OK, NOW Philly's Tanking...Right?

Worst. Trade Deadline. Ever.

Right?

We all sat glued to Twitter, waiting for blockbuster deals to comb over with our friends. At the very least, even if you knew your favorite team wasn't making any big moves, you probably sat glued to Twitter hoping they would trade [insert your least favorite role player] for [insert coveted role player on some other team]. For instance, when I heard speculation that Minnesota was looking to get Tony Allen from Memphis for JJ Barea, I was excited! I didn't even care that Memphis wanted us to pay Tayshaun Prince for that privilege.

Alas, there were only a few minor moves, and for "big" moves, all we got was this sorta-kinda-ok-but-not-really-a-blockbuster trade:

It has since been revealed that Indy has also included a future second round pick. Because it appears to be Hinkies plan to have the entire second round belong to Philly.

The immediate Twitter reaction is, of course, that the Sixers are into full-on tank mode now. They traded their best scorer! I'm reminded a lot about how the Bulls were completely throwing in the towel when they traded Deng (even though their record has improved since that trade) and the Raptors were finally quitting when they traded Gay (even though their record since that...ok, maybe you get where I am going).

The 76ers are a bad team. No one on this site will tell you otherwise. But they aren't in that special "worst team of all time" space that pre-season pundits placed them in, and this trade isn't going to change that. In fact, I think the Sixers are going to be a tiny bit better from here on out. Let's take a look at the changes they've made -- Allen, Hawes, and Turner left, and Granger and Clark are in (along with a few dozen future second-round picks).

  POS Min WP48 PoP48 Wins PTS DRB ORB REB AST TO BLK STL PF
Allen

PF

960 .097 -0.1 1.9 13.2 8.6 5.3 13.8 3.2 2.0 1.4 1.1 5.8
Hawes

PF

1666 .068 -1.0 2.4 19.8 10.5 2.5 13.0 5.1 3.4 1.9 0.9 4.4
Granger SF 653 .063 -1.1 0.9 17.8 6.0 1.8 7.7 2.4 2.6 1.0 0.7 3.0
Turner SF 1886 .016 -2.6 0.6 23.9 6.9 1.3 8.2 5.0 3.9 0.1 1.4 3.7
Clark F 698 .007 -2.9 0.1 16.1 7.4 1.4 8.7 1.1 2.1 1.3 1.1 4.2
Average SF SF 1322 .099 0.0 2.7 19.8 6.0 1.5 7.5 3.6 2.5 0.7 1.6 3.5
Average C C 1080 .099 0.0 2.2 19.2 9.4 4.4 13.8 2.4 2.8 2.0 1.2 5.1
Average F F 1321 .099 0.0 2.7 20.3 7.1 2.4 9.5 3.2 2.5 1.1 1.5 4.0
  FG% 2FG% 3FG% FT% eFG% TS% FGA 3FGA PPS FTA
Allen 44.0% 45.5% 15.4% 67.5% 44.4% 46.4% 13.3 0.7 0.99 2.0
Hawes 45.1% 47.8% 39.9% 78.2% 52.0% 54.6% 16.9 5.8 1.17 2.9
Granger 35.9% 38.0% 33.0% 96.2% 42.8% 49.1% 16.4 6.9 1.09 3.9
Turner 42.8% 45.5% 28.8% 82.9% 45.1% 50.4% 21.1 3.4 1.13 5.8
Clark 37.5% 40.3% 34.5% 58.3% 45.8% 46.7% 16.5 8.0 0.97 1.7
Average SF 44.3% 48.5% 36.0% 76.0% 50.3% 54.3% 16.3 5.4 1.21 4.4
Average C 50.6% 51.5% 31.2% 67.5% 51.3% 54.9% 15.2 0.7 1.26 5.2
Average F 46.1% 49.4% 35.5% 75.4% 50.3% 54.3% 16.7 4.0 1.22 4.6

As you can see, the win column doesn't move a lot. If Clark takes their minutes (we'll get to that in a bit), losing Allen and Hawes means that the Sixers are losing some replacement-level production at forward/center, but Granger is actually an upgrade over Turner at small forward. Primarily this is because:

  • Granger can shoot threes
  • Granger doesn't turn the ball over

Given that Granger is recovering from injuries, it's hard to say how he'll perform, but even if doesn't recover and maintains his current form, it's still a short-term upgrade over Turner. This is the biggest factor in all the moves because Turner was leading the team in minutes (and if you don't think this was because Hinkie was trying to pump up his numbers, I'd like to talk to you about a deal I have worked out with a Nigerian prince that could make us both rich!).

