The 2010s provided Sixers fans with enough drama and flat-out absurdities to fill up an entire ESPN 30 for 30 series (which almost certainly will be a thing in due time). The road the Sixers took to becoming title contenders was filled with a heck of a lot more twists and turns than we maybe would have preferred.
While the draft has obviously played an infinitely significant role in the makeup of the current Sixers squad (a la Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and recently Matisse Thybulle), trades were arguably even more crucial, both the good and the bad. Teams need to take advantage of every opportunity they can to get the necessary assets that’ll allow them to build for the future. Sometimes those deals pay off, sometimes they go sideways.
So with the Sixers having concluded another decade of basketball and with the trade deadline getting closer by the day, what better time to look at some of the most noteworthy trades of the last ten years for this organization?
Everything’s taken into account when dealing with a particular deal’s significance. What exactly was dealt/acquired, its overall impact on both the present and future at the time of its completion, etc. (Also, as a side note, if a draft pick / player is color-coded, you might want to keep them in the back of your mind as you continue read).
With all that being said, let’s take some time to reminisce upon the deals that helped pave the way for the Sixers as we know them today.
The Andrew Bynum Trade
Outgoing: Andre Iguodala, Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, 2018 1st-Round Pick
Incoming: Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson
Think back to the summer of 2012. The Sixers were fresh off a surprising upset of the top-seeded, albeit Derrick Rose-less, Chicago Bulls in six games before they ultimately fell one game short of the Conference Finals at the hands of the Boston Celtics. That squad, coached by Doug Collins, was led by a core made up of Andre Iguodala, what remained of Elton Brand (the player), Thad Young, Lou Williams, and a young Jrue Holiday. This squad clearly had some promise, and who knows what another year together could’ve done for them.
Shaking Things Up
Yet GM Rod Thorn felt it was necessary to re-tool that summer and shake things up. It also just so happened that another team was looking to head in a new direction as well. The Orlando Magic were ready to part ways with their disgruntled star Dwight Howard, with the Lakers being his preferred destination. Needing more teams to make a deal work, the Sixers and Nuggets jumped right in.
The entire four-team trade itself is pretty complicated. But in their end of the bargain, the Sixers sent Andre Iguodala to the Nuggets and dealt Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, and a 2018 1st-round pick to the Magic. In return, the Sixers got Andrew Bynum from the Lakers and Jason Richardson from the Magic.
In 2012, it’s not a horrible return. The Sixers got a young, freshly-minted All-Star big in Bynum (albeit with some injury / personality concerns) and a vet in Richardson who, despite evidently being on the downturn of his career, was still a relatively productive player in his own right. That all came at the expense of a still-in-his-prime Iggy, an unheralded center in Vucevic, and a future 1st-round pick. Rod Thorn wanted to re-tool, and he that’s what he did.
Did It Work Out?
So how did that all pan out? Well, after leading Denver to 57 wins and a playoff appearance in the 2012-13 season, Iggy went on to join the Golden State Warriors. He would go on to take home three titles and a Finals MVP award in 2015. Vucevic has developed into a highly productive big man in Orlando, eventually being named an All-Star this past season. And Moe Harkless has also developed into a serviceable wing in his own right.
On the other hand, we all know far too well the fiasco that is the Sixers’ end of the deal. Bynum, who already had to be held out of training camp because of knee procedures, only made things worse by deciding to hit the lanes. He proceeded to sit out all of November, December, January, and February before being ruled out the rest of the season. He left in the summer of 2013 without ever playing a single game. In addition, Jason Richardson played 33 games in the 2012-13 season before he had knee problems of his own that would eventually end his career.
The Sixers would finish the 2012-13 season at 34-48 and miss the playoffs. In the aftermath of that season, Doug Collins stepped down as head coach and GM Tony DiLeo, who had taken over for Rod Thorn immediately after the Bynum deal, also left the team.
And So It Began
I could go on forever about this botch-job of a deal, because in retrospect, it ended up being arguably the most vital turning point for the Sixers this decade. Put simply, without this trade, the Sixers might look a heck of a lot different than they do right now. For instance, say management doesn’t do the deal and essentially runs it back with the same core. Does the team take a leap and become a surprise contender? Does everyone keep their jobs and we’re all stuck with Doug Collins and Tony DiLeo forever? To get weirder, say in some real bizarro-world they make the trade but Bynum actually manages to recover from his injuries. Does he develop into a star and becomes the Sixers’ centerpiece?
