OK, Sixers fans take a breath. As a matter of fact, take a few. Too upset to do it? I understand. Really, I do. But TRY, because this was always going to be a necessary part of The Process.
Now, before some of you start to get unhinged, and tell me that Brian Colangelo is no Sam Hinke because (as we all know) Sam Hinke died for our sins. And before we make #notmyGM the number one trend on Twitter, or before you call me a traitor to The Process, allow me to explain.
I’ve heard the screaming all day on the radio, seen the frustration in the newspaper, blogs, Twitter, and any other form of Social Media that you can think of. I’ve personally spoken to more irate Sixers fans post-trade deadline than I can count (and I even needed to use my toes, so it was a lot). But before I give you some reasons to consider halting your plans of storming the bunker that Colangelo hides out in, let’s quickly review what the Sixers did – and didn’t do – Wednesday and Thursday.
For the moment, I’m just going to lump the two separate moves together. With that said, Nerlens Noel and Ersan Ilyasova have both been traded Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon, respectively. Just as important to note here is that Jahlil Okafor is still a Philadelphia 76er.
Technically, the combined haul the Sixers got back includes:
1. 6-foot-11 center/power forward Tiago Splitter.
2). the Hawks protected second rounder (this pick is actually the Miami Heat’s protected 31-40 pick. If the pick is unable to be used in this year’s draft, it then becomes an unprotected in 2018)
3) Additionally, the Sixers will have the opportunity to swap the Hawks own second-round pick for the least favorable of the four second-rounders that the Utah Jazz have the rights to (and yes, typing that sentence made my head hurt).
4) Center Andrew Bogut (who will be bought out and never play a game for the Sixers)
5). Dallas’ top-18 protected first-round pick. In order for the Sixers to cash in this pick, the Mavericks pick has to land outside of the first 18 picks. This, is highly unlikely to happen, however, as the Mavericks are pretty awful this year, and are going to be rebuilding. So, with that in mind, the likely scenario is that pick would then become two second round picks for the Sixers, that would have been Dallas’ both in 2017 and in 2018.
6.) Justin Anderson, the 21st overall pick in 2015, who is a swing player (small forward/shooting guard). He’s 6-6, 228 pounds.
Perhaps the most significant part of all of this, however, isn’t necessarily what the Sixer’s traded or what assets they got back – but the move they didn’t make. Jahlil Okafor is still here. And the masses are confused, or angry, or both. After reports had the Sixers 99% sure that they had a deal in place for Okafor in the beginning of the week with the Portland Trail Blazers, to the extent that they kept him benched one game (which is common practice for teams to guard against an injury when a trade is imminent), and then kept him from taking the flight with the team the next day for the same reason, it was not to be. At the end of the day, Colangelo didn’t move Okafor because his value is mere pennies on the dollar.
There seems to be this strange misconception among the angry mob that there was going to be a trade where the Sixers moved Okafor for a high first round pick in this year’s draft, or a great young player who was going to be a cornerstone of The Process. The fact is that simply was always flawed thinking.
Look, I get it. Okafor was the number 3 overall pick before last season. There’s a prevailing notion among many that that fact is supposed to mean a whole lot to potential suitors.
News Flash: it doesn’t really mean much.
If you’ve been watching the Sixers this year and are honest, what has Okafor really shown? Yes, he has a pedigree and it is clear he has a very good offensive skill-set in the low post. But his defensive deficiencies are apparent, and numerous. He lacks hustle, seems almost disinterested at times and so far has shown a kind of aversion to rebounding for a seven-footer that is baffling. That may be a bit harsh, but just watching his game this year, objectively, it is how he is thought of around the league – and here’s the important part – right NOW. Let’s not forget that every year – in every sport – the trade deadline is driven by supply and demand. This year, in addition to the deficiencies in Okafor’s game this season, there were several centers or Bigs out there for teams to choose from. And after what Demarcus Cousins (he of the prodigal talent, but the miserable personality), who is one of the best Bigs in the entire NBA, fetched when he was dealt for what most people have deemed a very small bounty, it should have become very clear at that time that Okafor wouldn’t be that attractive to teams.
This is why he wasn’t moved, plain and simple. Hinkie-ites cover your ears for this one, but Colangelo showed intelligent restraint by keeping him and not taking a low-ball offer just to clear this logjam the Sixers have at center.
