The Philadelphia 76ers are a better team than you think.
Back 16 games into the season, when the Sixers were 3-13, there was a lot of talk about roster shakeups. Remember Andre Iguodala getting dragged into the Carmelo Anthony trade morass? There were calls (and maybe plans) to get Iguodala and Elton Brand out of town and really start rebuilding.
That’s not the case now. No, they’ll not be scaring the likes of Boston or Miami, they keep finding ways to lose close games and blow late leads, but they are 19-25 and frankly better than their record shows. They have the point differential of a .500 team. Right now they are the seven seed in the East and climbing.
With that, the team is not making any major trades at the deadline, according to the Sporting News.
The playoff push has clearly lifted the Sixers’ outlook. According sources around the league, Philadelphia is not eager to make major roster changes now, and both Iguodala and Brand are all but certain to be with the team throughout this season.
That’s just fine with the players. “In the beginning of the year, we had new guys, we had a new coach, we weren’t really playing up to our ability,” said Brand, who is having his best season as a Sixer with averages of 15.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 51.4 percent shooting from the field. “But we knew we were a better team than that. I think everyone here wanted a chance to show what we can do.”
There is a long, long way to go with this Sixers team. But they are not in a position where they need to be hasty with decisions, either.
Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.
Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.
But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.
LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.
LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.
However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.
For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.
Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.
Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:
Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.