit is worth something, because he brings skills and abilities none of the dwarves possess. That’s Evan Turner.
Turner definitely has a role with this team, and though he might not be playing well consistently, he’s the third best player among the remaining healthy roster members. I put him below Bynum despite his health and youth because of his contract: while most players on rookie deals are desired for their contracts, as a top-3 pick Turner’s contract isn’t as great of a value as most. His $7 million option represents near market value, so a deal for Turner would likely gather an equal on-court return. Thus he’s unlikely to be moved, especially since he’s doubled as the backup point guard as of late.
Potential Return: Good role players
Trade Likelihood: Very Low
LEVEL 4: Yearning for home
In the book (which I’m fairly deep into – I’ve been an incredibly slow reader for reasons unknown recently, so I’ve been at it for a while and am still not completely finished), Bilbo Baggins constantly yearns for home while he’s cold and sore on his epic journey with the dwarves. He’s not fit for the terrors of the journey, especially after the group loses their horses. Dorell Wright really misses his horse, as he has no comfort when on the court and can't get off the bench. He needs to find a home.
A proven role player whose game has been miscast and whose playing time has been jerked around can’t be expected to consistently perform well. The Sixers got Wright for nothing but his salary this summer, but at that point the Hornets were looking to simply cut salary, and teams looking to cut salary have recently given up a king’s ransom to cut cash if need be (need evidence? See the Grizzlies-Cavaliers deal). Wright can still shoot threes and rebound from a wing position, and playoff teams need players who can do that. He has value, even if getting him for nothing would seem to indicate that. Heck, he was essentially traded for sixth man of the year candidate Jarrett Jack.
With his recent exile from the rotation – due to lack of defense - and with Jason Richardson presumably ahead of him on the depth chart upon his return, Wright’s more likely to move than anyone. Look for a role player swap or a straight salary dump.
Potential Return: Modest, likely another veteran role player on a small-ish contract
Trade Likelihood: High
LEVEL 5: Mike Levin’s Precious
Swaggy’s got moves like Gandalf, with his ability to randomly do awesome things. Also like Gandalf, he’s not here for the long haul, with free agency approaching at the end of the season. And Mike Levin would probably give up his life for Swaggy, his precious.
His contract, which pays about $5.5 million, seems to be a bit too much for a score-only role player to be moved mid-season for any meaningful return. Still – compared to the other members of the roster, he would be more likely to be moved than most, due to his contract and a glut of wing players. If the Sixers can’t find a taker for Wright (which I doubt), then they make consider dealing Swaggy. Which would be a sad, sad day.
Potential Return: Modest, but the Sixers may have to take on a bad contract to make a deal.
Trade Likelihood: Low-to-Medium
LEVEL 6: About As Threatening As Dwarves Without Gandalf
Spencer Hawes, Jason Richardson
The dwarves themselves work okay as a group, but they have a penchant for in-fighting and for being incompetent in general, especially when they travel without the mighty wizard, Gandalf.
Spencer really is a 7 foot dwarf – he may have height, but he can’t use it. He’s tall and has a not-too-expensive contract, but teams aren’t looking to take on backup centers who double as defensive liabilities on multi-year contracts, no matter how good at offense they may appear to be. If teams wanted to give up nothing to get a backup center who didn’t have another year on their contract, they would trade for Chris Kaman. The contract isn’t outrageous – but it has little to no value in trades unless coupled with a more attractive option.
As for Richardson, well, I have no real comparison to The Hobbit for him. I guess he’s one of the older dwarves, or something. He has a similar role limitation to Wright and Swaggy, but he comes with a big contract and lingering injuries. Unlike Hawes, J-Rich is the type of player teams would need around this time. Unfortunately for the Sixers, his contract is just abysmal.
Potential Return: Crap contracts, maybe an expiring from a desperate team?
Trade Likelihood: Low
LEVEL 7: Abandoned in some hobbit-hole or captured by giant spiders
I’m honestly concerned for Moultrie’s health, as I’m not sure of his current whereabouts. He was last seen in Philadelphia after spending the better part of a month over the Hill and across the Water in some faraway land called South Dakota, wherever that is. He may have been attacked by goblins. Maybe he found Craig Brackins.
Related: he would be more useful to the goblins than he was the Sixers. He could be involved as a throw-in to a bigger deal, either for salary purposes or for other teams to take a flyer on.
Potential Return: No tradebacks? Probably a second-round pick all by his lonesome
Trade Likelihood: Low to Medium
LEVEL 8: Trolls
Trolls really have the worst reputations among creatures. They come when you least expect them, although only at night, and you never actually want them to show up. Aside from capturing and attacking things, they are incredibly dumb and disgusting and are about as valuable as the diseases they are presumably infested with.
Wilkins and Ivey are replaceable parts – players who can provide similar production can usually be found in free agency and/or overseas. That’s the trade-off between signing young players and old players to fill out a bench – there’s almost no upside or trade value in a Damien Wilkins, though he could be worse defensively. They also have a combined basketball IQ which equals a troll’s.
Shelvin Mack could have been signed for the league minimum by 29 teams that chose not to. 10-day contract players cannot be traded, but assuming he gets signed for the rest of the season he’ll still have little or no value. He’s like the food nothing other than trolls would eat.
And Kwame… unlike Ivey and Wilkins, there aren’t 7-foot post defenders just hanging around waiting for NBA teams to sign them. But let me repeat this for the 900th time: KWAME BROWN HAS A PLAYER OPTION! HE HAS THE RING! Why would anyone sign this guy to that contract, let alone trade something for it? Troll, troll away Kwame.
Potential Return: Likely Negative
Trade Likelihood: Low