Among the assets that Sam Hinkie famously hoarded, people usually think of the injury-prone centers taken at the top of the draft, the second-rounders signed to the famous Hinkie Specials, or the overabundance of draft picks that have been used to stash players in Europe. But the asset that Hinkie always considered to be incredibly valuable that we don’t often discuss is not a player, and it is not a draft pick. It is cap space. Hinkie understood that financial flexibility is not a given in today’s NBA, it is a luxury. And these days, many teams are desperate to have it.
After striking out on LeBron James and Paul George, the Sixers are in an odd position. They have a clear need for another star, and have the financial means to acquire one in free agency. However, this free agent star does not exist — it’s only July 3, but the market has turned into almost only role players at this point. So now, the Sixers have to get creative. Given how competitive they were last season, it would be silly to leave any significant amount of cap space hanging out to dry, especially with LeBron James now going to the Western Conference.
The Sixers could go with the conventional route and just find a few free agents to sign who can help out on one-year deals, who they would presumably lose next summer. Or, they can consider signing a player or two, and then use the greatest asset of them all — cap space — in order to extract more assets, the same way Hinkie extracted two potential pick swaps and an unprotected first-rounder from the Kings to take on Jason Thompson and Carl Landry, or the way he got a first-rounder from the Nuggets to take Javale McGee’s remaining salary. The Sixers should not be looking to take on any salary for more than one more season, so they might not get as fantastic a return as the one that they got from Sacramento, for example. But there are some intriguing possibilities out there.
NOTE: The Sixers can currently get to $20,622,780 in cap space if they choose to do so. This would be done by renouncing Amir Johnson’s $13,200,000 cap hold as well as Demetrius Jackson’s $838,464 cap hold, and then waive and stretching Jerryd Bayless’ remaining $8,575,916 salary.
The Nuggets have a serious problem. They are a team who has always been resistant to paying the luxury tax, yet now find themselves over $22M into the tax, even when renouncing all free agent cap holds. They have a hilariously plentiful set of bad contracts, both long-term ones as well as expiring contracts. Here are their major expiring deals they will be looking to move:
Kenneth Faried ($13,764,064)
Faried seems like a rather unlikely salary for the Sixers to take on because he is simply an awful fit with the rest of the roster.
Wilson Chandler ($12,800,562)
Chandler should be the top target for the Sixers if they decide to go with the salary dump route. Despite being somewhat overpaid, he is a solid two-way veteran who can help fill the big holes for shooting and defense on the Sixers roster. Unlike many other players who will be on this list, Chandler is legitimately good. If the Sixers can potentially get an asset on top of a good player who fits in well with the rest of the roster, they need to pounce. Because with the position they are in, Chandler can be overpaid for this year and it won’t matter.
Darrell Arthur ($7,464,912)
Arthur provides little to no on-court value whatsoever. He has played less than 800 minutes in the last two years combined for the Nuggets, and likely would not see time for the Sixers. But the Nuggets are desperate to get off of him — getting rid of his contract would save them around $25M when factoring in the luxury tax bill. The Sixers could take him on in a trade and then either buy out his contract or waive him.
The Nuggets should absolutely be the first team the Sixers call about potentially taking on salary. And with the extreme stakes the Nuggets are dealing with when it comes to getting off of salary, it is absolutely feasible that the Sixers can get a future first-round draft pick for taking on one or two of these deals.
OKC is $33,753,824 into the tax, eliciting an astounding payment of $136,544,488. They have no hope whatsoever of avoiding the tax, especially after giving big deals to both Paul George and our good friend Jerami Grant. But they do have some short-term salaries that they would like to get off of. If they offer any sort of draft compensation that is not insignificant, the Sixers could pounce on it.
Alex Abrines ($5,455,236)
Abrines, whose career high in minutes per game is 15.3, is someone the Sixers could potentially get compensated for taking on. He’s probably not going to provide much value for the Sixers, but he is a career 38% shooter from three, and he has taken a substantial amount of three-point tries given his playing time. It isn’t out of the question that he could become a valuable depth wing under Brett Brown’s coaching staff.
Kyle Singler ($4,996,000)
Singler has not held a meaningful role in an NBA rotation since 2014-15, when he played 21.8 minutes per game for the Pistons and Thunder. He is another trade target who would likely be immediately waived, as he is not good enough to crack the Sixers’ rotation, even on the wing.
Cleveland doesn’t necessarily need to shed salary, as they are not in danger of paying the luxury tax now that LeBron James is a Laker, but after all of the money they have spent competing for titles, Dan Gilbert may want to cut back on spending now that they likely aren’t even a playoff team.
JR Smith ($14,720,000 in ‘18-’19, $3,870,000 guaranteed in ‘19-’20)
George Hill ($19,000,000 in ‘18-’19, $1,000,000 guaranteed in ‘19-’20)
These are two unique options. Because of how much they make, the Sixers could probably get some sizable compensation for taking on one of these guys. They should try to get Hill first, as his ability to defend on the perimeter, shoot off the catch, and be a secondary ball-handler would be valuable for this team. However, the Cavs might push the Sixers to instead take JR, who would likely have a very limited role for this team as a shooter off the bench. Both have very minor guarantees next year that make their contracts essentially one-year deals. If the Sixers want to take on one of these guys for an increased reward, they should still insist on including Bayless in the trade instead of waiving him, so the financial burden is not as heavy
Kyle Korver ($7,560,000 in ‘18-’19, $3,440,000 guaranteed in ‘19-’20)
Unlike the other players on this, the Sixers might actually have to give something up to get Korver, even if it is very minor. But, they absolutely should. As Sixers fans know very well, Korver is an absolutely elite shooter in every way: he excels off the catch, spotting up, on the move, standing still, and any other way you could ask for.
The Sixers should strongly consider adding at least one of these players from above via trade into their cap space, enabling them to grab additional future assets in the process. They have the financial flexibility to do so while also adding an impactful free agent or two.