Assessing the Sixers Draft/Trade Rumors

Loads of trade rumors circulating around the NBA Draft and our beloved Sixers. It’s virtually impossible to sort through fact and smokescreen right now. But there is still 24 hours left until the draft, so I figured I would give it my best effort.

The Sixers Want Wiggins Above All Else:

I can see why. He is an athletic freak that has the potential to be the best player in this draft. He fits a need: dominant two way player. And he fits the system: where Brett Brown’s fast paced offense would accentuate his strongest assets while mitigating his weaknesses. And all things considered, he is the player I want the most for the Sixers.

But I am starting to doubt this rumor. As Michael Levin pointed out, Sam Hinkie is obsessive about keeping the Sixers’ draft plans under wraps. No one saw coming last year’s blockbuster trade of Jrue Holiday to New Orleans for Noel and this year’s #10 pick. No one. And the Sixers have just excluded the media from the PCOM center the night of the draft.

So we all are supposed to believe that — despite this (un?)healthy level of paranoia — the Sixers want the rest of the league to know that they want Wiggins? That doesn’t sit right with me.

Plus, the Sixers rely heavily on analytics. Yet, of the top 4 prospects in this draft, Wiggins ranks the lowest in the analytics community. Kevin Pelton of doesn’t even have Wiggins in his top 10 WARP projections and his closest comps for Wiggins are Tobias Harris and Loul Deng.

VJL has Wiggins ranked 10th just among domestic prospects.

In short, the Sixers well-documented interest in Wiggins runs contrary to their philosophy of keeping things close to the vest and relying heavily on analytics. If it happens, great. But as of right now, color me skeptical.

The Sixers Targeting Dante Exum at 3:

Chad Ford certainly thinks it’s a possibility.

Ford starts talking about Exum at 33:35. You can hear the excitement in his voice: Simmons tries to spend only a minute on it (actually, 45 seconds), but Ford can’t help himself.

Here are the highlights:

1. The Sixers have 36 tapes of Exum playing high school basketball and have studied up on him more than any other team in the league. And that the Sixers were very impressed by his workout.

2. Several league execs told Ford, independently of one another, that Exum tested off the charts in terms of competitiveness, IQ, etc.

3. One executive stated that Exum is the closest to Kobe Bryant he has ever seen in terms of overall makeup and drive.

4. The Sixers view Exum as having a higher ceiling than MCW.

5. Ford knows for a fact that the Sixers have been shopping MCW, because he has spoken with league executives who engaged in trade discussions with the Sixers involving MCW. He suggested the Sixers know what they have in MCW that he will likely never have a higher trade value than he currently possess. Simmons compared the Sixers to the first "hedge fund managed" team because they focus on maximizing the value of any asset (which I think is a fair, and encouraging, comparison).

6. The most likely move involves the Sixers moving MCW (and possibly Young) to the Lakers for the 7th pick. He also said the Kings 8th pick is a strong possibility.

Now, I am not treating everything Ford says as the gospel. Obviously, there is an inherent risk with drafting a guy like Exum when you have not had the opportunity to watch him compete against top level players like you have with Wiggins, Parker and Embiid.

But given everything (especially how connected Brown is to Australia), I think the Sixers are primed to grab Exum at 3. In fact, I will go so far as to say I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he was their preferred target all along.

Sixers Trading MCW for a Top 8 Pick:

I was strongly against this rumor before the Embiid injury. Then, the possibility existed for the Sixers to build around a core of MCW, Wiggins, Noel and the 10th overall pick. It didn’t make sense unless we were getting a top pick in return, and even then I wondered whether we would be giving up MCW for 60 cents on the dollar.

But the Embiid injury changes things. I wouldn’t go near Embiid with his injury history, so assuming Wiggins and Parker go 1-2, Exum is the BPA at 3. Most experts agree Exum has a higher ceiling than MCW. And I don’t think they can coexist in the backcourt together. So instead of forcing a square peg into a round hole, I am warming up to the idea. And as Chad Ford highlighted above, apparently so are the Sixers.

The best way to think about this is to use decision matrix. While we all might have our personal preference, it is important to keep in mind that the Sixers aren’t focusing on this draft as the only mechanism through which they can build a championship team. As Bill Simmons recently documented, the draft is a crapshoot.

Therefore, the Sixers are likely more concerned with collecting valuable assets that will either turn into a championship caliber team or be used as trade chips for bonafide superstars. With that in mind, which lineup do you think the Sixers would prefer?

Lineup 1: MCW, Vonleh (at 3), McDermott/Stauskas/Saric(at 10), Young, and Noel; or

Lineup 2: Exum (3), Gordon/Vonleh/Randle (at 7), McDermott/Stauskas/Saric (at 10) and Noel.

From a pure upside/asset valuation standpoint, I think it’s the second lineup. Without question.

Thus, while I thought it was a remote possibility before, the Embiid injury made it a strong possibility now.

Trading Thaddeus Young:

Of all the trade rumors revolving around the Sixers, this is the most likely. Young is going to walk next year, so the Sixers are trying to capitalize on his value while they still can. This trade can come in two forms: (1) in a package deal with MCW to get the number 7 or 8 pick from the Lakers or Kings, respectively. Or (2) using Thad plus a few second rounders for a pick in the later part of the first round.

The reports have suggested the Sixers are most interested in getting 3 picks in the first 10. If that is true, then I expect the Sixers to move Young with MCW for the Lakers or Kings pick. I don’t expect Young to have enough value (even with a boatload of second rounders) to command a top 10 pick. Expect the Sixers to pull the trigger on the deal during the draft. They will likely wait until the Lakers and Kings are on the clock so they know what players are available. If one of their guys is still around (such as Gordon, a strong possibility), don’t be surprised if the trade goes down.

The Sixers attempting to get a first rounder in next year’s draft:

This is a point that should not be lost on Sixer fans. Hinkie is taking the long term view on this rebuild. We aren’t seriously going to be contending for a playoff spot next year, even if we get Wiggins. Hinkie knows this. He also knows that there exists the possibility for the Sixers to have to forfeit their first round pick in next year’s draft (because of the Arnett Moultrie deal) if they make the playoffs. (Thanks, Doug Collins). Even though it is a remote possibility, I do not take Hinkie for the type to take chances. Thus, do not be at all surprised if the Sixers sacrifice some assets to grab a first round pick in the 2015 draft.

Sixers not making any trades at all:

Ok I lied. This is the least likely scenario. It is so unlikely that I have yet to see a single report suggesting the Sixers will stand pat, keep Young, draft at 3 and 10, and use all 5 second rounders. I expect the Sixers to be the most active team in the draft, both in terms of acquiring assets and serving as a third team to facilitate trades for other teams. Their $30 million plus in salary cap space makes the latter option a distinct possibility. It should be fun, and thanks to the NBA’s ridiculous rule prohibiting trades from being announced during the draft, it will also be very confusing.

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