2012/13 Payroll: $52.2 million
2012/13 (Projected) NBA Salary Cap: $58 million
Roughly: $5.8 million under cap
Highlights: For a young team that fell just one game short of the Conference Finals, the Sixers are hard to appraise in terms of both the present and the future. Perhaps that’s because, given Doug Collins excellent but talent-blurring coaching style, it’s hard to determine just how talented the Sixers’ young pieces are as the franchise continues an impressive rebuilding process. These inscrutable young talents aren’t crippling the cap by any means, with Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, Nick Young, Spencer Hawes, Lavoy Allen, Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless and Arnett Moultrie due just $37 million combined next season, the future appears bright.
Though Holiday’s numbers dipped slightly from a terrific sophomore season he’s confirmed his standing as a franchise point guard. A tenacious defender with a great feel for the game, Holiday is rumored to demand max money when he becomes a restricted free agent next summer, and while he isn’t worth quite that much, recent precedents suggest that he will be able to name his price, and that the Sixers will be unwilling to part with him; don’t be surprised, however, if a rising, financially flexible franchise such as Utah or offers him a max deal next summer. The tricky part for Philadelphia will be getting Holiday signed to the right deal.
Nabbing Nick Young on a one-year deal was a terrific move, as it’s hard to tell whether the proven scorer is anything but a scorer and committing to the 26-year old guard for one season will allow Philly to determine whether he’s worthy of being a franchise fixture.
In the front court, versatile defensive ace Lavoy Allen will fairly receive $3 million in each of the next two seasons, showing that sometimes it benefits to fall into the second round, while Harkless and Moultrie will pack a lot of potential into their cheap rookie contracts. Nikola Vucevic produced in limited minutes as a rookie and while he was bumped out of the playoff rotation, he’s one of the Sixers best shooters and he’ll command just $6.7 million over the next three seasons. With his size (7-0/240) and shooting ability, he’s worth tending to as his intriguing skill set continues to evolve.
Even as his numbers decline and his scoring ability is dulled, Andre Iguodala is becoming increasingly hard to label a “bad contract,” a belief that many held for the first three years of the six year/$80 million contract that concludes with a $16 million player option for the 2013-14 season. Igodala’s scoring has decreased precipitously (19.9, 18.8, 17.1, 14.1, 12.4), but make no mistake about it: Iguodala is worth every penny to this Sixers squad.
Iguodala made his first all-star appearance last season and is suiting up for Team USA for the second time. He willed Philly to the brink of a showdown with the Heat in the playoffs and has cemented his standing as one of the five best wing defenders in the league in addition to being the second best passer at his position. He’s played in (and started) 625 out of a possible 640 career games, averaging 37.7 minutes a night for his career. He’s the rock solid leader of a team that had no business contending this past season and has fulfilled the unenviable duty of restoring prominence to the post-Iverson Sixers.
Lowlights: One of the league’s top reserves, Thaddeus Young outperformed his draft standing in a banner second year season in 2008-09 in which he averaged 15.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 34.4 minutes. He has thrived in a reserve role over the past two seasons, his athleticism and relentlessness proving overwhelming when he’s introduced in the game at the right points, but he has the Sixers on the hook for $35 million over the next four seasons (the fourth season is a $9.7 million option that he’s likely to exercise), a big chunk of change for a young player whose production has somewhat stagnated at age 24. Granted the team has forced him to play out of position at the 4, instead of his more natural 3 position due to the presence of Iguodala. Young’s contact would look much nicer on a contending team, but with Harkless (a raw, 6-8 combo forward who eerily mirrors Young) and a slew of young big men in the fold, that long-term deal could become increasingly hard for the Sixers to stomach. Young has the talent to ultimately make his deal worthwhile, he’ll just need to be put in the position to succeed.
The re-signing of Spencer Hawes proved unpopular with Sixers’ faithful, and while his 2 year/$13 million agreement won’t cripple their cap, it was by no means a genius move. Hawes hardly transcends the longstanding justification of “7-footer who can play,” further clouding a frontcourt that could have used a change of scenery but will be handicapped by the minutes owed to the frustratingly average big man. Signing Kwame Brown to squander even more minutes in a crowded young frontcourt filled young big men far more talented than he was truly puzzling.
All that said, it all boils down to the performance of Evan Turner, who has yet to live up to his draft status of being the #2 pick. Turner often shows flashes of fulfilling his potential as a dominant point forward, particularly in the playoffs, but more often shies from the limelight and simply makes bad decisions. He’s so likable a basketball player that he’s hard to knock and while he could certainly become a franchise player, he’s struggled with consistency. His ability to intangibly affect a game is easy to notice but he will have to start contributing statistically if he wants to remain a Sixer after his rookie deal expires.
The Future: In terms of their cap, the Sixers have been making some good decisions. They were able to amnesty Elton Brand’s 16 million dollar final year right off their books. They also made the decision to let Louis Williams walk in free agency, a blow to their bench but probably the right move.
The Sixers have affordably stocked a ton of talent, but the collection of pieces is so perplexing that their impending cap freedom in two years could create more pressure than excitement. The generally accepted ideology concerning the NBA Draft is that you draft for talent not need. For the Sixers, that ideology extends beyond the draft and into free agency. It may be extremely hard to determine the worth of Turner, Young, Harkless, Moultrie, Vucevic, Hawes and Allen considering Collins coaching style and so many similarly talented and skilled players. But for now they have a lot of young talent and should continue to thrive as one of the better middle of the road playoff teams in the East.
Philly is currently five plus million under the cap for this season and has just 34 million committed to players for 2013-14 and that includes the 15 million that’s allotted to Iguodala. His contract runs up then, which is ideal timing for the team. They will likely continue to look to deal Iguodala, and pull the trigger if the right offer comes along. They can transition to reallocating the bulk of their cap to younger players such as Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner or luring free agents to join the team.