The Philadelphia 76ers are paying their starters a lot of money but got great value in filling the bench slots. That could be a bad combination when it comes to future deals.
Philadelphia 76ers general manager Elton Brand made what seemed a series of perplexing moves on draft night. One of the oddest was trading Jonathon Simmons and a prime second-round pick to the Wizards, to basically save a mere $1 million of cap space.
“We need flexibility. I need every dollar that I can get, so that’s what a lot of those trades are about…
Of course, we now know the ‘flexibility’ he was talking about. Brand needed to squeeze every dollar to sign Boston Celtics center/forward Al Horford to a massive four-year contract worth between $97 to 109 million, depending on incentives.
Since Horford was not on the team last year, he had to be signed using available salary cap space. To fit in his $25 million salary for the 2019-20 season (all cap figures from Spotrac) that meant there was afterward only a couple million left in cap space, which was sopped up by Shake Milton’s new four-year deal.
A little-discussed repercussion of making room for Horford was that the Sixers had to renounce all their cap holds on players (with one exception) that became free agents at the end of the 2018-19 season. That meant they lost the ‘Bird Rights‘ to players like J.J. Redick, Boban Marjanovic and T.J. McConnell.
A team can pay its own free agent players as much as it wants, even if over the cap, as long as they still have their Bird Rights. Since they no longer held those rights, all the Sixers could offer was the minimum salary, so they all went elsewhere for bigger paychecks.
However, Tobias Harris was signed for five years, $180 million despite having no cap room since the Sixers kept his Bird Rights,.
With the dust of this busy offseason almost cleared (the Sixers still have two more roster spots open — Kyle Korver anyone?) the 76ers face some major restrictions in making future moves due to its current salary structure.
As of July 10, the Sixers are $11,668,046 over the salary cap. Interestingly, they are $11.8 million under the Luxury Tax, so for all the talk during the season from Managing Partner Joshua Harris that they were willing to pay the luxury tax, they will not be asked to.
(FYI, if they had resigned Jimmy Butler, the Sixers would have been over the tax threshold. The player they received for him from Miami, Josh Richardson, makes a lot less money).
Elton Brand has been praised for getting pretty good quality players to fill out the roster. The only two usable substitutes in last season’s playoffs, Mike Scott and James Ennis, returned, while rugged big man Kyle O’Quinn and veteran point guard Raul Neto were also signed.
Ennis, Neto and O’Quinn were signed for the veteran minimum, while Scott (to the delight of The Hive) was given the ‘Room’ exception, the only non-minimum contract Brand could offer.
This has left the Sixers with an extremely lopsided salary structure, skewed heavily toward the starters.
Assuming coach Brett Brown rolls out, as expected, Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Al Horford, the starting five will account for a whopping 84.53% of the team’s total salary cap.
Want your voice heard? Join the The Sixer Sense team!
The other eight players will divvy up the remaining 15.47% (with almost a third of that going to Scott). This brings a total of about $17.5 million, or around 60-percent of what Harris will be making, for the entire bench.
There is no reason to feel sorry for the subs, or envious of the starters big paydays. Outside of the recent first-round draft picks (Zhaire Smith and Matisse Thybulle), whose salaries are slotted by the collective bargaining agreement, all of these contracts were agreed to by the players and management. They knew what they were signing up for.
What could be disconcerting for 76ers fans is that the way salaries are distributed could put a major crimp in the team making moves during the season.
In trades, NBA rules state that the salaries of the players in any package must be within 125 percent of each others. That is why some players are thrown out of the blue into a trade (Justin Patton?) simply to help match salaries and make the trade legal.
So, as strange as it may seem, it behooves a team to have some high-paying contracts for players who they really do not need, or want, for trade fodder.
Thanks to the work of former general manager Bryan Colangelo and the summer management team that followed, the Sixers had plenty of guys last season being paid a lot of money for little contributions on the court.
The trade for Jimmy Butler was helped by the Sixers including the contract of Jerryd Bayless ($8,575,916), whom Sixers fans were quite happy to see leave. When Brand pulled the trigger to get Harris from the Clippers, he had the $12,800,562 contract of Wilson Chandler and $5 million from Mike Muscala to throw in and balance the salaries without damaging the team’s play.
As weird as it may seem, the fact the 76ers are paying its best players a lot and its subs not much could come back to bite them. One could argue the Sixers should have vastly overpaid one of its benchwarmers from last year (remember, you can re-sign your own at any amount even if over the cap) to give them a moveable contract that could be used in a trade.
As an example, let us say, hypothetically, that the Nets have soured on Joe Harris, the NBA’s 3-point shooting champion last year, and are looking to dump him for whatever they can get. The outside shooting-starved Sixers would love to add him and have plenty of second-round picks to offer. However, draft picks mean zero in the world of the salary cap.
Harris makes $7.6 million this season. That is not a lot of money for a player of that level but the Sixers have no one outside of Ben Simmons who comes within his 125 percent figure. Even the ‘Sixers should trade Ben Simmons crew‘ have to admit a Simmons for Joe Harris swap would not be well looked upon, but he is the only 76er who could be traded salary-wise in a one-for-one trade.
To make it work with non-starters, the Sixers would have to say goodbye to Scott and at least two players on veterans minimums (we are assuming they would not part with draft picks Zhaire Smith or Matisse Thybulle) to make the salaries work.
So, assuming the Nets would even go for a three-for-one trade, the Sixers would have to decimate their bench just to get a Joe Harris.
If the Sixers have a chance at a star during the season, they would have to trade one of their own stars, so what would be the point?
So by the prudent negotiating of contracts, or some might say paying outrageous sums to its top players (who probably had other teams lined up to pay them outrageous sums as well), Elton Brand has sort of painted himself into a corner.
Without shipping off one of their top players, the 76ers can do nothing via trade during the season except swap players being paid less than $5 million. That severely limits the number of players they could look at to upgrade the team until the buyout season in February begins.
Unless the Sixers do something totally off the rails, like pay Amir Johnson $10 million, they will be quite limited in what they can do.
So enjoy the current roster of the Philadelphia 76ers, it is probably etched in stone for a while.
Left Coast Kratom is here to help you experience the freshest highest quality kratom powders and extracts at competitive prices.