My guess is that Granger starts at SF, and Thompson the SG, but they could also use Granger at guard and Thompson at forward. Either way, they'll shoot better from beyond the arc and turn the ball over less.

Turner never fit into Philly's long term plans. Hinkie and Brown are both guys who want to shoot less from the midrange, and Turner is an old-school midrange shooter. Kirk Goldsberry puts it best:

The thing that Goldsberry leaves unsaid (perhaps intentionally?) is whether "solid midrange" is a desirable thing that you should trade for. Turner turns the ball over a ton, and having watched about 25 sixers games, it's my opinion that most of these turnovers are because he tries to create offense by driving; the defense doesn't honor his three-point shot, so when he drives into the sagging/doubling defense, balls get slapped out of his hands a lot.

Ok, so that's the wing? What about the big man situation? The first thing to note is that neither Allen nor Hawes were earth-shattering talents (if Turner, Hawes, and Allen were all great players, Philly wouldn't have a 15 in the win column, right?). But over the short term, Philly might have trouble fielding even replacement-level talent. But if I had to guess, most of the minutes are going to come from two guys we haven't seen much until now: Arnett Moultrie (who's back in the lineup) and Nerlens Noel (who's going to be hard to keep out much longer). And if Noel is half the prospect he looked like, even coming off a bad injury, he's probably good enough that the absense of Hawes won't be a big deal. And if Moultrie is half as good as he looked in limited minutes last year, then...well, he's as good as Lavoy Allen!

No one is saying that Philly has suddenly morphed into a playoff threat, but I think it's clear that this trade didn't actually make them any worse. I still think Philly will end the season in the 25+ win range (possibly rattling off a couple of win streaks in the dog days). But they now have absurd cap flexibility this offseason, a great piece to trade in the offseason (many teams will be interested in Young), about 50 draft picks, and three great pieces for the future in Carter-Williams, Noel, and Thompson.

It's a good day to be a Sixers fan, really!

Arturo's Take

$27.2 million on 10 players. Two likely lottery first round picks in 2014. Five second round picks in 2014. Let's assume that someone gets bought out (I'm looking at you Jrich) and 5 rookies get on the roster (and their combined pay is in the $8 million ball-park). That puts Philly in the $30 to $35 million range in salary for the 2014-5 and 2015-6 seasons with a roster of young picks. If we assume they have access to the Spurs and Rockets tools for drafting or have built similar tools (a fair assumption), we can expect some of these late picks to turn into productive NBA players. That's $37 million plus below the tax level. 

That means that not only will the Sixers have four lottery picks on the roster (MCW, Noel + two 2014 picks) and a couple of likely Spurs-like late second round steals, but they will also have the cap room to sign two max level free agents without hitting the luxury cap treshold.

I have no words. This is the kind of cheating I do when I play franchise mode in various sports video games.

Reportedly, Clark has already been waived.
http://www.csnphilly.com/basketball-philadelphia-sixers/sixers-waive-forward-earl-clark
As a master in turning poor franchises into contenders, I will be taking my NBA2k franchise mode powerpoint to the Atlanta Hawk's career fair. I was inspired. To me it makes sense but to most...not so much. The philosophy shouldn't matter whether you are playing madden or running the Browns. The funny thing is that I use wins produced and game theory when putting together a team. Despite the inconsistent rating system you can still exploit. Its all about tendencies. People don't pay attention to that. I use a differential between ratings that matter and the tendency to do that skill. Every time I sit down with friends to start a fantasy league on the game or start a franchise mode, Love is my pick or the timberwolves are my go to team. I don't play the games, I just sim them and watch the wins rack up. Yeah Patrick, I turned those T'wolves into contenders. Maybe I could get Love to stay.
http://www.sbnation.com/lookit/2013/12/11/5202166/sb-nation-endorses-chris-mccomas-for-north-dakota-head-coach
The 76ers also received Henry Sims from the Cavs and Byron Mullens from the Clippers
I had to look up Henry Sims to make sure he's actually an NBA player, lol

(I already know that Mullens is not).