Thank the good Lord none of that happened.
Draft Day 2013
Outgoing: Jrue Holiday
Incoming: Nerlens Noel, 2014 1st-Round Pick, 2 2014 2nd-Round Picks
In May 2013, with the team clearly heading in a new direction, Sixers ownership decided to name former Daryl Morey understudy and greatest human of all-time Sam Hinkie as GM. And with that, the glorious Process Era was officially underway.
Instead of looking to make desperate moves in an attempt to keep the Sixers relevant, Hinkie decided that a full-on rebuild was necessary to transform the Sixers into a title contender. The plan was simple: use whatever remaining value there was on the Sixers to acquire as many picks and assets as possible that would in turn help to get star players either through the draft or through a major trade.
When Hinkie first took over, the Sixers’ draft pick trove had at that point been stripped almost entirely bare. First-round picks in 2014 and 2016 were M.I.A. and they lacked future picks outside of their own. In fact, at the start of Hinkie’s tenure in 2013, the Sixers had just 13 future picks to their name in the next six drafts.
The First-Born of the Process
The 2013 NBA Draft was Hinkie’s first chance to get to attempt to reverse that reality. The Sixers held the 11th pick, which he would use to select Syracuse guard Michael Carter-Williams. Over the course of the day, he would acquire two 2014 2nd-round picks from the Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks, which is a start.
However, those deals don’t even come close to what ended up being the headliner of that day. Jrue Holiday, who had just been selected to his first All-Star game the previous season, was one of the few remaining bright spots. Seeing the potential trade value in him and being that he clearly wasn’t in the long-term plans, Hinkie seized the opportunity to ship him to New Orleans for Nerlens Noel, who had been the 6th-overall pick in the draft, and a 2014 1st-round pick.
This was the deal that really set the tone for Hinkie’s Sixers tenure.
2014 Trade Deadline
Outgoing: Spencer Hawes, Lavoy Allen, Evan Turner, 2014 2nd-Round Pick
Incoming: Earl Clark, Henry Sims, Danny Granger*, 2014 2nd-Round Pick, 2 2015 2nd-Round Picks, 2016 2nd-Round Pick
The first season of the Process Era saw the Sixers get off to a 3-0 start. MCW nearly recorded a quadruple-double in his debut against LeBron’s Heat. Is this team actually too good? Is MCW the new face of the franchise?
Of course not, dummy.
By the time the trade deadline rolled around, the Sixers were nine games into a record-breaking 26-game losing streak. The Process was in full-swing, and Hinkie was busy at the deadline. First, in a three-team deal involving the Wizards and Nuggets, Hinkie netted two 2nd-round picks in 2015 and 2016. He then dealt Spencer Hawes to the Cavs for Earl Clark, Process legend Henry “Lickface” Sims, and a pair of 2014 2nd-round picks. He finished up by dealing Lavoy Allen and Evan Turner to the Pacers for the man, the myth, the legend Danny Granger and a 2015 2nd-round pick.
In one day, Hinkie acquired four additional future picks for basically all that remained of the previous Sixers playoff squads. A couple of those picks would be put to good use. The 2014 2nd-round pick the Sixers got for Spencer Hawes would be used to select Jerami Grant, who has gone on to develop into a very solid two-way wing in his own right. Plus, those 2015 2nd-round picks would turn into Lithuanian center Arturas Gudaitis and Serbian forward Luka Mitrovic.
Those last two guys don’t sound familiar? They will soon.
Draft Day 2014
Outgoing: Elfrid Payton*
Incoming: Dario Saric, 2018 1st-Round Pick
The Sixers finished Sam Hinkie’s first season at 19-63, with only the Bucks ending up with a worse record in the league. The lone bright spot from that season was MCW being named Rookie of the Year and making All-Rookie First Team, which really ended up being the summit of MCW’s Sixers tenure (and arguably, his career).
The 63 losses were enough to net the Sixers the 3rd pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Hinkie would use it to select a promising, yet injury-prone, Cameroonian center out of Kansas named Joel Embiid. He’d miss his first couple seasons, but he ended up being kind of good.
In addition, the Sixers also had the 10th pick in the draft, thanks to that Jrue Holiday draft day trade back in 2013. Hinkie would go on to take Elfrid Payton, the guard out of Louisiana-Lafayette. However, the Elfrid Payton era in Philly lasted roughly a few hours. The Orlando Magic, who took young Croatian big man Dario Saric with the 12th pick, decided to send his rights to Hinkie and the Sixers for the aforementioned Payton. Oh, and they even gave back the 2018 1st-round pick the Sixers had originally sent them in the Andrew Bynum deal, which was chill of them.
