One of the side benefits of the 76ers draft day deals, which saw them ship out all-star point guard Jrue Holiday for #6 overall pick Nerlens Noel and a top 5 protected pick in 2014 from the Pelicans, was saving even more room under the salary cap.
The first year of Jrue Holiday's extension is set to kick in this season, causing his salary jump up to $9.2 million. Noel, the only player the 76ers received back in the deal which will impact their salary situation this season, will receive approximately $2.9 million when he signs, creating over $6 million in additional cap space the 76ers can use this offseason once they renounce Bynum's bird rights. It should also net them a traded player exception worth the difference of Holiday's and Noel's contracts, which they can use to balance out salaries in a trade for up to 1 year.
So where does that leave the team?
The 76ers have roughly $39.8 million committed to the following 9 players: Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, Jason Richardson, Lavoy Allen, Kwame Brown, Arnett Moultrie, Nerlens Noel, and Michael Carter-Williams. With a salary cap set at around $58.5 million, that leaves the 76ers with approximately $18.6 million in available space to work with.
One thing to keep in mind, the team has significant salary cap holds on Andrew Bynum (24.15 million) and Dorell Wright ($7.8 million). These cap holds will come off the 76ers books when the team either renounces their bird rights for that player or when the player signs with another team.
Andrew Bynum's departure is now likely a foregone conclusion. Bynum's agent David Lee said last week that they have had no conversations with the 76ers, and the prospects became even more unlikely when the 76ers traded for Nerlens Noel on draft night.
However, the 76ers might may not rush to renounce Bynum's bird rights immediately, as doing so would kill any chance of getting assets back in a sign and trade with Bynum. With a high number of teams significantly under the salary cap, the chances of a sign and trade may be remote, but Hinkie may not officially cut ties until another move -- either trade or signing -- materializes.
The key offseason will be next year, where the 76ers are currently set to have roughly $36 million in salary cap space. A little bit of that, probably roughly $6-$7 million, will be eaten into by the 76ers 2014 draft picks, of which the Sixers currently have 5 (2 first round picks, 3 second round picks).
This figure could change, of course, specifically if Sam Hinkie does look to trade Thaddeus Young, who is due to make roughly $9.4 million next season. By the same token, the 76ers draft pick situation is fluid, with the possibility of Hinkie both acquiring more picks and also losing some to facilitate other moves he wants to make.
Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes, two players frequently speculated to be on the move, will expire at the end of the season.
The 2014 free agent class, much like the 2014 nba draft class, is stacked. However, there are a number of free agents you can essentially cross off your list. Should LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, or Chris Bosh decide to exercise their early termination, they're certainly not going to take their talents to a cold weather city that just came off a 20'ish win season, regardless of how much cap space the 76ers will have.
There are also a few unrestricted free agents, such as Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kobe Bryant, but at 38, 36, 36 at the start of the 2014-2015 nba season, it's hard to see Hinkie looking to make those players the foundation of his team.
There's also the 2010 nba draft class, where first round picks who had their 3rd and 4th year player options picked up will be restricted free agents. This is perhaps where Hinkie could make his greatest impact. Sure, teams will have the ability to match, but if Hinkie is able to find somebody whom he feels is undervalued and/or underutilized, he has the flexibility to pull them away.
This all probably depends on who the 76ers end up with after the 2014 nba draft. It's probably unlikely Hinkie will find his franchise guy in free agency, either this year or next year. Ultimately, he's going to be looking to acquire complementary pieces, either second or third offensive options or role players to cover up the deficiencies and play off the strengths of the guy he does tab to be his franchise guy.
If you're looking for this season, expect 76ers new general manager Sam Hinkie to use his cap space to accumulate assets and sign guys to short term deals to fill out the roster. If the 76ers are involved in a major move, I believe it is likely to be the third team in a three team deal, using their cap flexibility to help facilitate a trade and acquire assets along the way.
With the Houston Rockets looking to shed salary to acquire Dwight Howard, Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin are being discussed as now being available. With Hinkie's Houston connection and the 76ers salary cap space, Philadelphia is being immediately listed as a destination.
I'm not sure I see it.
First, both Asik and Lin will be paid roughly $8.3 million each for the next two seasons, which would use nearly half of the 76ers projected cap space next offseason if they did acquire either.
The bigger issue is I don't think either of them fit.
Asik, a rebounding savant but somebody without much of an offensive game away from the paint, would be a poor offensive fit with Nerlens Noel. He also would struggle defending the face-up power forwards in the league, meaning any time he would be on the court with Noel, Nerlens would have to defend the power forward, pulling him away from the basket and away from his biggest strength. This isn't so much of a concern this year, as with Noel missing at least the first two months of the season and likely not ready to play much more than 20-25 minutes per game anyway, Asik and Noel wouldn't be on the court together all that much. But if Hinkie is going to eat into his flexibility next offseason, I would expect that he would do so for a piece that he feels can fit long term.
Jeremy Lin presents a similar problem. Lin would require the ball to be in his hands, being most comfortable making decisions off of pick and roll sets. With both Lin and Michael Carter-Williams needing the ball in their hand and also having streaky -- if not flat out bad -- outside shots, it would be hard to see either one running off the ball. Again, Carter-Williams may not be ready to play starters minutes, but if Hinkie is going to eat into his cap space next offseason, I would expect for him to do it to acquire a player who he thinks can be a long term contributor.
It's not that I don't think Hinkie may have some interest in Asik and Lin the players, and they're both on reasonable deals. I just don't see Hinkie having interest in Asik and Lin for this team.
If you're looking for some cheap options that might make some sense, check out Michael Levin's article from earlier today.