The final remnant of the Al Horford trade comes due tomorrow, September 7. The Sixers are the beneficiary of a trade exception worth $8.2 million. As the name implies, they can only leverage it to acquire players via trade.
The exception cannot be combined with another departing salary to reach a corresponding dollar figure returning to the Sixers if that dollar value is greater than the value of the exception. It cannot be traded outright (in other words, purchasing draft picks from other teams). With that in mind, I decided to identify a few options the Sixers could look at with the expiration on the immediate horizon.
Determining Positional Needs
The targets fills a need at point guard in Philly’s second unit.
Tyrese Maxey will ostensibly become the starting point guard if the assumption is that Ben Simmons will never play another game as a Sixer. Rivers experimented with Shake Milton as the backup point guard last season and the results were more negative than positive.
To be fair to Milton, part of that was the overall inconsistency of the other four players on the floor with him. However, the featured starters were often staggered with Milton. So, it would be dishonest to conclude that Milton was forced to be a point guard in a bad situation. He’s a shooter and a self-provisioning scorer. He’s not a facilitator or a floor general. Whereas shooting guard, small forward, and center run three levels deep, the Sixers only have one real point guard at the moment.
Coby White (1 year, $5.84 million)
The third-year guard has a team option for the 2022-23 season. His team can then extend a qualifying offer of close to $10 million for the 2023-24 season. So, the Sixers would have some degree of control over the 6-foot-5 point guard. The Bulls just added Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso in free agency. Beyond that, they’re like going to have to expense a max contract to retain Zach LaVine when he becomes a free agent.
One could certainly argue that the Bulls would be better off moving White in a deal to add depth at small forward or power forward. After all, he’s still a former lottery pick on a rookie deal. However, there could be difficulty in extracting trade value for a point guard who averaged fewer than five assists per game in his second year. Beyond the unimpressive assist numbers, White averaged 15 points per game on below-average true shooting and free throw rate.
White still has a ways to go before reaching ‘bust’ territory. But, he’s an inefficient scorer who doesn’t get to the line and is a point guard who lacks a feel for creating for others. Given Chicago’s recent activity, he might be available.
Trey Burke (1 year, $3.15 million)
The veteran journeyman has a player option for $3.3 million in 2022-23. Burke is extremely inexpensive for a backup point guard with natural shot-creating instincts. His size inhibits his efficiency as a scorer and prevents him from getting to the line. But, he can create offense off the dribble and is most effective when maneuvering ball screens to find open spaces to pull-up within the arc. Beyond that, he has a bit of experience playing with Joel Embiid.
DJ Augustin (1 year, $7 million)
Augustin is guaranteed just $333,333 in 2022-23. If his contract is guaranteed by July 2, 2023, he’s owed $7,333,333 for that upcoming season. So, the Sixers would benefit from some control over the veteran point guard. Beyond that, Augustin’s fit on the offensive side of the ball is excellent. His box score shooting numbers are unimpressive, but he finished last season with above-average true shooting and free throw rate. That’s especially impressive given his 5-foot-11 size.
Augustin averaged .17 assists per minute last season. That figure ranked amongst the values produced by numerous starters on NBA playoff teams. So, as Doc Rivers moves closer to an offense more concentrated on pick-and-roll play, Augustin is a veteran who can be trusted to read the situation and direct his teammates around the floor.
He’s also represented by Raymond Brothers, who the Sixers have already negotiated with in their re-signing of Danny Green this summer. Further, a move to Philly would take Augustin from a rebuilding team to a playoff contender. Those two factors, together, make it realistic that a union could be mutually interesting. After all, Philly was interested in Augustin last offseason, sources told The Painted Lines at the time.
Not Using It Is A Likely Outcome
It’s important to understand that letting the exception expire is not necessarily an indictment on the Sixers’ management. There simply isn’t an abundance of options that fit the Sixers’ position of need on September 7. Many of the options that do fit are either underpaid by their current clubs or were just signed to deals. So, it’s difficult to see why their current teams would be interested in moving cost-controlled assets. Beyond that, a player signed to a contract paying $8.2 million or less is extremely tradable as part of a bigger package. Given those realities, the Sixers are extremely limited in how they can use the exception.
You could make the case that Morey and company should’ve used the exception during last season. Perhaps that argument is a more fair indictment on the front office. But, the Sixers maintained the East’s 1-seed for most of last season, so they didn’t have glaring needs during the regular season. You could make the argument that they could’ve used it on PJ Tucker, especially knowing that Mike Scott was unplayable. However, if you want to operate under the idea that Tilman Fertitta was of no mind to trade with Morey given how the former Rockets executive exited Houston, what is Morey supposed to do?