All that being said, Okafor still does have the pedigree, and did put up good numbers last year. Now with Noel and Ilyasova gone, Bogut and Splitter to most likely both be bought out and never suit up for the Sixers, and Embiid to be out with the continued knee soreness the Sixers will be starting Okafor for at least the next several games, and when (and I hate to say this, but IF) Embiid returns this year Okafor will still have steady minutes. All of a sudden, assuming a healthy Embiid eventually, there are basically three Bigs – in Embiid, Oakafor and Richaun Holmes. And Holmes has shown he can play Power Forward, so as Liam Jenkins wrote, the logjam at center is now taken care of.
Additionally, expect Brett Brown to incorporate a style of game more suited to showcase Okafor’s skill-set and better hide his deficiencies now that the position has been better defined for the rest of the year. After that, we have a whole offseason and Draft Night to move Okafor – and his value can only increase, so at the very least you lose nothing by not trading him yet and potentially gain a lot.
As for what assets we scored, it’s really all about Justin Anderson. He is still very young, and miscast in Dallas. But, almost universally, NBA insiders feel he is going to develop into a solid supporting –cast type player on a very good team. He can play the Two or the Three, has a decent outside shot, plays very good defense and is built like a beast and plays with a toughness akin to Dario Saric. He most likely is never going to be a star, but a very good rotational player when the team is contending two years from now (that’s right, I said contending in two years, people).
The draft picks are simply shots in the dark that add to the Sixers thousands and thousands of second round pick over the next four years. They don’t mean too much in the grand scheme of things. And, as I mentioned, don’t expect to ever see Bogut put on a 76er uniform. It’s a little less-clear in Splitter’s case, although reports seem to indicate he was just a salary dump as well. So, yes, if you simply look at what the Sixers received on Wednesday and Thursday, it’s not really anything to write home about, and I do wish we could have gotten a little more.
So then why am I not hopping mad and trying to help trend #notmyGM? Because this is part of The Process that really IS a process. This is Colangelo playing the long game. It’s not just building up assets blindly, but starting to build an actual roster and developing some players. Ilyasova was not going to be back after this year. He is an unrestricted free agent coming up and it has become obvious that Saric’s best position is going to be at the Four, so you try and get what you can for him, and get Saric used to starting regularly and Dario has earned every minute you can give him. Would I have liked to get more for him? Sure, but it’s actually about right, and again, is helping Saric’s development.
Noel is a restricted free agent after this season. Although, I do think he was a very good backup Center to Embiid, he will get a hell of an offer sheet from someone (think $75 million over four years) and get paid starter’s money. The Sixers simply, cannot match that kind of offer, and would have lost him for absolutely nothing. I know, I know – some of you are talking about how the Sixers have all kinds of money under the cap and I can actually hear you saying, “They absolutely can afford it”. Believe it or not, it’s important that they not overspend on someone – even now – who will ultimately be a backup when you have Joel Embiid moving forward. Assuming Embiid, Simmons and Saric are what we believe they will be, they will all be getting big money around the same time, so that actually is something you need to stay ahead of. Plus, we want to be able to have the cap space in two or three years when the Sixers are contending and looking for that one or maybe those two players who they inevitably will need to hit the Free Agent Pool to acquire. Again, The Process is just as it sounds – a PROCESS – and the point the Sixers are at right now is not purely about acquiring assets.
Of course it will always be about making sure you are doing that to some degree, but (again, cover your ears Hinkie-ites) it is no longer about blindly tanking and moving away from players to amass as much as you can. Beginning right now and into this offseason and draft it is now about building a balanced roster around a transcendental big man like Embiid, and stud like everyone envisions Ben Simmons to be, and the special talent that Saric is proving to be, and using this coming draft (which will most likely have the Sixers with two picks in the top seven, one of which will most likely be a top three player) to get two more foundation pieces.
I’m not saying anything here that isn’t fairly obvious, but what I think is happening is people aren’t immediately realizing the act of starting to put a good roster together is very much like putting a puzzle together. That means some pieces just don’t fit, and you can’t try and force them where they don’t go.
So, back to where we began…
The palpable tension of Sixers fans these past few days presents like a caged animal is having a fit, while the specter of Sam Hinke continues to loom over Brian Colangelo like the sword of Damocles. Frankly, I do not know yet if Brian Colangelo is the right man for the remainder of The Process. It’s something we will discover over time, for certain. But what I am confident in is that for this particular part of The Process, some patience is required. I can at least see what Colangelo is trying to do, and I agree.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports