The NBA salary cap has lots of quirks. Some items are tied to specific calendar dates every year, while others are tied to specific days of the week, and they’re easy to confuse. The NBA team option deadline is one of them - one which has tripped me* up in the past. Team option decisions historically are announced before the season, but with an early start date for 2017-18 and an actual option exercise deadline of October 31, the Sixers have some roster decisions to make by Tuesday.
*I actually got this wrong last year, thinking the deadline matched the opening night roster deadline, and got corrected by Derek Bodner, so again, not easy to keep track of.
With that being said, most of the decisions that 76ers management need to make should be automatic, and given that young players are systematically underpaid - as veterans who run the players union have historically protected their self-interest over protecting the interests of incoming NBA players - that easiness should be expected. Let’s rank the decisions by likelihood of option exercise, from most likely to exercise to least likely, and label each ranking with the thoughts Bryan Colangelo and the rest of the front office should have about each choice.
1: If we accidentally forget to exercise the team option we all should be fired.
Ben Simmons - Not that you needed a reason, but have you seen this pass? Sixers social maestro Kurt Gies screenshotted an overhead view of it. That pass, leading to an open Embiid three, was beyond absurd.
birds eye view of that dime from ben to jojo at the beginning of the game— kurt (@kurtwearshats) October 29, 2017
not sure how one even does this pic.twitter.com/tmRMKSydfe
Simmons could have just made the pass with his left hand rather than pull a contortionist act out of his trick bag, but he’s probably more right-handed than left-, and ambidexterity is cool, so I’m fine with it. Anyway, his option for next year is for a cool $6.4 million. Exercise it now and don’t look back.
Odds: 100% chance of exercise
2: Not unless we have a promise from LeBron in hand and need the cap space, and even then, let’s try to move someone else instead.
Dario Saric - Without going too deep into his early season issues, Saric fits better on this roster than initially anticipated. Simmons has shown tremendous defensive potential, in addition to the 17.5/9.5/7.5 averages that sorta make you guffaw. He’s capable of defending four positions credibly, and he defends the rim better than non-Embiid Sixers bigs.
Given Simmons’ pure point guardiness and general perimeter defensive ability, Saric can remain a “4” for offensive purposes with Simmons. It’s no different than Robert Covington’s offensive role with Simmons in the game, and if Saric’s shooting form improvement translates to results it should fit well. While Saric lacks in defense compared to Covington, he makes up for that in additional offensive versatility.
I’m skeptical of lineups with Covington and Saric together with Simmons and a center, but aside from that there’s enough time to maximize Saric’s talents for 20-25 minutes each game. He’s good enough as a scorer and playmaker to let him go to work on bench units.
Saric’s option next year is for a light $3.3M which should be easily movable if need arises.
Odds: 99.9% chance of exercise
3. Good NBA wings are difficult to find, we should try sticking with the ones we have.
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot - Luwawu should be a safe bet. While he shot only 31% on threes last year and is a bit older than you probably think he is, he gained size over the summer to help defend larger NBA players, and among the young Sixers wings he has shown the most NBA potential to-date. At just short of $1.5M, his option should be picked up.
Odds: 95% chance of exercise
4. Don’t Take The L
Justin Anderson - Same song, different verse with Anderson compared to Luwawu-Cabarrot. Simba is a year-plus older than TLC and hasn’t had any success with his shooting, 2017-18 small sample excluded. His option will guarantee him about $2.5 million if picked up.
Giving up on Anderson so soon after acquiring him, along with a fake first round pick which predictably became a second round pick which we sold for cash, would be a non-starter in the optics division.
I haven’t felt enough outrage about the aforementioned cash. Dallas’s pick, 39th overall, ended up becoming Jawun Evans, who hasn’t played yet for the LA Clippers. But draft picks 40 and 45 are rotation players on decent-to-good teams (Dwayne Bacon for the Hornets and Dillon Brooks for the Grizzlies, respectively). The Sixers once used the 39th pick to get Jerami Grant. They drafted Richaun Holmes 37th. There are tangible examples of that pick, or a pick in that area, being useful selections.
In a season where the Sixers have run out of season ticket commitments, the team not using the cash obtained in that deal in a future trade is pure greed. Especially since the Sixers could use helpful young pieces! We got two of our best contributors - Robert Covington and T.J. McConnell - off the scrap heap, so any single thing helps.
Odds: should be 65% exercise, actually are 95%
5. Best of luck in your future endeavors
Jahlil Okafor - This should not be a difficult decision, regardless of which side of the Okafor debate you sit on. The Sixers have just committed $146 million or $176 million to Joel Embiid. At most, Okafor will be the backup center in situations where Embiid doesn’t play as long as Okafor remains on the roster. That would require a change in plans by Brett Brown, which he strongly indicated would not happen any time soon.
Okafor would love a $6.3M salary for next year if the team does exercise his option, but at the moment he’s waiting for one of 29 other teams to give him a chance. While a recent report has noted that the Sixers are likely to exercise the option, the situation at hand points to another answer.
Odds: 20% chance of exercise, and much of that could be due to an impending trade