It wasn't the biggest headline from the day in basketball free agency--hell, it might not have been the fifth-biggest--but the Sixers did make a minor splash today in the midst of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes finally reaching a resolution. The Houston Rockets needed to make a little additional room on their books to give Dwight a max contract, so they shed a little salary by shipping 2012 first-round pick Royce White to the Sixers. In return, the Rockets get "future considerations," which, uh...we'll get back to you on that.
Royce White is fairly famous around the basketball world for a second-year player who's never played a game in the NBA. White gained a good deal of attention last year for his struggles with anxiety, including a fear of flying, which led to him having issues with the Rockets and fighting to have his own doctor outside of the team to treat him and determine when he was in condition to play. White also has a sort of ambivalent attitude about the NBA in general, occasionally alluding to the possibility of him never even playing in the NBA, the idea of which he's supposedly mostly OK with.
All these issues aside, when White is on the court, he has a skill set unlike few players on the league. As a strong 6'9" forward with post moves and incredible passing skills--White averaged five assists a game in college, and posted one of the only triple-doubles of the NCAA season--he had the talent to be a top-five player in the '12 draft, though due to reasonable worry over his off-court issues, he slipped to #16. (Just one year after that draft, he's still the only first-rounder of his class still yet to play a minute as a pro). Royce's D-League stats in 16 games were decent--11 points, six boards and three assists in 26 minutes a game--but his upside at just 22 would suggest eventual contributions much greater than that.
Of course, chances are pretty good that he never plays a minute for the Sixers, either. The issues he had with the Rockets (and you can read more about his take on them in this pretty awesome Chuck Klosterman interview from Grantland), he'll still have with the Sixers, and though Sixers GM (and former Houston assist GM) Sam Hinkie seems to have a good relationship with White (based on this tweet, anyway), that doesn't things will go any different with his second team than his first. Not to mention that his conditioning might not be particularly top notch--he told Klosterman in that interview that "I work out very sparingly, to be honest...I probably shoot once a week."
But of course, the good news about all this risk with White is that if he doesn't pan out even a little, it doesn't cost the Sixers anything. The "future considerations" won't be anything of terrible import, and all they're paying White this season is 1.7 million, and possibly another 1.8 next year if they decide to pick up his option. If he pans out and gives the Sixers anything, great, if not, he wasted little money and space on a team that isn't trying particularly hard to win games anyway. It's an upside play, and even if it's a low-percentage play as such--and let's be honest, Rockets GM Daryl Morey isn't normally in the business of giving away valuable assets for nothing, even to an old war room buddy like Hinkie, so that's probably not a great sign for White's future prospects--it's worth it considering the minimal expenditure.
Two other things worth noting: First, the Sixers also picked up another prospect in this trade, in Turkish power forward Furkan Aldemir, a 21-year-old second-round pick of the Clippers in 2012. Aldemir is a big-bodied defense-and-rebounding type, who played last year in the Turkish and Euroleagues and averaged low points but high shooting percentages. He also may never make it to the Sixers, but between him and Arsalan Kazemi, the Sixers' own second-rounder in this year's draft, we can only hope we have at least one future Reggie Evans on our squad now.
Second thing: The Sixers nearly played a part in helping a different team make space for Dwight Howard today, as the team was rumored to be involved in the Golden State Warriors' extreme salary dump, in which they were packaging the expiring mega-deals of Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins along with first-round picks to any teams willing to pick up the expenses. They found a different taker for those in the Utah Jazz, but these deals are a good example of the type the Sixers could potentially look to soon as a way to use their cap space to build for the future, acquiring picks to essentially rent their salary flexibility to other teams in more desperate situations. (By the way, when they missed out on Dwight, the Warriors committed that cap space to our old friend Andre Iguodala. Best of luck out on the West Coast, 'Dre.)
Busy day for the Sixers, and an even bigger one for the NBA. And Summer League begins on Sunday! It's like the season never even ended.