History says Sixers shouldn't trade for No. 1 pick

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History says Sixers shouldn't trade for No. 1 pick

The NBA draft is quickly approaching and the rumor mill is heating up. For the Sixers, all the speculation is about whether the team will trade the No. 3 and/or the No. 10 picks in order to get the top overall pick.

The Sixers covet Andrew Wiggins from Kansas, the rumor grist suggests, and they will do anything to get him.

But history shows that the Sixers should probably sit tight and make their top picks. They have seven of them, after all, and there could be many suitors looking for one of those five second-round picks the team possesses.

So as all the wrangling, bluffing and posturing is passed around about physical results and trades, let’s look at how the Sixers messed up the No. 1 overall pick and let a Hall of Fame-caliber player walk away because the team’s owner was really bad with people skills.

The No. 1 overall pick has been traded exactly two times in NBA history. In 1993, the Magic drafted Chris Webber and shipped him to Golden State for Penny Hardaway and three future first-round picks. With those picks, Todd Fuller (1996), Vince Carter (1998) and Mike Miller (2000) were drafted.

Strangely, the 1998 pick was traded by the Magic to Washington. Washington traded the pick to Golden State and the Warriors selected Carter only to immediately trade him to Toronto. It was a convoluted mess. However, Carter is 37 and still playing. It seems like he’ll keep going forever.

The other time it happened was in 1986 and it involved the Sixers, a guy from La Salle named “Jellybean,” Moses Malone, Jeff Ruland and a deal that should still make Philadelphia basketball fans crumple in the corner in the fetal position while rocking back and forth, crying and whispering, “Brad Daugherty … Brad Daugherty.”

Here’s how it went down:

In October of 1979, the San Diego Clippers traded their first-round pick in 1986 to the Sixers for Joe “Jellybean” Bryant. So as the Bryant family with a 13-month-old baby named Kobe packed up for the move to sunny San Diego, it was as if the trade was for nothing. After all, at that time of the NBA’s history, seven years may as well have been a millennium. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson had yet to play a game in the NBA when the deal went down, and Michael Jordan was a junior in high school, still trying to prove that the coach at Laney High made a mistake in sending him to JV the year before.

By 1986, the Clippers moved to Los Angeles, where they were terrible. Even crazier, the NBA draft lottery was a matter of pulling a team name out of a hat. The Knicks, who finished the previous season with the worst record, got the No. 5 pick and the Celtics and Sixers, teams that appeared in the Eastern Conference Finals a couple months before the draft, got the top two picks.

Anyway, as fate would have it, Sixers owner Harold Katz invited the center Brad Daugherty to his house for an interview and a little hoops on the indoor court at his Main Line home. Apparently, Daugherty made such a poor impression on Katz that he traded the Sixers’ No. 1 overall pick to Cleveland for Roy Hinson.

That’s it. No future picks or cash or a handmade coupon for a free backrub. It was the No. 1 pick in the draft for Hinson.

Nothing else.

And since Hinson was on the way to Philly, Katz figured he ought to give the guy some space to spread his wings. So he traded three-time NBA MVP Malone, 1985 first-round pick Terry Catledge and a future first-round pick to Washington.

In return the Sixers got Ruland and Cliff Robinson. Robinson played two more NBA seasons before injuries forced him into retirement at age 28.

Ruland … well, yeah. He lasted five games in 1986 and 13 games in 1991. Then he was done.

Charles Barkley, in his second year with the Sixers, was excited about playing with Daugherty and Malone. Imagine the Sixers with Barkley, Malone, Daugherty, Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks and Andrew Toney. Barkley thought about it and he was ready for a bright future.

Then he had the rug pulled out from underneath him.

"I didn't realize the Sixers were a bonehead organization. We had the No. 1 pick in the [1986] draft, and they traded Brad Daugherty. I'll never forget that," Barkley said on Monday's edition of Philly Sports Talk. "I was excited to play with Brad Daugherty, and I still had Moses (Malone), who was my mentor -- I thought we would have been an instant contender in the Eastern Conference. But they traded the [No. 1] pick and ended up getting Roy Hinson, who was a solid player, and they traded Moses, so I got really screwed in that deal -- I lost a center who was still playing well, I thought I was going to get a young guy who Moses could mentor like he did me and we would be a contender for the next 10 years, but the Sixers were just stupid.

"Our team went downhill after that. That was unfortunate because I wanted to win here in Philadelphia."

Hinson played eight years in the NBA and averaged 14.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Daugherty also played eight seasons in the NBA and averaged a double-double -- 19 points and 10 rebounds. Barkley was gone in a whirlwind of controversy after the 1992 season and was able to pinpoint where it all went wrong in Philadelphia.

"The biggest mistake I probably made in my career: I should have got out of Philadelphia two years sooner because I went through three years where it was just brutal hearing about the rumors all the time," Barkley said on PST. "I was wasting my talent here because we didn't have a good team."