Now, if Philly gives Mullens lots of minutes, THEN I will concede that they really are trying to actively lose.
Philly will almost certainly buy out Danny Granger. Basically they dumped 2 of their 4 actual NBA players and will replace the with nobody. This is true tanking.

This isn't even addition by subtraction because as bad as those guys are, I can guarantee you that HThomp will not be replacing those lost minutes.

I'm gonna love 25 min of TWroten and Elliot Williams a night. Mully gonna start at center I can see it now. It'll be a flaming pile of tanking beauty. They have nothing to hide anyway.

How close are you to that Vegas line? This team might win 3 more games tops. Under Hinkies orders of course
What do you think about nando de colo for Austin Daye? my eyeball test says de colo gives you more. Daye does not look good, so I don't really understand the move but one must trust the spurs' evaluations, esp. after the way SA spotted & scooped up belinelli
I am enjoying watching Sam Hinkie deconstruct the lousy roster that he inherited in Philly. Some thoughts:

1) Why would Nerlins Noel play at all this season? What would be the point?

2) Why does the author not immediately recognize that Earl Clark would be waived almost immediately?

3) Isn't it interesting that even the best teams (e.g., Indiana) make idiotic decisions (e.g., trade for Luis Scola, trade for Evan Turner)? Once the league's expertly managed advanced stats-heavy teams complete their rebuilds, how dominant will these teams be? I mean, look at the competition!

4) Why would Philly buy out Danny Granger? Why not keep him and let him play? You may decide to re-sign him this offseason, or maybe you can sign-and-trade him for something useful.

5) If nobody was particularly interested in giving Philly anything useful for Thaddeus Young this February, why should we expect this to change in July?

6) Are we sleeping on the possibility of Philly making a huge splash in free agency THIS summer? Add one or two big name free agents to a core of Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlins Noel, Arnett Moultrie, Philly's two 2014 lottery picks (one of which will hopefully be top three overall), and isn't this team the preseason favorite to win their (shitty) division?
Also: isn't it satisfying to know that the grossly mismanaged NYC teams will, despite their massive payrolls, be finishing fourth and fifth in their division on a regular basis in the near future to the extremely well-managed Raptors, Sixers, and Celtics?

Aren't the three most well-managed teams in the Eastern Conference Toronto, Boston, and Philly?
How did the Pacers lose? They got Lavoy Allen out of the deal and saved a lot of money.

And I'd say the most well-managed teams are the Heat and the Pacers easily. Boston just drafted Neon Jesus and stay tuned on Philly- Noel hasn't played a single game yet, and they haven't sniffed the playoffs in a while, and just last season they were led by the trifecta of Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young, and Nick Young.

And I still can't get over the double-think on this blog of draft picks being very valuable commodities and tanking being a bad strategy.
Chris Mccomas already has my vote for coach of the year.
I wouldn't put the Heat on a list of well-managed teams. Pat Riley cleared cap space and prayed. James, Wade and Bosh deserve the credit. It wasn't that long ago that they were a lottery team. The graphic of Turner is telling. Right handed players typically struggle going to their left and the remedy is all footwork. Either he hasn't been willing to put in the time or no one has fussed. I love the quantitative stuff but I'm still an eye test guy on some level. The first thing I look at is how a player sets their feet and the rotation of their ball. There are still plenty of intangibles that don't show up in box scores.
I'd say that the Heat are well managed but in a different way than we would normally think. Riley has put together two separate title teams by swinging successfully for the fences (Shaq and the Three Amigos) and that has worked out well. Now he obviously is less than stellar at building up his team through the draft, but getting players to sign is definitely a skill and he's one of the best at it.
@Tommy_Grand

The De Colo/Daye trade was perfect for both teams. The Spurs had 4 good PGs and Kawhi is the only true SF on their roster (Shannon Brown already cost them 0.5 wins in only 100 minutes, the Spurs badly need another real wing for the rest of the season). The Raptors have plenty of 3/4s, but have terrible PGs behind Lowry. Both players have been slightly above average for their careers and can pass and shoot. Both teams had a need for depth at one position and a surplus of talent at another, and this trade should slightly improve both teams.

