NBA free agency opens tomorrow, meaning teams will take meetings with whichever players they think they have chances of signing. Not every team which hosts free agents have the ability to sign them outright. They need help, and the Sixers can provide it.
So it's only fair, on the eve of NBA free agency, to look into the potential trades Philadelphia may make to get better players or future draft picks while using almost just their cap space. Because NBA trades require something being sent out by both sides, the Sixers will have to give up "something" in every salary dump trade. The Sixers can include nominal returns, such as the draft rights to a player that will never touch the NBA (like Cenk Anyol), a heavily protected second round pick, or a player on a contract without a guaranteed dollar amount owed to him that the Sixers intend to release (see Brandon Davies from last season, for instance) and get players with larger salaries back due to their expansive cap room.
All salary cap figures included in this article are calculated using Basketball Insiders salaries. Assuming the 76ers do not extend qualifying offers to Henry Sims or Glenn Robinson III, the team will have $33.5 million committed to 11 players, including Jahlil Okafor's cap hold. Assuming a salary cap of $67.1 million, per an NBA memo released at midseason to teams and leaked to the media, the Sixers have like half of the salary cap to work with. Other teams don't have near as much. Ten of those teams, listed below, could use some help and may be willing to part with valuable picks or players to create their own cap space.
1. Atlanta Hawks - Thabo Sefolosha
Atlanta needs to open space to re-sign DeMarre Carroll and Paul Millsap, reuniting the starting lineup which chemistried its way to the Eastern Conference's best record. Because of their short contracts before this free agency period, the Hawks are limited by either cap space or by early bird rights in the deals they can offer Carroll and Millsap, and retaining both will be the team's priority.
Sefolosha makes the most sense for Atlanta to move - his injury suffered under disputed circumstances at the hands of police officers in New York City leaves him the most questionable of Atlanta's bench options next season. He's also their most costly piece - with two guaranteed seasons totaling just under $8 million. Kent Bazemore and Mike Scott are also possibilities, though they are healthy and less expensive.
The cost for Atlanta? Probably not enough each season to justify forfeiting a first round pick, but a second rounder for each guaranteed season is maybe enough, especially if Sefolosha can rehabilitate his league-wide value and turn into an asset by the 2016-17 season, where he'd probably be underpaid if he can fully recover, or come close.
2. San Antonio Spurs - Boris Diaw and/or Tiago Splitter
Diaw and Splitter are both good players. Neither are LaMarcus Aldridge, who is reportedly interested in playing for the Spurs as a fan of winning and Texas. Either would be the fourth big, so moving one for both cap space and positional duplicity
Neither brings a draft pick with them, however. San Antonio can probably get something of value for either. But in either case, if the Sixers can acquire them with cap space, they should be easy to flip during the summer. Splitter would retain his value in-season, but Diaw would become so unmotivated you might as well eat his salary if he stays a while.
3. Golden State Warriors - David Lee
Maybe the most obvious candidate, as Lee's $15 million salary and sparing playing time make him an ideal salary dump target. Golden State can afford to pay the luxury tax after roping in playoff revenue from their title run, but it's probably a good move to make regardless for future luxury tax flexibility. Dumping Lee without accepting any salary back is the goal. To do so, it might take more than a first round pick because of the team's strong record.
Could they include 2015 first round pick Kevon Looney and more future picks? Will they part with anyone else to do so? Harrison Barnes seems like a lock to be off the table. Can Golden State make this move without hurting the current team?
4. New York Knicks - Jose Calderon
We're talking about the New York Knicks, a team owned by a billionaire maniac's billionaire son and wannabe rock star and presided over by a peyote-billowing so-called master of zen, so obviously all sanity-based caveats apply and the Knicks may literally do anything come July 1st, with anything always resulting in more misery for those poor fans. But they had a decent draft night, I guess.
The Knicks might have enough cap room to use the stretch provision on Calderon and eat his salary without giving up assets, but moving the point guard in a trade might be a more palatable transaction. Calderon can still run a pick-and-roll blindfolded and is still a gifted offensive point guard, and thus the Knicks may only have to move second round picks to shed his contract.
And now, a problem: the Knicks don't have many second rounders to trade in any deal (the Sixers own three future picks outright, already), and Calderon's $15 million contract over the next two seasons is onerous. But the makings of a deal are there if you look past the smoke clouds.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder - Steve Novak
If you're feeling adventurous, you could include Dion Waiters here, but OKC probably still likes him. Maybe. I sure as heck don't.
The Thunder need the room to re-sign their key free agents, Enes Kanter and Kyle Singler. They also just need as much talent as possible to be in title contention, with a looming free agency bout for Kevin Durant. And the owners seem unwilling to dabble in the tax unless it's unavoidable. Dropping costly dead weight should be the priority, and the Sixers and Thunder have had no trouble doing business in the past. This seems like a natural future transaction.
Steve Novak got a sizable contract thanks to Mike D'Antoni's once-revolutionary basketball system, but he has barely played over the past two seasons for different coaches. He's an extra for the Thunder at about five times the cost of a replacement-level NBA player, making north of $3.7 million in a deep bench role. Still a dangerous shooter without a position to defend, OKC might be better off using that spot on a defensive specialist. They already have too many defensive weak points without Novak involved.
