Kate Fagan wrote an article yesterday quoting sources familiar with the situation saying the only way the Sixers could land Tracy McGrady ('s expiring contract) would be to build a deal around Andre Iguodala and several other young pieces. Ergo, neither Elton Brand nor Samuel Dalembert would be included in the deal. After the jump, I want to talk a little bit about what a deal like this would have to look like, what it would mean, and touch on where the information could be coming from, and why.
The first thing I try to figure out when a story like this breaks is who is the source. Does Kate Fagan have a well-placed source in the Rockets' organization? Maybe, but I don't think that's the most-likely scenario. The safe money is someone in the Sixers organization. Which then brings us to the bottom line question. What is the source's motivation for giving out this info?
If the source is, in fact, from the Rockets side, then this story means next to nothing. They're obviously going set the price astronomically high in the press. They have nothing to lose, especially when you consider their position with McGrady. If they can't find a trade partner, they're happy to let his deal expire. There's no desperation on their part, so they can and should ask for the moon.
If the source is from inside the Sixers organization, one of two things is going on. One, you've got a rogue employee in the know who's privy to the internal conversation and not happy about it. So he/she floats the latest info to drum up public opinion against the move. The other, more insidious option is that someone in the Sixers organization is floating the possibility out there to see how the press and the media would react, meaning it's something they're considering.
Where the source is doesn't really matter as far as evaluating the trade, so let's take a look at the numbers. Houston is saying they want a package built around Iguodala, that doesn't include Brand or Dalembert, I believe. The quotes were a bit cryptic on the subject. McGrady's cap number is $22.8M this season, Iguodala's is $12.2M. The Sixers can only take back 125% + $100,000 of the money they send out in a trade, so the other salaries going to Houston must equal at least $7.5M. Unless Brand or Dalembert is included in the deal, the Sixers are going to have to include a minimum of two other players.
Let's play it conservative and say they include Lou Williams and Willie Green. Their salaries combine to equal $8.6M this season, so the deal works under the cap. The Sixers would add the prorated portion of the difference in their outgoing salaries and McGrady's incoming salary (roughly $2M), to their books. This is immaterial, and really has nothing to do with the deal.
The important numbers begin next summer. Right now, the Sixers have $66M committed to 11 players for 2010-11. If they made the trade as constructed above, they'd have $45M committed to 8 players. So they'd save roughly $19M next season, which great if you're a bean counter. If you're interested in improving the team with cap space, it's essentially meaningless. The cap is probably going to be somewhere between $50-$55M, the Sixers will have to sign their draft pick, undoubtedly a high draft pick, so that's another $3M (if in top five), plus you have to account for the extra 3 open roster spots at the league-minimum salary when you figure out cap space. Add all of that up, and you're pretty much right at $50M. So best-case scenario, you're talking about using the mid-level exception.
If the Sixers make no moves whatsoever this summer, they would have roughly $35M committed to seven players heading into the following summer, with big cap hold numbers on Thaddeus Young and Jason Smith (the other five players under contract would be Jrue Holiday, Elton Brand, Marreese Speights, their #1 pick from this summer in his second year and their #1 pick from 2011). Depending on what happens with the cap, this will probably not be enough to add a max contract to the roster.
Keep in mind that a deal of Iguodala, Lou Williams and Willie Green is probably the best-case scenario. I highly doubt Houston would want Williams and Green, they'd probably want Thad, Speights or Jrue, if not two of them, as the rest of the package. If those guys are included and Williams is left out, the cap savings are significantly less.
To put it bluntly, a trade like this would accomplish two things for the Sixers, and two things only. 1) It would save the franchise from paying the luxury tax in either of the next two seasons. 2) It would guarantee a high draft pick in each of the next two season. That's it. The team would not have the financial flexibility to land a premier free agent, nor would they really be a destination premiere free agents would want to come to, especially not when multiple other teams have cap space and better players/coaches to play with/for.
This would be a move for money, nothing else. If they simply wanted to tank and get high picks, there are several less destructive ways to do it. If they wanted to blow the whole thing up and start from scratch, they wouldn't make any move involving Iguodala unless Brand's contract was attached to it. Essentially, a move like this says one thing to Sixers' fans. "The only thing we care about is not paying the luxury tax. In fact, we're willing to give away our best player for nothing, simply to avoid paying it."
I'm on the record as saying I don't want them to blow up this roster for multiple reasons, at the same time, though, I can see the logic behind it. If you have to sacrifice Iguodala to really wipe the slate clean, I think it's a stupid move, but it is defensible in a despicable way. This move is not. This move is the Pau Gasol deal Memphis turned, only 1000x times worse. Memphis got draft picks and a European prospect (who has turned into a hell of a player) and cap space in return for Gasol. The Sixers would be getting nothing but money. They'd be selling out their roster, their fans and their city for nothing but the bottom line. This would be a dark, dark day for the city of Philadelphia, the day when one of their major sports franchises started acting like a small market team.
If the Sixers really, really want to blow it all to hell, then don't do it for McGrady, and don't do it for Iguodala with one or two of the young pieces. Find a team that's desperate to make a move, desperate to win a ring this year, and make them an offer they can't refuse that solves all of your problems. Call Cleveland and offer this deal:
Shaquille O'Neal, Zydrunas Ilgauskus, JJ Hickson and Anthony Parker
This deal would leave the Sixers with no contract extending beyond next season (except rookie contracts), they'd have 9 players under contract for 2011, for only $24.5M, meaning they could immediately be HUGE players in free agency. They'd guarantee themselves at least one top four or five pick, probably two. They'd add one young piece in Hickson, they could immediately buy out Shaq and Z. They'd save roughly $7.4M in salary this season alone, plus any money saved in buying out Shaq and Ilgauskus. If you want to blow things up, that's how you do it.
If you think Cleveland would hesitate at all, you're wrong. An eight-man rotation of Mo Williams, Andre Iguodala, LeBron James, Elton Brand, Anderson Varejao, Sam Dalembert, Jamario Moon and Delonte West, with Lou Williams, Boobie Gibson and Ilgauskus (when they re-sign him) simply will not be beat. Cleveland needs to win a championship this season, and show LeBron they've got the core there to win several more to insure he doesn't bolt this summer. This is a deal that could happen.
I don't want it to happen, but if you're telling me the Sixers are debating moving Andre Iguodala for nothing, then screw it. I'd rather them blow the whole thing up and give themselves a completely blank slate to start with than have them simply sell off their most valuable piece for nothing more than a few dollars.