NBA Trade Deadline: Sixers' Best Move Is to Blow Up the Core...Next Year

Bryan Toporek@@btoporekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 03:  Elton Brand #42 and Thaddeus Young #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers box out against Rasheed Wallace of the Boston Celtics at the Wachovia Center on November 3, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
Chris Chambers/Getty Images

With the NBA's trade deadline now less than a month away, a number of slumping teams appear to be ready to slash-and-burn their rosters to avoid the NBA's luxury tax.

Thanks to the global recession, the NBA's salary cap will drop next year , for only the second time since 1983-84.  This means that teams with salaries right at the luxury cap this year need to get rid of $2 million-$3 million in contracts to avoid being taxed in 2010-11.

The Utah Jazz and New Orleans Hornets have led the way thus far, with the Jazz trading rookie Eric Maynor and the injured Matt Harpring for Peter Fehse (who's never played a game in the NBA), and the Hornets sending Hilton Armstrong to the Sacramento Kings for a 2016 conditional pick .

But the Philadelphia 76ers' name has been flying around in trade rumors too.

ESPN and the Philadelphia Inquirer have referenced a purported trade centered around a swap of swingman Andre Iguodala for Houston's Tracy McGrady and his $23 million expiring contract.

And the Sixers have been actively shopping Samuel Dalembert for the past 18 months...but they've gone "0-for-29 " around the league thus far, according the Inquirer. (Although with his improved play as of late, and the fact he's the Sixers' only defensive presence down low , Sammy may be less available than widely assumed.)

I already wrote last week on why the Sixers' management deserves to be fired if they trade Iguodala for McGrady , so I won't go into it further here.

But when I read Marc Stein's "Weekend Dime" on ESPN yesterday and saw this:

"One NBA front-office source told that the Sixers would also be amenable to moving Lou Williams in the right deal. The 23-year-old guard was previously thought to be a Philly untouchable."

I damn near swore off the team for the rest of the season.  

Make no mistake, if the Sixers trade Iguodala for McGrady, they're raising the white flag on the rest of the season, figuring it's better to blow up the core now and get a head start on the rebuilding process.

The only problem is...they'd still have Dalembert's $12.2 million expiring contract on the books next season, along with nearly $51 million more going to Elton Brand over the next three years.

The "rebuilding" process will likely be stifled by those two players sucking up nearly half of the Sixers' available cap space.

And dear God, didn't they just opt not to re-sign Andre Miller because Lou Williams was their point guard of the future?  By trading him away, the management is effectively announcing to the rest of the league that they had no idea what they were doing these past two years.  (Wouldn't be surprising, but still.)

No, as tempting as it is for the 14-28 Sixers to fire-sale now, get a top 10 pick in the NBA Draft, and potentially become a suitor in the 2010 free agent's only a solution on the surface.  But when you break it down, that choice defies all logic.  

Who's to say that a top 10 pick is going to be any better than a pick in the 11-18 range?  The Knicks made Jordan Hill the No. 8 pick in the draft this past season.  Ty Lawson went 18th.  (And for that matter, the Sixers' own Jrue Holiday went No. 17). Who's made more of an impact this season?

And the Sixers aren't signing Bosh, LeBron, or D-Wade.  No way.  As much fun as it is to dream about an A.I.-to-LeBron hook-up next year, the Sixers won't have the requisite cap space and talent to lure any of the marquee free agents.

If history holds to form, that would leave the Sixers with over $20 million in cap overpay a lesser talent.  What's better...the Sixers paying Iggy $14 million a year, or them signing Rudy Gay to an equally bloated contract?

No, instead, the Sixers should keep this core together this year (unless someone knocks them over with a trade offer) and use the rest of the season to really evaluate their young talent.  

In my eyes, Lou Williams has been the team's most reliable go-to scorer, and one of the only guys on the team consistently capable of creating his own shot.  It's hard for me to believe that the Sixers being willing to dangle his name as trade bait is anything but a knee-jerk reaction to their current record.

Can Thaddeus Young, who was benched last night for Elton Brand, start to fit comfortably in the small forward or power forward role?  (He's somewhat of a "tweener" currently.)  

Can Marreese Speights become serviceable on defense, or will his offensive gifts continue to be lost due to his lack of defensive presence?  Is Jrue Holiday a natural fit at point guard?  (And is he the reason the Sixers may consider Williams expendable?)

Then, next year , once they've had a full season (the second half of this year and the first half of next season) to evaluate their talent...then they should make the moves.

Iguodala and Brand will each have one year less remaining on their contracts, increasing their desirability.

And with Sammy Dalembert's $12.2 million, along with $6.6 million from Jason Kapono and $4 million from Willie Green all coming off the books after next season, the Sixers will already have $20 million+ in expiring contracts to play with.

In other words, next year they already get the cap flexibility that the McGrady trade would enable, without making a single move!

While it's far too early to say who the major prizes in the NBA's 2011 free agent class will be (it's impossible to say whether the big names in '10 will sign 1-year deals or long-term contracts), one guy whose contract expires in 2011 is Carmelo Anthony, who happens to be currently leading the NBA in scoring average.

Even if the Sixers don't land a big-name free agent in 2011, $20 million in cap space affords them contract space for two decent players (or a big contract and a mid-level exception).  

Most importantly, they keep their young core of Williams/Young/Holiday/Speights, allowing them to develop chemistry with each other for years to come.

If the Sixers' management decides that one of those pieces doesn't fit their grand puzzle, they can ship them away with Dalembert's expiring contract, turning that into a legitimate piece for the team for the future.

If the Sixers fire-sale this year and get little in return, management effectively announces that they care more about money than winning.

So, Sixers fans, if they make some asinine trade...don't give them your money for the rest of the season.

They won't deserve it.


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