Way back in May, before the owners and union crushed our souls, it was apparent the Sixers biggest decision this offseason would be what to do with Thad Young. Thad is a restricted free agent, he was a big part of the team's improvement/success last season, he was the team's fastball off the bench, their scoring punch, their instant mismatch. He did basically everything that was asked of him and Doug Collins seemed to fall in love. Now it's time to put emotion aside, assess the new reality of the NBA and figure out what this guy is worth.
I'll make this as short and sweet as possible. My number for Thad Young is $7M/year. The Sixers can offer him a five-year contract with 7.5% yearly increases. If they were to start at $7M this season and then maxed it out, it would turn out being 5 years, $40.7M. I can live with that contract for Thad, though if I was calling the shots, I think I might just push my luck for better.
As a restricted free agent, any team with cap space can offer Thad up to the max for four seasons with 3.5% raises. It won't happen, but a team with the cap space could offer Thad up to 4 years, $57M, give or take. There are only a handful of teams with the cap space to make a big offer, and I'm not sure any of them would be willing. Any team can offer Thad the MLE this season, which would max out at 4 years, $21M. If the Sixers are patient, Thad will probably sign an offer sheet from another team, and then the Sixers will have three days to match it. If they're lucky, the offer sheet will be for around $7M/year, which would make the total contract worth only 4 years, $29M. Even if someone pushes his salary up to $8M in the first season, the total contract would be $33M over 4 years (the Sixers offer starting at $7M in the first season would be worth $31M over the first 4 years).
The math is pretty easy to follow. With other teams only able to offer four years with 3.5% raises, the ideal situation is to have someone else sign Thad to a reasonable offer sheet, then match it. It would be a huge savings. Of course, the risk is that someone will make an insane offer, and you can erase that risk by making a preemptive offer the minute free agency opens, hoping to lock him down before someone else can even get into the game. Of course, then you have to wonder whether you're bidding against yourself. No matter what the Sixers strategy winds up being, I just hope they go into the negotiations with their own valuation of what Thad is worth, and a clear picture of their plan for the team's finances over the next several seasons.
If the Sixers wind up signing Thad for 5 years, $40.7M, here is how they'd look over the next several seasons against the cap:
- This year: They could probably just stay under the luxury tax by adding a couple of minimum salary guys and/or using one roster spot on their second round pick
- Next year: If Lou Williams doesn't exercise his player option, which I don't think he will, they'll be just under the cap with some decisions to make. Of course, if they amnesty Elton Brand they'd be way under the cap with enough space to sign a max free agent.
- 2013-2014: They'd have somewhere in the mid-thirties committed against the cap with Jrue coming up for free agency and Iguodala becoming an expiring contract. Obviously, any signing and draft picks would need to be accounted for, but the window for adding a max contract could open in the summer of 2012 and extend through the following summer with Thad signed at this level, which should be the goal.
- 2014-2015: Turner would be up for an extension as an RFA this season, and things would get dicey if Turner and Jrue both pan out, plus they added a max free agent in either of the previous two seasons (plus the new revenue share/cap level comes into play). Of course, if everything goes according to play the Sixers could be dipping into luxury tax territory to put a true contender on the floor this season and Thad's contract might be a decent trade asset if he isn't the piece they need to complete the puzzle. Of course, if the Sixers strike out in free agency and Jrue/Turner don't turn into what we hope they'll turn into, then you hit the reset button right about now, move Thad off the books and start over.
When you drill down through the logic, Thad's young, he's an efficient scorer, and he's a valuable asset to have. He's probably not going to show tremendous improvement over the next five years, though it's possible, but he's also a safe bet to do better than maintain his production as he enters his prime. If you can keep him at a decent price, it won't affect your long term plans (assuming you have long term plans). With a little restraint and some patience, you should be able to lock him down without breaking the bank. If someone comes in with a contract starting at $8M or $9M, maybe you stretch a little bit to match it, but the ideal number is $7M or lower. At $10M, you have to let him walk. No bench player is worth $10M unless you're talking about the final piece to the puzzle and the Sixers are nowhere near that level right now.
What's your number for Thad?