Cleveland Cavaliers center Brendan Haywood has one of the strangest contracts in basketball. Through a series of contractual loopholes that really don't matter for the Sixers purposes (they're explained here if you're interested), the 35-year old Haywood currently sits with a non-guaranteed contract for around $10.5 million for the 2015-16 season.
Now, I know you. You're probably thinking that seems like a lot of money for Brendan Haywood at pretty much any stage of his career, let alone this one. And you'd be right. Haywood played 119 minutes last season. By comparison, Chris Johnson played 187 minutes for the Sixers last year, and he's the guy you always forget on the Sixers Sporcle quiz.
The emphasis when it comes to Haywood's deal, however, is on the non-guaranteed part. Haywood's $10.5 million is fully non-guaranteed if he is waived by August 1st, according to the shadow of Lebron James, ESPN's Brian Windhorst. If waived, he would be owed nothing and would take up no cap space.
Cleveland can simply waive Haywood by August 1st and wash their hands of him, and if they can't find a trading partner, they almost certainly will. The luxury tax bill would be enormous, even by rich people standards. However, the situation presents an advantage that Cleveland can exploit if they so choose. Cleveland is obviously capped out, with three max-level contracts on their roster right off the bat, and their cap sheet doesn't get any friendlier from there.
By trading Haywood for nothing, Cleveland would open up a $10.5 million salary cap exception that they could use to acquire a player anytime over the next calendar year. And that's where the Sixers come into play.
The Portland Trail Blazers and Philadelphia 76ers are the only teams with enough cap space to absorb Haywood and create a trade exception for Cleveland. The Utah Jazz are also close but would have to trade or cut several players with non-guaranteed contracts to do so.
The Cavs will likely make a deal with one of these teams, and then Haywood would be immediately waived before his salary is guaranteed. To rent out this cap space, even for just a few hours, the Cavs might need to surrender a draft pick. Until last month, the Cavs didn't own any second-round picks until 2020 but have acquired two 2019 second-rounders over the past months. They also have the rights to a handful of overseas players.
In short, this would be a pure paper move. If the Sixers were to acquire Haywood, they would waive him immediately and he would have no impact against their cap at all. Whatever they get from the Cavs would be as free an asset as you can possibly acquire in the NBA.
With Portland and Philadelphia being the only teams that can absorb the contract at all according to Windhorst, it becomes a contest of who's willing to do the trade for less, and whether that price is worth it for Cleveland to essentially buy a $10 million trade exception.
The Sixers have a history of making this exact type of trade with Cleveland. Last September, Cleveland sent the Sixers a 2018 2nd round pick along with the non-guaranteed $5.2 million deal of Keith Bogans to create such an exception. The Sixers waived Bogans shortly thereafter (which he wasn't particularly fond of), and the Cavs used the exception from that deal to acquire Cleveland's most successful local television pitchman, center Timofey Mozgov in January for two first round picks without matching any salaries, normally a requirement in NBA trades for teams over the salary cap.
What could the Sixers receive from a Haywood deal? The most likely result would be a 2nd round pick of some kind, likely in 2019. Cleveland traded this year's 36th overall pick, Syracuse center Rakeem Christmas, to Indiana earlier today for a 2019 2nd round pick, and in my opinion, that's the most likely prize waiting for whoever takes on Haywood's contract for the amount of time it takes to waive a player.
Cleveland's next tradeable first round pick is in 2018, but that seems like a pipe dream because Vlade Divac doesn't run the Cavs (yet).
The reasonable best case scenario would be convincing Cleveland to part with this year's 31st overall pick, Turkish wing Cedi Osman, a teammate of Dario Saric on Anadolu Efes. With Portland in the race, this seems unlikely to me, but then again, I'm not
being held hostage by Lebron James trying to win now like Cleveland is. The trade exception could allow them to pick up a solid piece at the deadline, and desperate times call for desperate measures.
In short, the Sixers could potentially get a 2nd round pick for literally nothing at all. Not a windfall by any stretch, but it's been said that simply showing up is 80% of life, and getting something for nothing is almost always preferable. Getting anything of value out of this could only be considered a win for the Sixers. It's a no-brainer.