It was a monumental night for new Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie. During his first draft with the team, Hinkie seemed to have his hands in at least a dozen trades or proposals for trades.
“The exact status quo wasn’t going to get it done,” Hinkie said after the draft.
In the end, Hinkie just may have pulled off one of the biggest surprises of the night.
A league source confirmed the 76ers have acquired the draft rights for No. 6 overall pick, forward/center Nerlens Noel. To get Noel, the Sixers had to give up their All-Star point guard, Jrue Holiday and the No. 42 overall pick.
The Sixers will also get a first-round pick, protected through the top five spots, from New Orleans for the 2014 draft. The Sixers will also send the 42nd overall pick, Pierre Jackson, to the Pelicans in the deal.
While the Sixers used the No. 11 overall pick to draft 6-foot-6 point guard Michael Carter-Williams from Syracuse University (see story), they dealt their No. 35 pick to Washington for two picks and then traded away one of those picks.
When the dust finally cleared past midnight, the Sixers had Noel, Carter-Williams, a protected first-round pick in 2014 and Oregon’s Arsalan Kazemi, a 6-foot-7 high-energy forward from Iran (see story).
However, the trading of Holiday for the 6-foot-10, 228-pound Noel was a game-changer.
Hinkie, per NBA regulations, was not allowed to comment directly on the trade.
“It was a challenging night in many ways with one gut-wrenching phone call,” Hinkie said, perhaps alluding to the call to Holiday to tell him he had been traded. “All in all, though, I think it was the right thing to do.”
In trading Holiday and getting two lottery picks, the Sixers solved some salary-cap issues. Holiday is set to begin a four-year, $41 million contract next season.
The draft-day wrangling under Hinkie makes one wonder if high-priced players like Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner or Spencer Hawes could be on the move, too.
With Holiday off the books, the Sixers have approximately $35.3 million earmarked for salaries in 2013-14, not including the two first-round picks. If the cap is set at $58 to $60 million, the Sixers could have a little more wiggle room.
That also opens the door for the big question: What do the Sixers do with Andrew Bynum, the huge acquisition from last summer? The Sixers can offer Bynum a max deal or use him for a sign-and-trade. With Bynum and/or the 6-foot-10, 228-pound Noel in the frontcourt and first-round picks slated for next season, the youthful Sixers could be quite formidable.
Noel, who played just 24 games at the University of Kentucky in his only season at the school, was projected by most experts to be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft for Cleveland. However, Noel may have slipped to No. 6 in the draft because he tore his ACL in February.
Noel will not be ready to play by opening night as he continues to recover from his ACL surgery.
The Sixers with another big man with bad knees?
However, Noel was named the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year by averaging 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.4 blocks and 2.1 steals in 32 minutes per game.
Meanwhile, it was assumed that Holiday was the player the Sixers were going to build around. The All-Star guard turned 23 just two weeks ago and had improved every season he has been in the NBA. The 2012-13 season was the quintessential breakout year that many predicted for Holiday. On opening night, Holiday signed a four-year contract extension, later, he earned his first All-Star berth and at age 22, he became the undisputed leader of the Sixers.
There’s more: Holiday was fourth in the NBA in assists with eight per game and 10th in minutes per game with nearly 38.
But Holiday needed help in the backcourt and with Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala departed for other teams last year, the Sixers didn’t give it to him. With no backup point guard to help with the minutes or to give Holiday a chance to move off the ball to the two-guard spot, the All-Star was second in the league with 3.7 turnovers per game and at the end of the season admitted he was fatigued.
Chalk it up to all those minutes, the demanding position of point guard and the added responsibility taken on as the team captain, and the breakout year came with a price for Holiday.
But in New Orleans, Holiday will be teamed in the backcourt with point guard Greivis Vasquez, who averaged 9.0 assists per game, as well as veteran guard Eric Gordon, who has averaged 18.0 points per game in his five years in the NBA.
As for the Sixers, the future is a little cloudy, though Hinkie hopes to change that.
“We will take the steps to be future focused,” Hinkie said.