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2016 NBA Draft: Late First-Round Picks a Luxury Heading into Salary Cap Spike

Players aren't the only ones benefiting at the draft with the looming salary cap jump, teams owning late first-picks are set to profit as well.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

A prevalent theme regarding the NBA's future is how the amplified salary cap will affect NBA teams in how they operate in the offseason. According to Yahoo! Sports' Shams Charania, the salary cap will be $94 million-$2 million more than initially anticipated. With a copious amount of cash to divvy up to players this offseason, the Sixers have flexibility in terms of who they're attracted to in the free agent pool and how much they'd like to ink players for.

It's a scenario teams covet, but they also have to factor in three, or possibly more, draft picks on June 23. Possessing both the No. 24 and No. 26 overall picks in next week's draft, general manager Bryan Colangelo can get creative moving up, trading either pick for manifested talent already in the league, or using them in a package with a player on the roster for a trade.

With Colangelo four years removed from participating in a draft, it's murky territory gauging his motives with his two late first-round assets. He might be primed to select the latest Nike signing Ben Simmons with the No. 1 pick, but what route he's taking later in the draft is speculative. However, even with the salary spike providing an enticing caveat to the offseason, late first-round picks hold greater value than previously.

While draft picks have always given teams flexibility, late first-round picks have been deemed volatile due to players flopping and impeding teams' optionality. This season should mitigate any doubts drafting players who have their first two years guaranteed on their deals. Sporting News' Danny Leroux highlighted the impact the 2016 draft will have on teams financially before this season.

While the value of rookie contracts has become common knowledge in the league, the 2016 NBA Draft will take this to another level. The NBA's collective bargaining agreement does not tie the rookie scale to the salary cap, so they will stay at their specified level through the massive cap increases fueled by the national TV deal. The 2016 draft class will have artificially low wages until 2020, when the league's economic structure could look totally different.

To put the upside into context regarding late first-round picks, the No. 24 and No. 26 picks' rookie scale salary was approximately $1,068,400 and $991,600, respectively, in the 2015-16 NBA season. The aforementioned picks' salaries jumped to $1,116,400, for the No. 24 pick and and the No. 26 pick will make $1,036,300 in the 2016-17 season. While the salary cap and threshold will jump exponentially, late first-round pick salaries will remain low.

The No. 24 pick in the 2016 NBA draft will make $1,105,800 in his rookie season and the No. 26 pick will accrue $1,026,300 with a jump in salary of $46,200 in his second professional season guaranteed. The theme of financial flexibility in the draft resonates throughout the process.

The No. 1 overall pick will earn approximately $4,919,300 in his rookie campaign, outside of endorsements, with two team options after the third are fourth seasons similar to the contract value of last year's first overall pick. The jump isn't immense, which should make either Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram one of the top values in the league in terms of performance/salary.

It also could be beneficial for Philadelphia, having two chances at finding a contributor late in the first round. Outside of power forward, if Philadelphia vies for the status quo and takes Simmons, and center, there are three starting positions that aren't legitimately solidified.

Ish Smith petered out late last season, failing to sustain the torrid start he had for the team at the point, the shooting guard spot last season was devoid of any high-end starting talent and both Robert Covington and Jerami Grant might be long-term bench pieces than adept lead small forwards.

Addressing any of the three aforementioned positions with their two late first-round picks, Brett Brown could opt to give substantial minutes to a rookie on the wing or at the point. He's been locked into opening games with NBA backups and afterthoughts.

Now with fresh talent outside of Joel Embiid, Dario Saric(?), and the No. 1 pick, maybe Colangelo bestows Brown a DeAndre' Bembry, Isaia Cordinier or Demetrius Jackson that arguably have starting ability on a Sixers team bereft of backcourt talent.

If either player picked No. 24 or No. 26 Thursday breaks out during their rookie year or later in their rookie contract, Philadelphia will have a stronger sales pitch to free agents. Additionally, they'll have cost-controlled emerging talents whose timetables coincide with Philadelphia's core players. Trading the picks or packaging them for a veteran is only ideal if the value is reasonable. However, with the financial flexibility a first-round pick now holds in the league, team's won't be be as inclined to willingly part with the asset.

The Sixers, outside of owning the marquee commodity in the draft, have two other selections that have appeal and are fortuitous, in relation to the team's timetable to compete. Once disposed at will, late first-round picks hold unprecedented value for every team in the association.

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