Sam Hinkie likes to make moves. The man has been on the job for a year now, and the team’s transactions page is already longer than the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Draft night should be awfully entertaining. Between the plethora of picks the Sixers have accumulated and Trader Sam’s itchy fix-it finger, June 26 will be appointment viewing.
“We are likely to be active all around the draft,” Hinkie admitted after the lottery. “That is not unusual for us.”
No kidding. The Sixers have seven picks in the upcoming draft: 3, 10, 32, 39, 47, 52 and 54. As Phil Jackson noted, it’s unrealistic for the Sixers to fit that many new faces on the roster. They are far more likely to package some of those picks -- and perhaps a current player or two -- and make moves. As Hinkie said, they should be active. But to be active, they need partners.
Here’s a look at some potential trade partners for the Sixers on or before draft night. This doesn’t include any inside information. I’m simply identifying organizations that might work with the Sixers because of draft position, need, circumstance or other factors. I outline some of the assets those franchises have that might be attractive or that they might be willing to part with. Then I ballpark the chance that the two teams talk about a deal. The scale for that is from 1 to 10 -- 1 being Hinkie is unlikely to pick up the secure phone in his undisclosed draft bunker, 10 being Hinkie is so excited he’ll personally warm up the car and drive the necessary combination of picks/players wherever they need to go to get the deal done.
Assets: 1st and 33rd picks this year. In 2015, they have a first-round pick from Memphis (protected 1-5 and 15-30) and another from Miami (protected 1-10). Dion Waiters, who was taken fourth overall in 2012, reportedly doesn’t get along with Kyrie Irving and might be available. Anthony Bennett, taken first overall last year, could probably be had for some deflated basketballs. You wouldn’t even have to throw in the air pump. Does Bennett count as an asset? Probably not, but it’s Cleveland. We’re being kind. Tristan Thompson is a double-double machine but still needs polish. We’re not listing Irving here because they’re not moving him.
Overview: This is the third time in the last four years that the Cavs have the first pick in the draft. They took Irving in 2011. That worked out nicely. Last year, they picked Bennett. That has not worked out as well.
Loul Deng is a free agent. Beyond that, their small forward situation is non-existent. They also need help in the paint. Anderson Varejao will be 32 when the season starts. Tyler Zeller is just a guy. And while Thompson had 36 double-doubles last year (most by a Cav in almost a decade), he wasn’t super efficient (14.9 player efficiency rating, 52.8 true shooting percentage). The Cavs could grab either Andrew Wiggins here or Joel Embiid and be happy to fill a need with a good player.
But would they trade the pick? And what might it cost for the Sixers to move up two spots? If the Sixers are in love with Wiggins -- and, not surprisingly, it sounds like they are -- or Embiid, and expect one of them to be a superstar, the move could potentially yield more talent than staying put and taking some combination of whoever’s left with the third pick and Nik Stauskas/Gary Harris/Doug McDermott/Dario Saric/someone else with the 10th.
The starting point is probably the No. 3 and the No. 10. The Sixers might have to throw in some of those second-rounders to make it happen. Or even Thad Young. But maybe they could get Bennett back in exchange. Just kidding. No one wants Anthony Bennett. Poor Anthony Bennett.
Chance: 5. I think they’ll talk. The Cavs are in a good spot. Easy enough for Cleveland to take either Wiggins or Embiid and play it safe. But Hinkie can be awfully convincing. If they dig Wiggins that much, it wouldn’t surprise me if they figure out a way to go up.
Assets: 2nd overall, 31, 36, 48. Giannis Antetokounmpo could be something special in a few years. Ersan Ilyasova has a wide skill set, but he also has a long injury history and he’s been maddeningly inconsistent on the court. John Henson is becoming a quality defender and rebounder. Larry Sanders is also a good rim protector, but he’s unstable and he’ll make $11 million in each of the next four years. Brandon Knight was pretty good for them at the point, and he’s only 22.
Overview: The Bucks went out and got O.J. Mayo last year and put together a roster that they hoped might make the playoffs. Then they won 15 games and finished with the worst record in the NBA. And they actually tried to win, at least for a while. Can you imagine if they tanked from the beginning?
