Now what? That's the interesting part.
Less than a week ago, the Sixers used the amnesty provision on Elton Brand. Around the same time, the organization signed guard Nick Young to a one-year deal worth approximately 6 million. Then, on Tuesday, the Sixers acquired Dorell Wright from Golden State in exchange for the rights to Edin Bavcic and a 4.1 million trade exception. You are no doubt floored that Wright is a 6-9 swingman.
By making those moves, the Sixers erased Brands 18.16 million from the salary cap figure, and they replaced Lou Williams with someone whos a better shooter and defender (in that Young will play defense at all). They also added another combination player in Wright (10.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game last season), who is in the final year of a contract that will pay him 4.1 million.
Makes you wonder: Is this about now, or later? Are the Sixers preparing to deal one of their many swingmen? Or is the plan to let the core young players develop for another year while clearing salary cap space for next off-season?
Not long ago, I wrote a piece saying the Sixers were unlikely to wow in free agency unless they went the amnesty route with Brand. Now that theyve done so, its no guarantee theyll make anyones jaw drop and spend money this year. Perhaps, as some have suggested, theyll use part of that loot to go after Kris Humphries or some other available mercenary. Or maybe the accumulation of expiring deals is designed to grab a better baller or two from next years deeper free agent bin.
Andre Iguodala has a player option for 2013-14 for 15.9 million. (If hes still here, would he opt out of that and attempt to get another long-term deal while hes still under 30? Or would he decide not to risk it and take the sure thing?) If the Sixers can get that money off their books next off-season, that would free up along with deleting Nick Young and Wright approximately 26 million. Depending on the salary cap, it could give the Sixers quite a lot to offer, though they'll have to address Jrue Holiday, who will be a restricted free agent.
For the curious, a quick and random selection of next off-seasons free agents: Chris Paul (unrestricted), Stephen Curry (restricted), Jose Calderon (u), Devin Harris (u), Brandon Jennings (r), Daniel Gibson (u), Tyreke Evans (r), Kevin Martin (u), James Harden (r), Manu Ginobli (u), J.J. Redick (u), Josh Smith (u), Serge Ibaka (r), Al Jefferson (u), Paul Millsap (u), Tyler Hansbrough (r) and Andrew Bynum (u). (You can find the full list here.)
The Sixers could still use a veteran big man to replace Brand, and they dont have a true point guard to serve as a backup to Holiday. If theyre planning for this year, if they want to improve as soon as possible, that would be problematic. The Sixers would also need to untangle the knot of somewhat interchangeable and athletic 6-6 to 6-9 swingmen theyve tied up. After taking Maurice Harkless with the 15th pick in the draft and adding Wright, the combo-player cabal has swelled to its breaking point.
But what if the Sixers dont want to make a trade (or trades) now andor sign a free agent (or free agents) and immediately reconfigure the roster? They have the option to wait until next off-season to spend money on free agency. (Among others, Bynum, Jefferson or Millsap would make excellent additions.) That might mean a short-term regression, but it would signal a clear dedication to developing the young talent and then building around it.
Im not crazy about the current roster, and pressing pause after coming within one win of the Eastern Conference Finals might hurt the relationship between the team and the fans its still trying to court. And yet, of the scenarios, I like it best committing to youth, getting rid of Iguodala's salary (not necessarily now, but in time for 2013 free agency) and clearing significant cap space for next off-season. If they cant win it all in the upcoming season, why not build something solid for the future?
Its like the Sixers are in the middle of a choose-your-own adventure novel. While we wait to see which pages theyll turn, I talked with some NBA junkies, one of whom is a local media professional who grew up in the area and has followed the Sixers his whole life. He was amused by what's unfolded and what still might. The big thing, he said, was that something appeared to be happening, even though no one was exactly sure what that something might be.
He had a point. Its July, and the Sixers have options, and some people are talking about them. If nothing else, its unusual and entertaining.
E-mail John Gonzalez at email@example.com