Plus De Colo complains to the French press about the Spurs all the time. He wasn't going to be on the team next year- he was doing this crap all the time.
http://blog.mysanantonio.com/spursnation/2013/05/24/de-colo-upset-with-lack-of-playing-time/

Also, Danny Granger won't play a single minute in Philly.
Pete,

Thanks for explaining the trade. All that you wrote makes sense & I hope you are correct about the outcome.
On the one hand, the WP model says draft picks are overrated because it's relatively difficult to predict how good college/foreign players will be in the NBA. But then second round picks (who if they pan out become free agents after two years) are suddenly valuable, even though only one of the 2014 picks (Philly's own) is likely to be in the top 40. Also, Philly is not actually going to draft players with all 5 of these second rounders -- almost certainly they will try to use them in trades to move up in the first round and/or they will trade one or more for picks in future drafts.
I mean, what they did is fine. They weren't bringing back Turner or Hawes, so they did well in getting something for them in an environment where teams were adverse to giving up first round picks. Compare what Utah did last year, when they weren't able to get any return for Jefferson or Millsap before they left as free agents. Phoenix actually played its cards the best this year, selling high (with Washington and Indy) in getting first round picks for its players before the season started.
"How did the Pacers lose? They got Lavoy Allen out of the deal and saved a lot of money. "

Nobody said the Pacers lost. The post says the Sixers didn't lose, not that there is an obvious loser in the trade. That all goes out the window if the Pacers choose to feature Turner prominently and spend their Stephenson money to re-sign him, though.

"stay tuned on Philly- Noel hasn't played a single game yet,"

That's part of why picking him was smart. It's hard to argue he's going to be worse than the rest of the top ten, and he doesn't give them any unnecessary wins this year, thus improving their draft status in the most loaded lottery in years.

"and they haven't sniffed the playoffs in a while," and just last season they were led by the trifecta of Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young, and Nick Young."

They have new management this year, which managed to get a ridiculous amount of value for Holiday while resisting the urge to build around a crappy "young core" that was going to be good for about 34 wins per season. There are no guarantees with any rebuild, but the 76ers are in a FAR better position now than they were one season ago in terms of their long term competitive prospects.

"And I still can't get over the double-think on this blog of draft picks being very valuable commodities and tanking being a bad strategy."

The argument is that there is no benefit to "tanking" vs. simply rebuilding. There is nothing the 76ers have done that would not qualify as simply rebuilding to make their roster better down the road.

The only distinction you might make is that they were willing to take a risk on Noel, a #1 talent who fell because he will not be able to make an immediate impact. Even then, would they have passed him up if he was healthy?

Tanking is the deliberate act of making your team worse in order to get a higher draft pick. This invariably means eschewing reasonably priced talent without getting a proper return. The difference in talent level you are likely to see just isn't worth doing that.
You don't think Hinkie was featuring Turner? I have suspected the 76ers fast pace and big roles for him and MCW is an attempt to boost their trade value. MCW doesn't seem to fit their philosophy (because he can't shoot) but he could get a prime asset in return as ROY.
"But then second round picks (who if they pan out become free agents after two years) are suddenly valuable, even though only one of the 2014 picks (Philly's own) is likely to be in the top 40. "

The Cavs picks are projected to be 37th and 44th. Picks in the first half of the second round are valuable, in that a smart teams can look at first round talent for a second round price.
The idea that picks are valuable does not preclude that tanking is a bad strategy. Why? Because provided your people are good at evaluating talent (or rather, better than the competition at it) then ANY picks are valuable regardless of whether they are lottery picks, late firsts, or second rounders.

In virtually any draft, you can get a player who turns out to have a top 5 career for that class in the late first round.
"And I still can't get over the double-think on this blog of draft picks being very valuable commodities and tanking being a bad strategy."

There's no need to shed good players to lose on purpose to make your draft pick better if you can find good players later on in the draft, which teams like the Spurs have done over and over (Leonard, Parker, Manu etc were not lottery picks).

