The NBA trade deadline has always played second fiddle to Major League Baseball’s trade deadline. While it will always trump the NFL’s generally underwhelming trade deadline, it lived up to the annual precedence set by baseball with a bevy of moves that shocked not only based on volume in terms of but also because of the prominent players being moved like Isaiah Thomas and Goran Dragic.
(That’s three “trade deadline mentions! If this article gets six, everyone gets a free haircut at Supercuts and beef jerky from 7-Eleven!).
On the surface, Philly’s deadline deals are bizarre. They took on JaVale McGee’s $12 million salary for next season while essentially dealing cornerstone Michael Carter-Williams and promising rotation player K.J. McDaniels for Isaiah Canaan, a first-round pick and a second-round pick.
However, upon closer examination, the deals aren’t that crazy. The Sixers had the salary-cap space to absorb McGee, and essentially got him free along with a protected first-round pick in this year’s draft. If the former Denver center can regain any of the form he’s shown when full-strength, then some team might take a flier on him, leading to further assets. The fact that his contract expires after next year makes him even more appealing in a trade, possibly at some point next season. Plus, they get a first-round pick out of the deal. It’s likely a pick somewhere in the early twenties, but still… they received all this for the rights to draft-and-stash pick Cenk Akyol, a 27-year-old who’s held the “draft and stash” distinction for 11 years.
While McGee’s acquisition seemed somewhat logical, the loss of Carter-Williams and McDaniels can seem little puzzling. After all, Carter-Williams was still on his rookie deal and averaged 16 points, 6.7 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game in a season and a half in Philadelphia. McDaniels was a former second-round pick averaging 9.2 points off the bench.
So why is this a win for the Sixers if they dealt a promising young point guard and a potential long-term rotation player?
Even with Carter-Williams, the Sixers were going to stink for a while before they got better. The reality is that if he stayed in Philly he’d probably be pretty expensive salary wise by the time the team was contending again. Trading him for a first-round pick (originally the Lakers’ pick, which is top-five protected this year) allows the team draft a potential impact player, similar to what Carter-Williams would have been, only they get to paying him after his rookie contract later rather than sooner—when the Sixers will likely be contenders.
There’s also the question of how good the young point guard real is. Sure, his per-game numbers look good on paper, but how much of that had to do with how bad Philadelphia is? The tanking Sixers’ lack of comparative talent has turned Evan Turner and Tony Wroten into 17 points-per-game scorers. Both are good players, but 17 points a night? Probably not on a better team where they’d play fewer minutes. Case in point, Turner averaged only seven points a contest after being dealt to Indiana halfway through last season. That’s not to say Carter-Williams is going to be limited to seven points per outing with Milwaukee, but the extra minutes and shots garnered by Carter-Williams in Philly make it hard to truly gage his talent.
The last part of Philadelphia’s deadline dealings was shipping McDaniels to Houston for Isaiah Canaan and a second-round pick.
Again, why deal McDaniels?
Firstly because he only signed a one-year deal as his rookie contract, turning down a multi-year offer to gamble on himself in order to garner a larger contract in free agency. So far, the gamble has paid off. McDaniels averaged 9.2 points and 3.8 rebounds a game, not bad production for a second-round pick in his rookie season. He’ll likely garner a multi-million dollar, multi-year deal in the offseason, something Sixers’ GM Sam Hinkie apparently wasn’t willing to pay.
The same logic used with Carter-Williams can likely be used here. McDaniels was likely going to be somewhat costly (not as much as Carter-Williams, but still much more than what he’s making now) by the time the Sixers are in a position to contend. By dealing him now, they are able to take a flier on Canaan as Carter-Williams’ replacement while also recouping a second-round pick. That pick will come from either Minnesota or Denver, two of the worst teams in the league. Because of that, the Sixers could be looking at an early-second round draft choice. Due to the pick’s proximity to the first-round in terms of talent level, and lack of comparative financial commitment, they can be very appealing to teams.
Check back for more winners and losers of the trade deadline, including thoughts on what Phoenix and Milwaukee did, plus the lack of action on the Lakers part.
All stats courtesy of http://www.basketball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.