The Sixers brass will probably sit down several more times over baby back ribs to discuss the team's needs and direction before the summer is out. Will they make any personnel changes? More importantly, will they be improvements?
The Dalembert trade has been spun and applauded by many based on the spin, or just based on their distaste for Sammy, as a basketball trade, but that's really not the crux of the situation. Doug Collins let the cat out of the bag on draft night. The biggest gain from that trade was putting the Sixers below the projected luxury tax threshold. Collins basically said they didn't want to acquire another draft pick because it could push them over the luxury tax line. Ergo, the powers that be don't want to pay the luxury tax, and not paying it is a priority.
My best estimate for the amount of wiggle room the Sixers will have under the tax threshold is $2M. So not enough for a full MLE signing, not even enough to use the bi-annual exception (which I believe is $2.1M this season). They could use it to sign a minimum salary guy. Free agency is essentially off the table for the time being. Unless Collins was completely blowing smoke.
To sign a free agent, I believe the Sixers would first have to make a trade to clear more breathing room. We talked about the trade exceptions floating around the league a couple weeks back. Those are still on the table right now. The Sixers could also create some space by making a straight trade and taking back less salary than they send out. After free agency begins, they could also look to move their players to one of the teams with gobs of cap space, and take back nothing more than a draft pick as compensation.
There are several ways the Sixers can get themselves involved in the MLE-level free agency race. Do I think it's likely? No. Not really. Beyond the likelihood, though, I really don't want Stefanski making any more deals. Forget free agent signings, let's just take a look at the trades he's made:
- Korver for Goran Giricek and a future first round pick from Utah - This move was made to get Korver's contract off the books and create the cap space that would eventually be used to lure Elton Brand to Philly. Korver has put up very good numbers for Utah since the deal. In hind sight, Stefanski clearly lost this deal.
- Rodney Carney, Calvin Booth and the first round pick from Utah to Minnesota for a second round pick (top 55 protected) - This trade cleared the rest of the needed cap space to get Elton Brand. Check out the protection on the second-round pick, the Sixers only get the pick if the Timberwolves finish with a top-five record in the league. A first-round pick seems a pretty hefty price to pay for clearing minimal cap space, but overall this was basically a nothing trade.
- Reggie Evans for Jason Kapono - Two terrible players, the Sixers took the more expensive one in the deal. Stefanski lost this deal.
- Royal Ivey, Primoz Brezec and an unprotected second-round pick for Jodie Meeks and Francisco Elson - Essentially, Stefanski traded the #38 pick in the 2010 draft for the #41 pick in the 2009 draft. I'm not sure how many minutes Meeks will see this season, and he'll be a restricted free agent next summer, but again, a pretty meaningless trade. A possible win down the road, right now I'd call it a wash.
- Sam Dalembert for Spencer Hawes and Andres Nocioni - No matter how you feel about Dalembert, no matter how glad you are to see him gone, there's absolutely no way in hell you can possibly say Stefanski got a good haul in this trade. He was taken advantage of.
My point here is that I don't believe ownership will allow Stefanski to sign any free agents unless he can clear more money off the books via trade first. I have no confidence that he'll be able to make a trade that doesn't (a) hurt the team on the floor or (b) swap future cap flexibility for short-term relief.
As of June 28th, I'm starting to look forward to the season. I'm starting to look forward to seeing what Doug Collins can do with Jrue, Turner and Iguodala. There's a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel for me. It's weak, but it's there. The only thing that can derail that feeling is another stupid trade. The luxury tax situation may very well save Stefanski from himself in free agency. Let's just hope he doesn't get enough rope to hang himself in the trade market.
If you're wondering about the Chili's references, check out this report from Rich. You can find the Chili's in question on the Google Map below.