Once again, Hinkie added even more cool things to the Sixers’ treasure trove that would end up paying dividends down the road. Dario, everyone’s favorite homie, became a very solid contributor for the Sixers and eventually a significant piece in a fairly big trade down the road. That 2018 1st-round pick would turn into sharpshooter Landry Shamet, who would be part of another somewhat notable trade we’ll get to later.
2015 Trade Deadline
Outgoing: Michael Carter-Williams, KJ McDaniels, Cenk Akyol*
Incoming: Isaiah Canaan, JaVale McGee, Chukwudiebere Maduabum*, 2016 1st-Round Pick, 2018 1st-Round Pick, 2015 2nd-Round Pick
By the time the Sixers’ second season of the Process Era was underway, Sam Hinkie’s methods were becoming clearer day by day to the national media. As the losses piled up, so did the overall scrutiny. Questions regarding even so far as to the moral quality of what he was doing began running rampant.
But the Process train kept trudging along regardless. Prior to the start of that season, Hinkie dumped the last remaining remnant of the 2012 playoff squad, Thad Young, to the Minnesota Timberwolves for yet another 1st-round pick in 2016 (that pick became Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot). Additionally, over the course of the first few months of the season, Hinkie would complete a few more deals that ended up netting him an additional 7 future 2nd-round picks.
Bye Bye MCW
Once the 2015 trade deadline arrived, with the Sixers tanking their way through the season, Hinkie once again found himself very much occupied. In a three team deal with the Bucks and Suns, he put an end to the MCW Era by dealing him to the Bucks and receiving a 2018 1st-rounder from the Suns. He then dealt KJ McDaniels to the Rockets for another Process legend in Isaiah Canaan and a 2015 2nd-round pick, which would later become Richaun Holmes. He concluded his deadline activities by sending the rights to Turkish wing Cenk Akyol to the Denver Nuggets for Shaqtin’ a Fool star JaVale McGee, Chukwudiebere Maduabum, and a 2016 1st-round pick. That 1st-rounder would later turn into one Furkan Korkmaz.
Hinkie again managed to flip some lost goods for even more value. Holmes has developed into a serviceable center in his own right, Furkan has become a reliable offensive weapon despite some struggles early in his career, and that 2018 1st-rounder will be noteworthy later on.
The Hinkie Heist
Outgoing: Arturas Gudaitis*, Luka Mitrovic*
Incoming: Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson*, 2017 1st-Round Pick Swap, 2019 1st-Round Pick
The Sixers finished the 2014-15 season at 18-64, good enough for the 3rd-worst record in the league and in turn got the 3rd-overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Hinkie would select Duke star Jahlil Okafor, who became yet another example of how hit-or-miss the Process was.
Remember our old buddies Arturas and Luka who were also taken in that draft? Those names still don’t mean anything to you? Well, they clearly meant something to one Vlade Divac and the Sacramento Kings.
The Kings, who were looking to clear salary in preparation for free-agency, offered Hinkie a package of Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson, a 1st-round pick in 2019, and to top it off, the right to swap picks in either the 2016 or 2017 draft (the Sixers chose the 2017 draft) in exchange for Gudaitis, whom Divac reportedly personally asked for, and Mitrovic. Of course, as any sane person would do, Hinkie gladly accepted this deal. As a result, the Sixers moved up from the 5th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft to the 3rd pick thanks to said pick swap.
Hinkie’s Crowning Moment
Now, to call this deal an absolute swindle of the highest degree would still be an understatement. All Hinkie had to give up for, in essence, two future lottery picks (because the Kings are, well, bad) was two obscure European big men, who mind you have yet to play a single NBA minute as of December 2019. The Kings have by virtue been the face of NBA ineptitude for a good while now, but this took it to another level.
Of all the deals Hinkie pulled off during his tenure, this one easily takes the cake. It was his crowing jewel, his Mona Lisa, his creme de la creme, all the cliches you can think of. He now was in possession of an ungodly amount of cool things that would allow him to set up the Sixers for insane amounts of success down the road.
Yeah, about that.
