A lot of people are excited that the Sixers picked up De'Anthony Melton, not realizing the disaster it represents. Most of these same people claim that the Sixers traded Danny Green and the 23rd pick in the draft for Melton. No. They traded a little less than the 23rd pick for Melton and added in Danny Green's contract for salary matching purposes. As a near useless asset, taking on Danny Green actually cost the Sixers a little as De'Anthony Melton is not worth the 23rd pick.
Melton's defense is probably pretty good. His defensive rating (dRtg) and defensive RAPTOR ratings check out at https://www.basketball-reference.com/players/m/meltode01.html and https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/nba-trades-2022. At basketballreference.com, the dRtg is located at the far end of the Per 100 Possessions table. For his career, Melton's dRtg is 108, last year it was 107. This is very good. For comparison, Thybulle's career dRtg is 106, while it was 108 last year. Melton compares quite fvorable, except that he is 6'2" to Thybulle's 6'5". Melton is not as 'switchable' as Thybulle.
However, Melton's offensive rating leaves a lot to be desired at 104 lifetime, 108 last year. Compare this to Thybulle's 109 lifetime, 116 last year. Now, I do not know how these ratings are calculated but something is seriously wrong with the system if Thybulle is rated above average. Thybulle's offense is anything but average. But, by this metric, Melton's offense is even worse. According to RAPTOR, Melton's offense and defense last year check out quite nicely. Perhaps, his RAPTOR ratings are more accurate than his ratings on BasketballReference.com.
Melton's salary is $8.2 million. Being over the cap and tax line, the Sixers had to 'match' salaries in order to take on Melton's salary. The reason Danny Green was included is his $10 million nominal salary. I wouldn't be surprised if Memphis let's him go in the no too distant future, if that can still be done for less than $2 million. His contract was not fully guaranteed. However, Memphis is still $22 million under the cap even after this trade. So, they have the luxury of keeping him and seeing how he heals from his torn ACL and MCL.
By utilizing Green's $10 million contract to take on an $8.2 million contract, the Sixers reversed the financial ramifications of Green's contract. The trade saved them about $1.8 million and cost them $8.2 million. If the had just cut Green, they would have saved about $8.2 million at the cost of about $1.8 million. (This is estimated by memory. I didn't look this figure up.)
This is the real tragedy of the Melton acquisition. Not only do the Sixers end up spending about $6 million more on Melton than they would have on the 23rd draft pick, not only could they have picked up a potential star SF PF in Nicola Jovic, or a supersub, defensive wiz SG SF in Wendell Moore, or a ready to play, fan favorite PF in EJ Liddell, they also may have blown their chance to... wait for it... pick up... free agent... PJ Tucker. Why? Because instead of being under the tax line with just a few more millions to trim from the payroll to qualify for $10+ million the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, they are $5.8 million over the tax line. This means that, in order to pick up PJ Tucker as a free agent, the Sixers have to trim at least $15.9 million off of their payroll. This will cost them substantially more players/depth.
For instance, the contracts of Korkmaz, Thybulle, and Niang together equal $12.7 million, well short of the required $16 million. Plus, their spots would be replaced by PJ and two minimum contracts. The minimum contracts will add up to about $4 million. So, really only $8 million of the required $16 million is saved on these three players. Where the rest of the $8 million will come from no one knows. Having to replace any remaining or newly opened roster spots with minimum contract players is a disaster. Philly traditionally does not compete well for minimum contract players. Los Angeles, New York, Miami and, probably, Chicago are more enticing destinations if the money is the same.
So, how can the Sixers get out of this ridiculous situation they have seemingly painted themselves into? Easy. They must already be working on a deal similar to the one I propose below.
The Spurs have a lot of cap space, the presumed desire to compete immediately for the widely respected/revered coach who is about to retire, and lack a true starting caliber PF. That's right fans. You finally get your (slightly misbegotten) wish. Tobias Harris departs for San Antonio along with Thybulle for Devin Vassell, the Spurs 1st round pick on 2023, and the Spurs 2nd round pick in 2023 via Indiana. This is a screaming deal for the Spurs. They get 2 playoff experienced rotation pieces in order to compete right now for a player who probably has lost the starting SF job to Keldon Johnson. The Spurs remain $1.8 million under the cap with just 2 roster spots to fill. I think the rules allow for this trade, though the Spurs may have to renounce some players they would rather keep. They could save at least one by shipping Tre Jones, a back up PG, to the Sixers in the same trade. I don't believe Tre Jones has a lot of trade value. If necessary, the Spurs can make other trades to make their finances work.
This trade can be atered into an even more screaming deal for the Spurs by swapping out the original package going to the Sixers for Keldon Johnson. If getting Harris and Thybulle for Johnson is not overpayment, I don't know what is. The Spurs get to keep their two 2023 picks and Devin Vassell. Why would the Sixers give up so much for just Keldon Johnson in return? Because they will won a championship, of course. The trade creates a $38 million trade exception and leaves them $5.2 million under the cap.
They could plausibly get Amir Coffey plus Isaiah Hartenstein from the Clippers in a sign-and-trade. That would limit the Sixers under the apron of $155 million for the year, But, they will never approach that figure, So, the limitation is functionally no limit at all. In exchange, the Clippers would receive Niang, Korkmaz, and Milton. The money works. Sign-and-trade never return much in value. The Sixers are competing against other teams willing to sign-and-trade. In order to be in the game, not only would other teams have to offer the Clippers more, they would have to be preferable to Hartenstein and Coffey. So, the Sixers have to overpay in an attempt to head off competing offers. I assuming $12 million for both might get it done; $21 million over 3 years for Hartenstein and $15 million over 3 years for Coffey.
Adding some of the under-the-cap money to the mid-level exception allows the Sixers to offer PJ Tucker $39 million over three years, which should be enough to sign him.
So, from the Sixers' perspective they are sending out Harris, Thybulle, Niang, Milton and Kotkmaz and getting back PJ Tucker, Keldon Johnson, Hartenstein, Coffey, and, perhaps Tre Jones. If they get Tre Jones, then the Sixers would end up with 13 players under contract and 2 player on two-way contracts. This does not include Michael Foster, Jr., who just signed a free agent contract with the Sixers as an UDFA. I don't know the terms of his contract. But, the Sixers would be about $9 million over the cap and about $18 million under the tax line. There would be only three players on 1 year contracts: Reed, Joe, and K Johnson. They should all be easy to sign to extensions.
The team would be remarkably similar to last year's team. The defense of PJ and scoring of Johnson replacing scoring of Harris and the defense of Green in the starting line up. Melton's defense from the bench replacing Thybulle's defense as well as the willingness to shoot, ball handling and bit of playmaking of Milton or Korkmaz. Coffey's three point shooting replaces Niang's. Hartenstein and Bassey will form one of the better sets of back ups for Embiid the Sixers have ever had. Like last year's team, the hopes for the year will be placed on Coffey, Melton, Hartenstein, Bassey, Reed, K J, and Joe repeating or improving on their previous production. It is hoped that more of them will succeed in this than the almost universal failure of Niang, Green, Thybulle, Korkmaz, Milton and Joe last year. Only Joe remains. So, the coach will not be tempted to play any of those that disappointed last year. A good year is reasonably to be hoped for and even getting past the second round.