The Bucks need a lot of help. The safe play is to stay put and grab the guy they like that falls to them. Even if they wanted to move the second pick, what would it take the Sixers to go up one slot? The third and 10th would probably be too much. And the Bucks already have their own cache of second-round selections. Maybe a player swap? But who would you want? They’re almost certainly not moving Antetokounmpo. Ilyasova is 27 and reaching the point where it’s less about his potential and more about how he hasn’t produced consistently. Henson is nice, I guess. No thanks on Sanders, the attendant headaches or his bloated contract. Not sure there’s a move to be made here.
Chance: 2. Moving up one spot doesn’t seem worth the trouble.
Assets: 13th, 40, 44, 53. Kevin Love will be a free agent in 2015 and reportedly wants out of Minnesota. Kevin Martin can shoot, but he’s 31 and he’s locked into a contract through the 2017 season. Nikola Pekovic is a paint monster, but he just signed a big deal that will pay him $12 million in each of the next four seasons. Ricky Rubio is fun to watch, but he’s a painfully bad shooter. He hit 38.1 percent from the floor and 33.1 percent from three, which were actually career highs. He also averaged a career-low 9.5 points.
Overview: The Timberwolves won 40 games last year. They were just good enough to compete and just bad enough to miss the playoffs and fall at the edge of the lottery. The Wolves also owe the Suns their first-rounder in 2015 (protected 1-12). They could use some draft picks to replenish the pile.
The dream scenario -- dream being the operative word -- for fans that fancy themselves as general managers would be landing Love. Starting price feels something like No. 3, No. 10 and Thad Young. Minnesota might consider it, but they’re going to get a ton of offers for Love, so that might not be enough.
But let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that the Timberwolves love the Love offer and want to make the deal. The Sixers would need some kind of assurance that Love would stick around. I don’t see why he would. He’s going to command huge money on the free-agent market. Why would he abandon that possibility to re-sign with a team that’s still in the embryonic phase of its rebuilding plan? Even though I think the Sixers have a bright future, I can’t imagine Love signing on and sticking around for it.
Chance: 1. Hinkie should pick up the phone to say hello, but I doubt the call will last very long.
Assets: All of them. The Suns have all the assets. This year, they have picks 14, 18, 27 and 50. Next year, they have the aforementioned first-rounder from Minnesota. If that isn’t conveyed next season, the pick with the same protections rolls over to 2016. They also have the Lakers' 2015 first-rounder (1-5 protected). Then there’s Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, the Morris twins and Miles Plumlee. Oh, and Alex Len. They drafted him last year. And they have no out-going picks. Even Hinkie has to look at how masterfully the Suns have rebuilt and nod approvingly.
Overview: The Suns shocked a lot of people, won 48 games and narrowly missed the playoffs. In the Eastern Conference, the Suns would have been a contender to unseat Miami. Instead, they’re a pretty young team with some really good players and a ton of draft picks. The Suns might be the only team with the ability to be more active on draft night than the Sixers. This is where it starts getting interesting.
If the Sixers stay put at 10 but don’t like their options, maybe there’s a deal to be made with Phoenix? Perhaps some combination of a first-rounder this year and the Minnesota pick next year? Problem is, the Wolves could easily be among the 12 worst teams if they move Love. And if Minnesota lands in the bottom 12 in each of the next two years (a distinct possibility), that first-rounder becomes two second-rounders (one in 2016 and one in 2017). Not sure if that’s enough to unload the 10. But here’s the thing: These two teams have so much flexibility. They could get creative.
Chance: 5. Hinkie has assets. The Suns have assets. Maybe they do a Vulcan mind meld and dream up something exciting that works for both parties.
Assets: Another team with lots of flexibility. The Celtics have the sixth and 17th picks this year. In 2015, they get the Clippers' first-rounder (unprotected), the Sixers’ first-rounder if it falls outside the lottery, and a second from the Kings (31-55 protected). They have a 2016 first-round pick from Brooklyn and a 2016 second-rounder from Miami. They have pick swap rights with Brooklyn in 2017 and another second from Sacramento (also 31-55 protected). And if that’s not enough, they have Brooklyn’s first-rounder in 2018. Basically, they control their draft and most of the Nets’ for the next four years. And they have only three outgoing second-rounders between now and 2017. Oh, and if they want to move Rajon Rondo, they have another nice, attractive piece to dangle. They are in very good shape.