Moving Up to No. 1 in the 2017 Draft
Outgoing: 2017 1st-Round Pick (3rd Overall), 2019 1st-Round Pick
Incoming: 2017 1st-Round Pick (1st Overall)
In roughly three years of Sam Hinkie at the helm, the Sixers managed to transform from a team that barely had any worthwhile assets to its name to one that was overflowing with them. But apparently, that meant Hinkie was too good at his job. Not long after the league forced Jerry Colangelo into power with the Sixers, Hinkie resigned. In a move that definitely did not in any way scream nepotism, Jerry chose his son Bryan to replace Hinkie, four days after Sam stepped down.
Now, I will admit, Bryan Colangelo is not entirely incompetent when it comes to the art of actually being the GM of an NBA team. But there were times all throughout his tenure as Sixers GM that seriously make you question his ability to effectively do the job. He botched multiple late-1st-round picks, inked some albatross contracts (chief among them Jerryd Bayless), and made equally subpar trades. Those include getting what could very well end up being a fake 1st-round pick for Jerami Grant, dealing Nerlens Noel for a relative bust in Justin Anderson and yet another fake 1st-round pick, and trading Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas for roughly two months of Trevor Booker.
But I think it’s fair to say there was one deal he made that, at the absolute least, we applauded in the moment, and that came in the lead up to the 2017 draft.
Markelle Enters into the Mix
Going into that particular draft, a certain Washington guard named Markelle Fultz was the hot commodity. A combo-guard who could legitimately score at all three levels in college, he was a guy virtually every team would love get their hands on, particularly the Sixers who were in need of another playmaker to slot in alongside Ben Simmons. And unlike those other interested teams, the Sixers actually had the resources to get him.
The Sixers were originally rewarded the 5th pick in the 2017 draft following a 28-54 season. The Kings got the 3rd overall pick, and wouldn’t you know, thanks to the pick swap the teams agreed to back in 2015, the picks swapped! Now in possession of the 3rd overall pick in the draft, Colangelo pounced on the opportunity and sent the 3rd overall pick along with the 2019 1st-rounder also acquired in the Kings deal to Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics for the number one overall pick. It ensured Colangelo would get his guy in Markelle Fultz. The Sixers seemingly had their big three of the future with Ben, Joel, and Markelle.
And well, we know what ensued. Mysterious injuries, losing the ability to perform basic basketball actions like Charles Barkley in Space Jam, basically everything that could’ve went wrong did when it came to Markelle Fultz. 33 games in a Sixers uniform later, Fultz was dealt to Orlando.
What looked like a great deal in the moment in retrospect ended up being a disaster of a deal and a waste of valuable assets, and it really influenced how the team went about attempting to build around Ben and Joel in the future.
Draft Day 2018
Outgoing: Mikal Bridges*, Khyri Thomas*, Kostas Antetokounmpo*
Incoming: Zhaire Smith, Shake Milton, 2021 1st-Round Pick, 2021 2nd-Round Pick, 2023 2nd-Round Pick
The 2017-18 season for the Sixers ended up being a revelation. 52 wins, a 16-game winning streak to close out the season, and a playoff series victory. On top of that, Joel made his first All-Star appearance, Ben was named Rookie of the Year, and even Robert Covington made an All-Defense team.
Yet we can’t discuss that season without mentioning the drama that ensued throughout that season. Of course, there was the aforementioned Markelle Fultz soap opera. But we also found out that Bryan Colangelo was a big fan of using burner accounts to, among other things, defend the size of his collars, criticize his own players, and reveal confidential team information. As a result, the Colangelo Era came to a merciful end.
But anyway, I digress.
In the 5th year of Sam Hinkie’s five-year plan, the Sixers were finally legitimate NBA playoff contenders. It was now time for the next step: title contention. And in order to achieve that goal, you need to get stars using every asset you’ve stockpiled over the years.
The summer of 2018 was star-huntin’ season, and the draft was a golden opportunity to stockpile more assets to assist in that chase. Following the aforementioned Colangelo Twitter scandal, Brett Brown and Co. were in charge of the draft that summer. The Sixers held the 10th pick, thanks in part to that three-way deal back in 2015 that sent MCW to the Bucks and netted the Sixers the Lakers’ lottery pick via the Phoenix Suns. The Sixers used it to select Villanova wing and local kid Mikal Bridges, who seemingly filled an immediate need at that position. Pretty solid pick.
