Sam Hinkie's Sixers are approximately $10 million under the NBA salary cap floor. (AP)
Things are shaping up nicely -- which is another way of saying they aren’t shaping up at all.
If you include yourself in the faction that believes the Sixers need to get bad (or, rather, worse) before they can get good -- if you subscribe to the notion that rebuilding requires razing the organization in order to erect a new and potentially more stable structure -- you’re no doubt ecstatic with the blueprint sketched by president/general manager Sam Hinkie.
This path the Sixers have mapped out? It will lead them (and you) into a dark thunderstorm of defeat this season, a flash flood of losses. No matter. You might as well be Gene Kelly, singing in the rain about the Sixers’ future.
It is the right approach, by the way -- this decision to bottom out and start over. About the first part of that equation, the bottoming out: Boy are the Sixers embracing it. Shy of bringing in Jackie Moon, they couldn’t make the message any clearer.
According to Bovada, the Miami Heat are the heavy favorites to win the 2013-14 NBA title. You know which team isn’t a heavy favorite to win the 2013-14 NBA title? The Philadelphia 76ers, who are actually a heavy favorite to lose lots of basketball games and potentially acquire lots of ping pong balls in next year’s overstuffed NBA draft. Bovada has the Sixers listed as a 300/1 longshot to win the championship. Only the Bobcats and Magic (500/1) have worse odds, which is really a disservice to Charlotte and Orlando. The Magic got a lot better this offseason. And the Bobcats, while still awful, will be hard pressed to equal the Sixers’ ineptitude this season.
That’s what Hinkie has created so far. And bless him for it.
Tank Town. Tank City. Winless for Wiggins. Whatever slogan you prefer, it all adds up to the same thing: The Sixers are rightly sacrificing today (and tomorrow and many of the days to follow) in order to clear cap space and prepare for next year’s NBA draft, where they figure to have five picks, including two first-rounders.
Again, it’s a solid plan. It’s also striking how plainly Hinkie and the Sixers have made that plan known. Look at the salary cap. It’s way up there at $58.67 million. Now look at the Sixers’ current salary commitments. It's way down there, currently around $43 million -- and that’s after the Sixers added Tony Wroten.
Tony Wroten, you say? Who’s he, you say? Exactly, I say. The roster is Wroten to the core. (Couldn’t help myself, even if that’s not how you pronounce it.) Among the other new faces: James Anderson, Arsalan Kazemi, Tim Ohlbrecht and Royce White. Even the Foreman Mills people can’t believe how brazenly the Sixers are advertising their bargain basement approach to merchandise.
“I think it’s really important that you focus on what matters and focus on things that line up with what we’re trying to do,” Hinkie told CSNPhilly.com this week. “I think acquiring things that are good for the future is important. That’s important for the organization. I look forward, like everyone, to seeing how that plays out. A young guy like James Anderson and seeing how he plays or Tony Wroten.”
It was a diplomatic answer. You wouldn’t expect anything less from Hinkie.
Even so, Jason Richardson, Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes represent the current veterans -- and the last three will be 25 when the season begins. After that, the Sixers have a lot of young, unproven players -- from Nerlens Noel (19) to Michael Carter-Williams (21). Lavoy Allen will return. He’s 24. So will Arnett Moultrie. He’s still only 22.
No wonder the Sixers said this year will be about player development. And no wonder they’re so far below the salary cap floor.
Because of the CBA, the NBA dictates that each team spends 90 percent of the allotted salary cap. That puts the floor around $52.65 million. The Sixers are roughly $10 million below that figure at present. So surely David Stern -- while he’s collecting his things -- sees what the Sixers are doing and is preparing to lay one last unrepentant smackdown on them before fading into retirement. Right? No.
Here’s the best part about what the Sixers are doing. They’re tanking. They’re making it obvious. And there’s no punishment for it. If the Sixers don’t spend at least 90 percent of the cap, they have to take the money that they’re under the floor and spread it around to the players on the roster. That’s it. That’s the “penalty.” Everyone wins this way. Except the Sixers. Which is the point.
For his part, Hinkie said the salary floor isn’t a big deal and hinted that the Sixers would likely be above that threshold before long. That’s fine. The only bottom line that matters is the one that puts the Sixers into the red on losses.