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Feb 18 2016

For a Change, the Sixers Stay Relatively Quiet on Deadline Day

Since Sam Hinkie took over as the Philadelphia 76ers’ general manager in May 2013, the day of the trade deadline has been a national holiday for Sixers fans.

In 2014, he shipped out Lavoy Allen, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes for a half-dozen second-round picks and some roster flotsam. (No offense, Henry Sims.) Last year, Hinkie flexed his trade-deadline muscles, acquiring an Oklahoma City Thunder first-round pick in a salary dump involving JaVale McGee before shipping out K.J. McDaniels and Michael Carter-Williams at the buzzer for Isaiah Canaan, a second-round pick that would become Richaun Holmes, and the lightly protected Los Angeles Lakers first-round pick that continues to haunt us all.

This year, with Jerry Colangelo in the front-office mix, the Sixers remained largely on the sidelines on deadline day.

In true Sixers fashion, 18 minutes after the 3 p.m. ET deadline passed, Yahoo Sports’ Marc J. Spears reported Joel Anthony was heading to Philadelphia:

According to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, the Sixers will receive a 2017 Denver Nuggets second-round pick in exchange for taking on Anthony’s contract. They also sent the rights to Chukwudiebere Maduabum back to Houston, per Derek Bodner of Philly Mag. The move leaves them with 16 players on the roster, although per Bodner, there’s “no word yet on the corresponding roster move.” They’re going to waive Anthony, who’s earning $2.5 million this year and has a non-guaranteed $2.5 million salary next season, but as Bodner noted, teams can’t waive incoming players before they occupy a roster spot. So, they’ll have to waive at least one additional player to free up a roster spot for Anthony.

Prior to the Anthony acquisition, the Sixers were roughly $2.6 million below the $63 million salary floor, so this move puts them roughly $13,000 shy of it. If they’re intent on meeting the floor, that’s nothing a few 10-day signings can’t rectify. Waiving the yet-to-be-determined player — Kendall Marshall or JaKarr Sampson, perhaps? — will create a roster spot, helping facilitate 10-day signings.

[Update, 2/23: The Anthony acquisition wound up being part of a three-team deal with the Detroit Pistons… one which fell apart Monday after Donatas Motiejunas failed Detroit’s physical due to back problems. So, the Sixers wound up waiving Sampson and not receiving anything in return.]

Compared to their trade-deadline splashes in years past, acquiring Anthony and a 2017 second-rounder hardly qualifies as major fireworks. As Xylon wrote earlier this week, though, the Sixers’ inertia on deadline day shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. It’s also not as though Hinkie and Co. weren’t laying the foundation of future moves during the days leading up to the deadline.

According to Tom Moore of Calkins Media, Hinkie was “gauging interest in [Jahlil] Okafor” around the league, but no concrete trade rumor (much less an actual deal) ever materialized. Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported the Sixers “contacted the Atlanta Hawks about their desire to trade point guard Jeff Teague or backup Dennis Schroder,” but the Hawks elected to stand pat with both. They also “had discussions” with the Los Angeles Clippers about Blake Griffin, according to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, but those likewise went nowhere.

The Sixers had nearly $10 million in cap space heading into Thursday, but few teams were intent on making major salary dumps with the salary cap set to explode this summer. Anderson Varejao, who the Cleveland Cavaliers sent to the Portland Trail Blazers in a three-team trade along with a protected 2018 first-rounder, wouldn’t have fit into the Sixers’ cap space without them sending out something—even as unsubstantial as Sampson—in return. After seeing Hinkie use cap space as a weapon at the deadline last February, in particular, the relative lack of activity qualifies as a mild disappointment, but the Sixers already won’t be able to use their full haul of first- and second-round picks over next few seasons. At this point, figuring out whether the combo of Okafor and Nerlens Noel is feasible over the long haul is the team’s No. 1 priority.

You’ve heard it 10,000 times before, but Joel Embiid remains the linchpin to any significant roster move. Until the Sixers are certain he’ll be able to contribute next season in any capacity, they’ll be rightfully reluctant to trade either of their two sure things in Okafor and Noel. (Embiid is reportedly in Qatar at the moment, per Moore, “kick-starting” the next phase of his rehab at “the world’s leading specialized orthopedic and sports medicine hospital.”)

The uncertainty regarding Dario Saric’s status also isn’t helping matters. Though he’s reportedly headed stateside for the 2016-17 season, until the Sixers have him put pen to paper, he could always chance course and stay abroad for one more season. Doing so would allow him to escape the confinement of the rookie scale, which makes significant financial sense on his end.

In a best-case scenario, Saric will join the Sixers this summer and Embiid will overcome his navicular issues to become the franchise-changing big man we all hope he can be. If or when that happens, Hinkie, Colangelo and Co. can reassess their options at the time and begin working on ways of resolving their frontcourt glut. With so many teams swimming in cap space this summer—most of whom will inevitably be left on the altar once the top-tier free agents head elsewhere—the trade market could be especially lively come July.

For a change, the Sixers were in no rush to make major deals at the trade deadline. They simply did their due diligence by sniffing around the asking prices of Atlanta’s point guards, Griffin and Okafor, among others, and landed a second-round pick in a minor salary dump. Come this summer, the legwork they did over the past few weeks could give them a head start on any trade discussions. Until the days leading up to the draft, however, it should be all quiet on the trade front in Philly.