Back to Asset Collection
But Brett and Co. had other plans. Not long after selecting Bridges, they shipped him to Phoenix for Zhaire Smith, the 16th overall pick who was a raw yet insanely athletic forward from Texas Tech. But most importantly, the Sixers also acquired the Miami Heat’s unprotected 2021 1st-round pick. That pick was really the headliner of that deal just because of the insane potential value attached to it, considering Miami’s future at that time very murky (might not be so murky now) and 2021 potentially being the year high school players could enter the draft again.
The Sixers would also acquire a pair of additional 2nd-round picks in the 2021 and 2023 drafts, adding to their stash of draft picks that could only help in their quest to get star players. It was clear that the time was now to go all-out for titles. Which star were they going to get that summer? Paul George? Kawhi Leonard? LeBron?
No, no, and no.
The Jimmy Butler Trade
Outgoing: Jerryd Bayless, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, 2022 2nd-Round Pick
Incoming: Jimmy Butler, Justin Patton
The star-hunting thing ended up being more fantasy than reality in the summer of 2018. LeBron went to LA, Paul George re-signed with the Thunder, and Kawhi was dealt to the Raptors.
Disappointing, but the show must go on.
Having failed to acquire their star in the summer, the Sixers entered the season with virtually the same roster as the previous season. 15 games into the season, the Sixers stood at 9-6. A respectable start, but considering the load an injury-prone Joel Embiid was carrying and the overall lack of perimeter creators and just overall star-caliber players (aside from Ben) around him, something was missing. Deals were going to have to be made.
Jimmy Joins the Fray
Conveniently, around that time there just so happened to be a star-caliber player who was seeking a new home. That man was Jimmy Butler. Butler had grown tired of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who had acquired him from the Bulls the previous summer. Following an infamous practice in which he basically Ether’d everyone in the T-Wolves organization, he demanded a trade.
With Elton Brand now at the helm as GM, this was clearly a golden opportunity for the Sixers to not only fill a need, but also get that star they were yearning for. They had plenty of assets to work out a deal, and on November 12th, which just so happened to be a few days after my birthday, Elton pulled the trigger. He got Butler and Justin Patton for a package consisting of Jerryd Bayless, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and a future 2nd-round pick.
This was it. This was what Sam Hinkie and the Process was building up to. All the assets and draft capital that had been acquired the previous years was all in the hopes of acquiring a Jimmy Butler. Like it or not, this was the kind of deal that was going to be necessary to compete for titles. This was a true watershed moment for the Sixers this decade.
Of course, the Jimmy Butler Era lasted much shorter than we all expected. Despite early declarations of his being a Sixer beyond the 2018-19 season, following the Sixers’ 2nd-round exit at the hands of Kawhi Leonard and the rims in Toronto and may or may not being offered a max deal, the Sixers signed-and-traded him to the Miami Heat. In return, the Sixers got Josh Richardson, which when you take it into consideration, is a pretty darn good consolation prize.
2019 Trade Deadline: The Tobias Harris Trade
Outgoing: Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, Landry Shamet, 2020 1st-Round Pick, 2021 1st-Round Pick, 2021 2nd-Round Pick, 2023 2nd-Round Pick
Incoming: Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovich, Mike Scott
Getting Jimmy Butler seemingly completed the Sixers’ hunt for a star. But as it turned out, EB wasn’t done searching for players who possessed star-power.
By the time the 2019 trade deadline came around, the Sixers stood at 34-20, sitting idle at 5th in the East. They were going to need a little more firepower if they wanted to ensure that they’d secure home-court for at least the first round. Elton Brand still had plenty of assets at his disposal to make some moves.
Tobi or Not To Be
Out West, the Clippers, despite seemingly rebuilding, were nevertheless competing for a playoff spot. Yet despite the possibility of a playoff appearance, they were thinking long-term and as a result were looking to possibly deal their star scorer Tobias Harris. In need of another bucket-getter to really round out the lineup, and with plenty of trade ammo at the ready, it was only natural that Old School Chevy rev up a deal.
EB acquired Harris, along with big man / Tobi’s BFF Boban Marjanovich and stretch-four Mike Scott, for a huge package consisting of Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, Landry Shamet, a 2020 1st-round pick, and virtually every pick they had acquired on draft night 2018: the 2021 Miami 1st-rounder and the 2021 and 2023 2nd-rounders.
While it maybe doesn’t necessarily have as much significance as the Jimmy Butler trade, this deal all but reaffirmed the fact that we were entering a new era in Sixers basketball. The days of trying to build from the ground up and looking towards the future were officially over. The future is now, and the time to compete for titles is now.