About two months ago I wrote about the Sixers’ (not-so-great) salary cap situation. Since then, we saw the league finish out the season, conduct the NBA Draft, have free agency, and open up the trade moratorium. All of these events brought on a completely revamped Sixers roster that has flipped the script on where the Sixers are and where they can go. So I figured it would be best to get a financial preseason look at the team that could very well change mid-season.
Today we will take a look at the new Sixers salary cap. How have things changed? What are some possible routes they can take to upgrade the team? What are some new questions that have arisen in the wake of a new roster? There’s a lot to breakdown, so let’s dive right into it.
First things first, we’ve got to get a look at the Sixers salary cap. I have yet to find a complete or accurate version so I brought it upon myself to draft one up. In this iteration you’ll find that I included Justin Anderson’s deal and left off the non-guaranteed contracts of Ryan Broekhoff and Derrick Walton Jr. As of right now, it seems like Anderson has the greatest chance of making the final roster spot so I will presume just that.
Horford has departed from “New Philadelphia”
Obviously the most noticeable difference is the subtraction of Al Horford and his remaining $81 million in salary over the span of three years. Getting off of his contract was a huge success for both on-court performance and future flexibility for the team.
The Sixers will immediately reap the benefits of this in their next free agency as they will have access to the full mid-level exception — which will allow the team to offer a contract starting at around $9 million a year for up to four years.
The Sixers also gained a decent sized trade exception from this deal worth over $8 million (the expiration date of this exception is still to be decided). For those unfamiliar, the Sixers will be able to use this exception to acquire a player (or multiple players) of a salary within the threshold of it. The team has access to three current exceptions which can be used in future trades/signings. It’s worth mentioning that they cannot combine these exceptions together in any move; they’ll have to be used in separate transactions.
The Al Horford trade didn’t put the Sixers below the NBA luxury tax line, however. They are over the $132.6 million dollar tax line by over $10 million in salary. Ducking the tax for this season would be pretty hard to do unless they waived or traded away Danny Green for less than $4 million in salary, which would almost certainly not help the team. As of right now, the Sixers are well under this tax line for the foreseeable future after the 2020-21 campaign.
Moving a player like Mike Scott or Terrance Ferguson could still make some sense. Both of these players have very minimal value as they both put together lackluster seasons in the previous year. The Sixers could use them as trade fillers to gain better players in the best case scenario as expiring contracts do hold some value in the NBA. The worst case scenario would be that the team attaches draft picks to either player in a salary dump to avoid paying some extra money. While the latter of the two options would seem much more like the Sixers we know, I highly doubt Daryl Morey would waste flexibility or possible opportunity in this instance.
Different routes the Sixers can take to improve
The Sixers now find themselves on the complete opposite side of flexibility than they were just a few weeks ago. They have a multitude of ways they can improve and bolster their roster for the foreseeable future.
The first aspect is the amount of moveable contracts that the team has acquired in the wake of the Horford deal. The Sixers have five new contracts — four of which are expiring — making $3 million or more outside of the Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Tobias Harris trio that have neutral or positive value. They can package any of these contracts to match salary in the event of a future trade. Outside of contracts, the Sixers have three trade exceptions mentioned above in which they can use to sign or trade for talent.
Daryl Morey has been adamant in maintaining flexibility and the ability to improve the roster throughout/after the season. It’s very likely that this year will be looked upon as a transition year as the Sixers hunt out players to fit around Simmons and Embiid.
The Sixers also saved the majority of their taxpayer’s mid-level exception (MLE) which was worth $5.7 million. They used a small portion of this exception to sign their 49th overall pick from this year’s draft, Isaiah Joe. It’s very likely that the Sixers will hold out on using the rest of their taxpayer’s MLE until after the trade deadline in the midst of contracts being bought out. The Sixers have struggled mightily in landing helpful free agents or players, but become a much more attractive destination if the team is performing well and a buy-out candidate can make more than the minimum.
Some possible buy-out candidates that could help the Sixers could be the likes of Reggie Bullock, Alec Burks, George Hill, or Derrick Rose.
Possible developing storylines and decisions
The Sixers will have a pretty big decision to make throughout this season in regards to Furkan Korkmaz, whose deal just got guaranteed for this season.
Why do I say that? Korkmaz is coming off of a breakout year where he went from a borderline NBA player to a productive bench shooter in what seemed like overnight. He was one of the bright spots in an otherwise gloomy Sixers season. He’s a great fit for the team and has a good chance of developing to become even better.
The decision regarding Furkan more lies within his contract status rather than his play. Elton Brand — who was in charge at this point — declined his rookie team option back in 2018. Korkmaz seemed like he was destined to go to another team or league at the time until the Sixers struck out on Kyle Korver, prompting them to resign Korkmaz to a two-year, non-guaranteed contract.
That non-guaranteed contract will be coming to an end after this year and the Sixers will seriously have to decide on how they feel about Korkmaz and his upcoming unrestricted free agency. The Sixers won’t have the option of matching a contract offer and could risk losing him for nothing in return.
Sharpshooters Joe Harris and Davis Bertans are recent examples of how much shooting is valued in today’s NBA. Both of them cashed out with $75 million and $80 million dollar contracts, respectively. If Furkan builds on what was a successful year, it isn’t out of the realm of realistic possibility that he could find himself approaching a similar payday. If the Sixers feel they won’t be able to re-sign him, they should look into dealing the Turkish sharpshooter at the trade deadline.
Another sharpshooter on their roster — Danny Green — is someone they should look to keep around, assuming that this season goes well. Green’s development with the Spurs created the coveted “3&D” label. While he’s certainly out of his prime he can be a valuable player for the Sixers in the upcoming future on the right contract.
While Green’s streaky shooting has gotten heavy coverage, he’s always been known as a great glue guy in the NBA. There’s a reason he’s been apart of three different NBA championship caliber teams; he’s a valuable player on and off of the court. He could be a great mentor for Matisse Thybulle, who has a very similar skillset to Green. Like Korkmaz, he will also be approaching an unrestricted free agency. If the price is right, the Sixers should look to hang onto him.
The Sixers are in a much, much better place than they were just a few weeks ago. Daryl Morey didn’t have much to work with, but he helped make the Sixers a watchable team with some upside to become better in the near future. With an average roster age of 26 years, the Sixers’ championship window has been both pushed back and extended, which is a good thing in hindsight as Simmons and Embiid are just about to enter their respective primes.
The upcoming months will answer a lot of the questions asked above, and more. It’s pretty impressive to see how the Sixers made so much progress in such little time. The Sixers still have a ways to go, but I feel confident in the direction they’re headed under one of the best in the business in Daryl Morey.