Overview: The Celtics, like the Sixers, are in the process of rebuilding. And, like the Sixers (and the Suns), they have a ton of picks, which means they have a ton of options. The Celtics -- like everyone else -- have eyes for Love. They certainly have plenty to offer the Wolves.
But if that doesn’t work out, perhaps Danny Ainge and Hinkie can do a deal of some sort. Would the Sixers give up the third pick for the sixth and one of those unprotected Nets first-rounders in 2016 or 2018? Again, there are so many different ways each organization could go. And Ainge has proven to be a willing trade partner. He and Hinkie could come up with something mutually beneficial, I’m sure.
Chance: 5. Same as with the Suns. Two teams with flexibility that could get creative.
Assets: Picks 5, 23 and 35 this year. They also have Golden State’s first-rounder in 2017. They drafted Trey Burke last year. Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are only 22. Gordon Hayward is a restricted free agent with an attractive offensive game.
Overview: The Jazz could use a wing, but the chances of one falling to the fifth pick are slim. Utah is also reportedly enamored with Jabari Parker. What happens if Embiid and Wiggins are off the board when the Sixers pick? If the Sixers aren’t completely sold on Parker, would they be willing to move back for the right price? Say something like the No. 5 and No. 23 this year, and then a first-rounder (perhaps protected from 1-10) next year. With the fifth pick, you’re looking at someone like Noah Vonleh or Julius Randle. That would give the Sixers picks 5, 10 and 23, plus the first-rounder next season. That’s not terrible. Thing is, at some point between this year and next, the Sixers will have to take real-life players that they like. You can't rebuild on paper forever.
If the Jazz are desperate enough, maybe Hinkie convinces them to peel off some of the protection on that hypothetical 2015 first-rounder. Or maybe he uses the 10 and 23 to swing a different trade. If the Sixers aren’t crazy about the options left at No. 3, this would be a way to punt and keep accumulating assets.
Chance: 6. Hinkie robbed the Pelicans last year. Maybe the Jazz are the new Pelicans.
Los Angeles Lakers
Assets: The seventh overall pick. Kobe Bryant has a massive contract, he’ll be 36 this summer, and he’s coming off two injuries. Pau Gasol will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason. Steve Nash is old and will make $9.7 million on an expiring deal this season. They owe a protected first-rounder to the Suns in 2015 and another protected first-rounder to the Magic in 2017. They can clear a ton of money off the books next offseason, but the potential free agency fix is one of the few things the Lakers have going for them right now. That and being a storied franchise in a fantastic city where everyone wants to play and everyone is beautiful. Hate the Lakers.
Overview: This is the one I like best. The Lakers want to win now because they always want to win now. They could use help in the form of a player who can step in and contribute right away. And they could use picks. The Sixers can accommodate them on all fronts.
To that end, our friend Andrew Unterberger (you should read him; he's excellent) recently floated this idea on The700Level.com: Thad Young, the No. 10, No. 32 and No. 39 to the Lakers for the No. 7 and Nash’s expiring contract. I love it.
In this scenario, the Sixers keep the third pick. They unload Young, but that could happen sooner than later anyway. Then they use some of those second-rounders they’ve compiled to grease the deal and move up three picks. That could mean the difference between the Harris/Stauskas/McDermott tier (ehh) and the Vonleh/Randle/Aaron Gordon tier (hooray). And all for the price of keeping Nash on the bench for a year to teach MCW. Then they say goodbye to Nash and clean him off the books. What’s not to like?
It works for the Lakers as well. They get Young, a solid pick at 10, plus two early second-rounders in a quality draft class. And they get rid of Nash’s contract a year early, which will make Lakers fans happy.
Chance: 7. Even if it’s not this scenario, Young would fit nicely with the Lakers. The Lakers need picks. The Sixers have picks. And moving up a few spots could be another coup for Hinkie. Lots to like about the possibilities here.