As it stands, the Sixers will likely have five draft picks in the 2014 NBA Draft -- their own first and second, a Top 5-protected first from the New Orleans Pelicans, Brooklyn's second rounder (which looks pretty excellent right now), and Houston's second rounder. With Sam Hinkie tickling the keys, that will assuredly change. By the looks of things, the Sixers have three tradable assets that would bring back value in return -- Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner, and Spencer Hawes.
We'll start with Thad, since I'd like a bit more of a sample size on Evan and Spencer before the December 15th marker -- the date at which point any player that signed a contract over the summer is eligible to be traded.
Thad's making $8.85M this season and has two more years totaling $19.4M assuming he picks up his 2015-16 player option.
Of the three of them, Thad is the only one signed beyond this year. Some people see that as a negative, but I could not disagree more -- he's 25 years old on a fair contract, that's more valuable than an expiring for most teams. In the $9M range, he's getting paid like the 4th-best player on most contending teams. That's excellent value.
It varies on a team-to-team basis, but discounting Thad because his contract is longer would be off the mark.
FUTURE WITH SIXERS
While he's still put up good counting stats, Thad hasn't seen his offensive numbers jump in Brett Brown's offense like his teammates have. The increased emphasis on outside shooting certainly plays a role in that, but it seems mostly like Thad's not getting those garbage-into-gold buckets this year like he has in the past. His percentages are down, though he is getting to the foul line more than he ever has. I'm not worried about his fit in Brown's offense -- he's a bright guy, he'll figure it out.
Mostly though, what will determine his future in Philadelphia is how he plays with Nerlens Noel. On paper, at least, it looks pretty perfect. Nerlens hides Thad's defensive rebounding deficiencies. Thad is one of the best pick-and-roll defensive power forwards in the league. He can guard the perimeter and he's gotten stronger over the years to where he's not a liability in the post. You want Nerlens protecting the paint, so his ideal partner is one that will cover the outside. Nerlens and Spencer, for example, would not be ideal because Hawes can't move his feet quick enough to keep up with outside-in opposing bigs. And while Noel is able to do that, his value is much higher if you can keep him inside protecting the rim.
He's great off the ball in the open court, but watching him handle the ball gives you the same feeling you get immediately after a roller-coaster: your knees are kind of buckling and in hindsight, that wasn't as safe as you expected. If the Sixers will keep up this kind of pace when they become more "team" and less "abstract fingerpainting," Hinkie may want a 4 who can create for himself a bit more.
PERCEIVED LEAGUE-WIDE VALUE
This is where it gets fuzzy. I'm verrrrry very aware of over-fetishizing our players -- have been ever since former Phillies surefire Hall of Famer Michael Taylor didn't pan out -- but Thad is a guy whose value really wavers from team to team. He'd be excellent on Oklahoma City or Houston or like... Charlotte... but not a ton of other teams, unless he goes back to a 6th man role. And if teams are looking at him like he's a 6th man, the Sixers will not get as much in return and therefore end up holding onto him.
Could they get a first round pick for him? Yes. Depends on which draft and what protection is on it. Despite being in his 7th year in the league, Thad's just 25, very coachable, and has two fair years left after this one.
Guessing at what Hinkie will or won't do is just that. You have to look at the big picture before drawing any conclusions.
1. Thad makes the Sixers a better basketball team. If Hinkie prioritizes losing for a better draft pick, trading him makes sense. But:
2. Thad has two years left on his contract and seems to be a great fit next to Nerlens. He's also a well-liked veteran and that's valuable to a young team on a rebuild. A lot will depend on how that outside shot comes along. Then again:
3. If some team offers proper value for him, Hinkie will bite. If no offer is good enough, he'll be happy to pack it in and wait for the right trade to come along.
The Sixers will not be contending by the time Thad's contract is up after the 2015-16 season. So he will need a new contract if he's going to be here for the long haul. What's Thad going to be worth at that point? He'll turn 28 that offseason and bringing about a decade's worth of NBA experience to the table -- dude's gonna want to get paid. At that point, the Sixers will theoretically be thinking about contracts for Michael Carter-Williams and Noel, with whoever they pick this year coming down the pike right after them. It's a long way away and lots can change, but that's the kind of stuff you have to think about if you're Sam Hinkie, which I'm sure at least one person reading this is.
My guess is somebody offers a first rounder (this year or next), an expiring, and an undervalued prospect for Thad and Hinkie pulls the trigger. I believe the combination of losing more this year and acquiring picks/prospects/cap space is more valuable to the team than keeping Thad for the duration of his contract.