In other words, mess around with trading the top picks in the NBA draft at your own peril.

Andre Iguodala: 'Sky's the limit' for Joel Embiid, Sixers

Andre Iguodala: 'Sky's the limit' for Joel Embiid, Sixers

Andre Iguodala remembers what it was like to have playoff fever in Philadelphia. It's been five years since the Sixers pushed the Celtics to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. That was Iguodala's last season with the team. Since then, the postseason has become a far-reaching goal for the Sixers.

Iguodala believes the Sixers can get back to that place, and feels it starts with Joel Embiid.

"I'm a big fan of his," Iguodala said following the Warriors' 119-108 win over the Sixers on Monday. "I think he has a crazy upside. I don't even think people realize how good he really is."

When he left the Warriors' locker room, Iguodala planned to seek out Embiid to talk with the emerging star. Even though Embiid has been limited to 31 games this season, Iguodala has seen enough to recognize his talents. Embiid did not play Monday; he is sidelined indefinitely with a left knee contusion and has missed 17 of the last 18 games.

"I've watched the small things," Iguodala said. "How he moves on the court, footwork. Defensively, his intensity. He has a joy for life, I think that's really good. Especially being here in this city, it goes well with the fans. I think he takes everything with a good perspective."

Iguodala was a focal point of the Sixers before embracing a dominating sixth man role as a veteran leader on the Warriors and being named 2015 NBA Finals MVP. He experienced the steps it took to develop the Sixers into a playoff team and noted the patience involved once the pieces are in place. Iguodala made five trips to the postseason with the Sixers, only one resulted in advancing past the first round.

"It's a gift and a curse to have a foundation because you get kind of antsy with the way things happen really fast but there's still a journey and a road you have to take," Iguodala said. "It's going to be ups and downs."

The playoffs have become a way of life for Iguodala on the Warriors. With Embiid as the centerpiece, he can see the Sixers returning to that postseason mix.

"As long as they keep having good intentions," Iguodala said, "as long as [Embiid] continues to improve and his confidence goes higher and higher -- his potential is amazing -- and they get the right guys around him, and they've already started that, so sky's the limit."

Sixers' future payroll: Flexibility, Robert Covington prioritized over Nerlens Noel

Sixers' future payroll: Flexibility, Robert Covington prioritized over Nerlens Noel

As the Sixers were expending all of their energy Monday night trying to stay with the 50-9 Warriors, Nerlens Noel was down in Dallas contributing to a Mavericks win, their second in a row since acquiring him at the trade deadline.

In two games off the bench for the Mavs, Noel has played a combined 55 minutes, scored 15 points with 16 rebounds, two steals and two blocks, made 6 of 11 buckets and 3 of 4 free throws.

He's played crucial minutes down the stretch in both games for Dallas, helping them at the defensive end even on plays in which he doesn't affect a shot. His length, activity and paint-roaming ability is why the Mavs traded Justin Anderson and two second-round picks for a half-season of Noel and his restricted free-agent match rights this summer.

The Noel trade has already been analyzed to death at this point, so this won't be another examination of whether the Sixers got enough in return or what they should have done.

Since the trade was clearly about the contract Noel will receive this summer and the Sixers' unwillingness to allocate so much money to the center position, let's take a look at the Sixers' finances moving forward.

Next season's payroll
The NBA salary cap spiked to $94 million last offseason and is expected to take a smaller jump to about $100 million this summer.

As of now, the Sixers have $48,077,210 committed to the 2017-18 payroll.

* Jerryd Bayless and Gerald Henderson are due $9 million each.

* Ben Simmons will make just under $6.2 million, and Joel Embiid will make $6.1 million.

* Jahlil Okafor is owed just under $5 million, Nik Stauskas $3.8 million, and Dario Saric $2.4 million.

* Justin Anderson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Robert Covington, Richaun Holmes and T.J. McConnell will all make between $1 million and $1.6 million.

* And the Sixers will pay $500,000 of dead money to Tibor Pleiss, who they immediately waived after acquiring from the Jazz last August for Kendall Marshall and a swap of second-round picks.

That leaves the Sixers with $52 million to spend.

How will they spend it?
Based on recent history, don't expect the Sixers to spend every last dollar in the offseason. They are focused on improving the team while not crippling its future, and Bryan Colangelo accomplished that goal somewhat this season by signing Henderson and acquiring Ersan Ilyasova early in the season.

The Bayless signing did not work out this year -- he's out for the season with a wrist injury -- but he's on the books the next two years at $9 million a pop.

Expect to see those kinds of moves made by the Sixers, unless they're able to identify a free agent young enough, good enough, and enough of a fit to sign to a long-term deal.

Guys who might potentially fit that description?