Tanking isn't smart because the difference in value between mediocre picks and and good picks isn't as big as conventional wisdom thinks it is, so it's better just to keep that mediocre pick and use it yourself instead of jettisoning talent to move up a little bit.
One reason some greatly overvalue the "tanking" strategy is b/c they think thus: It is *possible* to succeed by tanking. I want my team to be champions. I want to cheer for a huge star. It's not my money. Let's tank! This is akin to buying $800 of powerball tickets. Sure, the EV is way negative, but I want to be a multi-multimillionaire and I don't dream about becoming a "thousandaire." When you tank you lose games (duh). When you lose games, you lose fans. When you lose fans, you lose revenue. You sell less merch. You less fewer season ticket packages. You lower ticket prices to "fill" the arena. You don't make fat jack from parking, beer, and popcorn. You might end up drafting Tim Duncan, Hakeem, or Ewing, but it's unlikely. Often, the worst team does not get a top 3 pick. Memphis wanted Durant but the ping pong balls said "tough s#it." Only rarely does a top 10 draft pick become a star, and bonifide stars rarely elevate a franchise to a new (higher) tier. Half of lottory picks are busts and, even when one hits, he often goes to maimi or LA in his prime. Orlando could not keep Shaq or Dwight. The better move is rebuilding: acquire & develop young talent. Sell assets to obtain draft picks. Scout well and maximize the value of your picks. Trading away current assets -- aka quality vets -- will (usually) increase your odds in the draft lottery anyway. Although the primary goal is to build for the future, in the meantime, try hard to win all the games you can so your rookie players acquire good habits, your fanbase stays connected, folks don't leave in frustration, etc.
A few things:

1 - I think the Heat are the best managed team in the east. The most valuable player in the NBA is a max player who is a superstar (because they outperform their contract significantly, delivering value other teams cannot easily replicate). The fact that the Heat have repeatedly acquired these kinds of players means they are well managed. It's not the traditional numbers optimization model, but if whatever Riley is doing leads him to repeatedly acquire max players, it doesn't matter. I'd rather have LeBron than anything the Raptors or 76ers have, even though both of those teams are definitely looking well-managed now.

2 - I think the 76ers recognize this, just like Houston did, and will be trying to acquire their own max contract players. I think the danger with this method is ending up with max guys who may not be worth the max, and bog you down, but that's a first class problem compared to having no talent and bad contracts.

3 - I suspect both teams are winners in this trade, because they are taking advantage of asymmetry of needs to find a win-win deal (Allen and savings for Indiana, more picks for 76ers).
Every team realizes you need a superstar, preferably two, to win big, and typically those are max players. No doubt Philly knows this. Not every team is so good at evaluating who those max guys actually are, and not every team has an equal chance to sign LeBron James as a free agent (I mean, I don't recall him visiting Milwaukee during his free agent tour). Miami (Pat Riley) deserves credit for realizing James was the best player in the league and it would be a good idea to add him to his team? I mean, I guess he deserves some credit for his strategy to build the capspace needed to sign LeBron (as well as Bosh), and for developing a strategy to lure him to South Beach by any means necessary, but in so doing he sacrificed two of DWade's prime years (2008/09 and 2009/10) by avoiding any long term contracts.
Miami is well managed because the best player in the league (Lebron) and one of the league's better players at the time (Bosh) were successfully recruited by Wade (probably a top five or ten player at the time)? Because Wade told Riley, "I got this"? How much did Pat Riley really have to do with this?

Why did Riley unnecessarily trade away multiple first round picks to Cleveland and Toronto rather than simply signing Lebron and Bosh outright? Why did Riley also grossly overpay Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem? Who are the, say, five best players Riley has drafted in the past ten years? Mario Chalmers isn't bad... who else?

If/when Lebron recognizes this offseason that his chances of winning more championships in Miami in 2014-15 and beyond aren't so great, due to poor roster building by Riley, and he signs with another team, well, this is Riley's fault, and a result that would have likely been avoided had the team been well managed during this run.
The Turner trade and Clark waiving was interesting because it may be the most blatant a team has ever tanked. I just don't see the incentive for either move other than "gets us more Ls?" Yes the Sixers got a late 50s IND 2nd in the Turner deal but Lavoy and saving IND money in the deal was more than worth that.

The thing is even if Turner and Clark aren't very good players right now, they are still at the point where they can improve and become productive. This may have been more worth it to PHI than just giving them away. Perhaps in a year they'd have played better and have been worth a 1st.

Nonetheless PHI has a clear strategy and plan. There has been worse moves made.
I realize I'm late to the party here with the comments, but I don't necessarily see how this is awesomesauce for Philly. Their strategy has basically become "fire everyone and cross your fingers". They are getting what they pay for, no one on their roster at the moment is significantly >.100 WP. Granted, they've got potential in MCW, Thompson, and Noel, but still, can't basically any team use this "strategy"?

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