Before the three team trade involving the Minnesota Timberwolves, Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers; people were skeptical that Sam Hinkie would essentially trade forward Thaddeus Young for nothing.
What is “nothing?” In this case, it would be Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Alexey Shved and a future first-round pick. On the surface, that really isn’t much value for a talented player like Young. No, Anthony Bennett had to be coming from the Cavaliers to the Sixers in this deal. Nothing else even makes sense, right?
On second thought, this actually makes a little sense.
When Hinkie took the Sixers’ general manager job, the team was stuck in basketball purgatory. They weren’t good enough to make any real noise in the playoffs, but they weren’t bad enough to miss them all together. So, Hinkie has taken a different approach to building a team than what we’re used to. He acquired Nerlens Noel on draft night 2013, who never played a minute for the Sixers. He waited until August 14th of last summer to hire Brett Brown. Then, after a year of shedding longterm contracts and hoarding draft picks, Hinkie drafted another big man who won’t play for the team this season in Joel Embiid.
But people really didn’t think that after seeing Hinkie’s full-body of work to-date wouldn’t trade Young for spare parts? Because it really doesn’t see that implausible. After all, his other draft day move was drafting Elfrid Payton and then flipping him to Orlando for Dario Saric, who will play at least one more year overseas.
Looking at Philadelphia’s roster, you would think that this would be the year the team would try to take another step forward. I mean, before Embiid’s figure, the Sixers will have 11 players on the books for 2015 at about $24 million dollars according to HoopsHype. But you get the sense that with the health issues their two recent high draft picks have had that there isn’t the sense of urgency to start winning again. Because once you do start trying to win, you open yourself up to criticism if you don’t meet those expectations. This way anything this team does next season will automatically feel like a success.
As evidence of them thinking big picture, Mbah a Moute was brought into mentor Embiid given the two players’ previous relationship. Once regarded as one of the better perimeter defenders in the league, Mbah a Moute has now been a centerpiece of two trades between bad teams, and more of an afterthought these days. For the Sixers, they have to get to the salary floor somehow, and Mbah a Moute’s $4 million figure gets them towards that. And whatever he does in the way of positively influencing the rookies currently on the team and helping Embiid adjust to the NBA life over the next year could payoff greatly. That’s really where Mbah a Moute’s value is to the Sixers after injuries have slowed the forward down.
Surely, the word “value” and Alexey Shved don’t belong in the same sentence. There was the month of November in his rookie year where he looked like he could become something, but he hasn’t resembled that player ever since, and that was almost two years ago. And his price tag of $3.1 million would probably make every other NBA team nauseous except the Sixers. Similarly, if anyone can afford to take a three-million dollar look at Shved for a year, it is Philadelphia. There isn’t really anything that Shved does well, but he is much better served playing off of the ball in the flow of the offense rather than be the primary ballhandler. I mean, that’s still not pretty, but it’s certainly better than having him try to create for himself or others.
With all of that being said, Sam Hinkie’s focus seems to be on maintaining flexibility and patiently building towards the future. By getting involved with the Love trade, Hinkie will have approximately $7 million off of the books next summer, leaving him room to possibly make a move or two in free agency to accelerate the rebuilding process. Or of course they would be able to take on a larger contract, but looking at their current payroll I don’t know what they have left to trade.
The item that is likely the main value here is the first round pick from Miami. Though likely to be nothing special, it’s still a helpful asset to have in-hand. In today’s NBA, you need affordable young help, and being able to connect on your mid-to-late first rounders helps that cause immensely. Currently, the Sixers have two firsts and three second round picks in 2015; Denver’s 2016 second rounder; and the Clippers’ 2018 second round pick. Now, if they were to use all of those picks in addition to Saric coming to the NBA, that would be a very young team. But now they have options, including being able to package the into a future trade.
On the surface it may seem like Hinkie traded Thad Young for nothing, but he somehow hocus pocus’d his way to $7 million in future cap space and a first round pick. As talented as Young is, he was likely too good for his own good, and we all know that Cap Space isn’t a real player that can help you win.
If you’re wondering how this move helps the Sixers in the short term, it really doesn’t. But that isn’t the end game here. Sam Hinkie’s sights are set on the future and the Thad Young trade was one more move toward maintaining that focus.