The Nets are betting against that.
In the Harden trade, Brooklyn acquired a first-round pick that would be either Philadelphia’s in 2022 (ultimately No. 23) or 2023. The Nets had to decide by today and elected to defer the pick.
Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:
Sixers confirm they'll have the 23rd pick in this year's draft, as @wojespn first reported.
With Nets' decision to defer, they'll have the Sixers' 2023 1st-rounder as well as their 2027 1st (1-8 protected).
— Noah Levick (@NoahLevick) June 1, 2022
This was the right call.
The 76ers could easily be better next season and send a pick in the 24-30 range. Harden played just 21 games for Philadelphia after being acquired in February. Assuming he returns, he should contribute way more next season. He’s replacing Ben Simmons, who provided bupkis to the 76ers last season. Philadelphia can also use the offseason to address the hole at backup center created when sending Andre Drummond to Brooklyn.
But the upside is way higher with deferring the pick. Even the No. 30 pick isn’t that much worse than the No. 23 pick. The low-odds possibility of the 76ers self-destructing and sending a lottery pick justifies taking the swing. Harden could leave. Even if he stays, he could continue to disappoint. Joel Embiid carries an elevated injury risk. Including Seth Curry in the Harden trade quietly hurt Philadelphia, and Curry will continue to be missed. Danny Green is a big loss.
Plus, the Nets could look to flip the pick regardless. They’re still ostensibly trying to compete for a championship with Kevin Durant and maybe Kyrie Irving. This is the time to trade picks for veterans. Unused picks tend to carry more value, because the acquiring team can choose the player it wants – and, for a while, leave that up to the imagination. Actually drafting a player is like driving a new car off the lot.
Brooklyn could’ve have always taken the No. 23 pick and traded it by draft night. But now the Nets get an extra year to find a trade. The pick can still be traded by draft night 2022 if the right deal emerges. Brooklyn just isn’t forced to act with urgency.
Instead, the immediate burden falls on the 76ers to determine what to do with the No. 23 pick in this year’s draft. Also trying to win now, they could trade it (by drafting on behalf of another team then officially executing the trade after the draft to avoid violating the Stepien Rule, which prohibits teams from trading first-rounders in consecutive future drafts). Philadelphia definitely could use immediate help, and there’s no good reason to hedge.
The 76ers’ 2023 unprotected first-rounder now belongs to the Nets.