A second-round pick, potentially Charlotte's pick acquired in the Jeremy Lamb deal, should be a good enough pick to take on Novak.
6. Sacramento Kings - Carl Landry and Jason Thompson
I've given up on trying to assign any rational motives to what the Kings will do at basically any point. Vivek Ranadive and George Karl, together or not, definitely want to win as many games as soon as possible, and may think about luring free agents like Rajon Rondo or Monta Ellis to Sacramento. To do that, they'll need cap room.
And Jason Thompson is still there! Thompson's stay in Sacramento deserves some recognition, as it's among the half-dozen longest tenures for any active player with his current team. With DeMarcus Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein, there's a set frontcourt duo that should get the majority of minutes together. Dumping Thompson and Carl Landry, who has a contract that's been a mistake since it was graced with a signature, makes sense in their current context.
Sacramento amazingly still owes Chicago a draft pick, so a first round pick three years in the future is the best they could do for either player. Landry, who makes $6.5 million in each of the next two seasons, will probably require that price. Thompson has value as a third big and should probably only fetch a second round pick from Sacramento from a team that needs a reserve center, which is probably not the Sixers.
7. Memphis Grizzlies - Vince Carter
The Grizzlies actually have some space to work with, unless they go through with a trade for a big contract such as Joe Johnson. Carter made less of an impact than expected last season, as he got old quickly, and Memphis needs to take as many swings at improvement as it possibly can while on the edges of title contention.
Carter has a trade kicker, so moving him will be costly for Memphis. He's owed $4 million guaranteed this season, no guarantee the next season. Would they be willing to swallow $600K and a second round pick or Jordan Adams for a somewhat minor improvement? I don't know. But that might be the only thing short of a major trade that would net them a second big piece to add, along with retaining Marc Gasol. Jeff Green is another possibility here, but he's younger and a bigger contract to shed.
8. Miami Heat - Chris Andersen, Mario Chalmers, and Udonis Haslem
Miami gave Chris Andersen a large contract as he played at the minimum salary for multiple years during the LeBron era for a chance to win. The Heat essentially back-paid Andersen with a contract he would not be able to live up to. Ditto to Udonis Haslem, who waived a player option to free up more cap room for LeBron and associates. Miami needs room to retain Dwyane Wade, who wants market rate for his next contract after giving that up (again, for LeBron) and Goran Dragic, who will go to whichever team offers the biggest contract this summer.
Everyone in Miami yells at Mario Chalmers, who was awful last season. He could at least be a stopgap terrible point guard in Philly.
Taking on any two of the three should necessitate giving up a future draft pick, but Miami's devoid of those due to the Dragic trade and the pick owed to the Sixers. Making that Sixers-owed pick unprotected, plus adding in potential second round picks, could be the price for taking on any number of the above deals. The Sixers should caution against any move that ends up being too valuable for Miami given the Sixers own Miami's next not top-10 pick.
9. Dallas Mavericks - Raymond Felton
Dallas wants to restock around Dirk Nowitzki without the franchise's wheels falling off. The Mavericks will have max cap room even without moving salary, but moving Felton can create more room to sign free agents or re-sign outgoing players. With Monta Ellis and Rajon Rondo unlikely to return, luring star talent, potentially multiple stars, is the goal. Even if those stars might be found in another galaxy given Dallas' free agent record.
Dallas can make two 30% max contracts a possibility through moving Devin Harris and Raymond Felton. Harris has a lot of on-court value and would attract interest from contending teams *and* would probably get Dallas a draft pick in return. Felton is the opposite of all of those things.
Felton would not have any real value to a rebuilding team, from his on-court lack of contribution to his off-court lack of commitment, and he should be waived immediately. A second round pick or two would be the price here for a $4 million contract.
10. Houston Rockets - Terrence Jones (or really, Trevor Ariza or even Dwight Howard)
So. We've discussed the Terrence Jones rumor already, and as co-founder of the Terrence Jones Fan Club, I reserve my right to be giddy if this trade were ever to commence. But it's unlikely, and the only reason we can give it consideration is because Daryl Morey has a track record.
The estimated salary cap for this upcoming season is $67.1 million. Houston needs to create $20.1 million in cap room to pay out a 30% max contract, which is what LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love would warrant when they hit free agency. Houston may also be hoping that, like last season, the NBA estimate is a shortfall and they can squeeze a little more room out from what they have.
Including everything, Houston's at $64.8M for 12 players. They can waive Kostas Papanikolaou for nothing, bringing them down to $60 million or thereabouts. But they're still about $14 million away from a max offer, and they'll have a cap hold for each roster spot under 12 that they have. Even if they leverage a tax advantage, they're still miles away from offering a similar bargain to Aldridge that he can get elsewhere.
But if they move Dwight Howard somehow, who will make abut $22.5 million in 2015-16, for a slight downgrade, they can then make a move rather easily. They can also dump Ariza and his rapidly increasingly friendly contract and probably get an asset out of it. But any case is a long-shot with them. Houston will try, though. They always try.