* Kentavious Caldwell-Pope of the Pistons
* Otto Porter of the Wizards
* Tim Hardaway Jr. of the Hawks
* Ian Clark of the Warriors
* Jrue Holiday of the Pelicans
* Jeff Teague of the Pacers (maybe)

Clark, Holiday and Teague are unrestricted free agents; the others are restricted. So if the Sixers were to offer KCP or Porter $80 million over four years, the Pistons and Wizards would have the opportunity to match. If they do, the Sixers wouldn't get them.

Of course, those teams would have to have enough money to re-sign them. That's where the Sixers' ample payroll space comes into play.

KCP and Porter seem like locks to get max contracts in the $20 million-plus per year range. Holiday and Teague may or may not get that much; it will be determined by how the point-guard market plays out.

Clark and Hardaway Jr. would require lesser commitments because they're currently role players with the potential to grow into more.

Joel Embiid's inevitable extension
The Sixers are going to need to max out Embiid in the near future. Although he's played only 31 games in three NBA seasons, those three years count contractually.

The last guaranteed year of Embiid's rookie contract is next season. After that, he's a lock to make $25 million per year, provided he's healthy. 

In similar positions, C.J. McCollum got $106 million over four years from the Blazers, and Hassan Whiteside got $98 million over four years from the Heat.

The Sixers could sign Embiid to such an extension before Oct. 31, 2017, but it wouldn't go into effect until the 2018-19 season. 

Looking ahead to 2018-19
Two seasons from right now.

The eventual Embiid max contract will not cripple the Sixers financially. They'll still have a lot of wiggle room.

Why? Because of how few long-term commitments they have. 

For example, Henderson makes $9 million next season but is then a free agent. So if Embiid gets $25 million per year, the net is $16 million of additional payroll once you account for Henderson's expiring deal.

If the Sixers trade Jahlil Okafor between now and 2018, that would trim $6.3 million more from their 2018-19 payroll.

So, looking ahead to 2018-19, the Sixers would have $55 million committed to Embiid (max deal), Bayless, Simmons, Okafor, Saric, Anderson, TLC, Holmes and McConnell.

Missing from that equation is Covington, who will be an unrestricted free agent that summer. If Covington keeps playing like he has, racking up steals, hitting threes, improving in the lane and defending the best perimeter player every night, he's going to be in line for a contract in the $15 million per year range.

So, for the sake of logic, let's add Covington's $15 million to that 2018-19 payroll and subtract Okafor's. That would put the Sixers at about $64 million of payroll commitments two years from now, leaving them around $36 million to $40 million of cap space to sign free agents.

In 2018, the Sixers theoretically will be closer to actually contending, and free agents will be more realistic and meaningful. 

This is why the Sixers traded Ilyasova, for example. He's a free agent this summer and could command an annual salary in the $12M to $15M range given the scarcity of available stretch-fours. If the Sixers kept him and re-signed him, they might not have enough money down the road to pay Covington, a younger and more important player.

That 2018 free-agent class is not extremely appealing -- it's highlighted by Kyle Lowry, Isaiah Thomas, Chris Paul, Paul Millsap, Greg Monroe, Derrick Favors, Avery Bradley and C.J. Miles.

A few of those guys, like Thomas, won't even reach free agency -- they'll be extended ahead of it.

Mentioning that only to point out that the Sixers' options in free agency this summer might be better than their options next summer.

So ... did they need to trade Noel?
Some think Noel is going to get $20 million per year in free agency. 

I personally think his contract will be more in the $17 million per year range, a figure in between the annual average salaries for Timofey Mozgov ($16M), Tristan Thompson ($16.4M), Joakim Noah ($18M) and Ryan Anderson ($20M).

In any event, it's going to be a pricey contract for Noel.

So, how would a contract of say, four years, $68 million for Noel have affected the future payroll numbers laid out above?

It would mean that with Embiid's max deal, with Covington re-signed to a higher number, with Noel here and with Okafor traded, the Sixers would have around $79 million committed to payroll, leaving them about $20 million free to spend.

That would be enough for one really good-but-not-great player. Or they could try to creatively move a few contracts and line themselves up for a great player. 

But consider then that in 2018-19, Ben Simmons will be in the position Embiid is in now. Simmons would be in the third year of his rookie deal and eligible for a max extension before Oct. 31 of that year.

The numbers just do not add up.

I hated the Noel trade because I thought they should have gotten more, but dealing him did indeed make financial sense.

If the Sixers chose to keep Noel and re-sign him, they could have had a 2018-19 core of: Embiid, Simmons, Saric, Noel, Covington, Holmes, McConnell, TLC, and either a few mid-tier free agents or one star.

That could be a solid core if everyone continues developing at their own rate and if Embiid and Simmons can stay on the court ... but the Sixers wouldn't have many options. The goal is a championship and that probably isn't a championship core.

The $17 million or so of savings from not keeping Noel will be very important then. 

In a way, the Sixers essentially chose Covington over Noel.