Philadelphia 76ers are playing the long game in recent trades

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

With ‘star hunting’ temporarily out of reach, the Philadelphia 76ers have set their sights on the future with their recent roster moves.

In the world of basketball news, when it rains, it pours, and if the team’s recent activities are of any indication, the Philadelphia 76ers have left the entire City of Brotherly Love under water.

After watching the team use up the vast majority of their then-remaining cap space on Wilson Chandler, shipping Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Justin Anderson to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Atlanta Hawks respectively for stretch forward/center Mike Muscala, and most recently shipping Richaun Holmes to the Phoenix Suns for about a million dollars in cash, it’s fair to wonder what they’re thinking this offseason.

Sure, Chandler and Muscala are nice pieces, but neither is the kind of star Brett Brown fawned after when he declared this summer ‘star hunting’ season, and after watching Nemanja Bjelica forgo a chance to make almost $5 million to play for the Sixers at the ripe age of 30 to instead take his talents to Europe, some may be wondering if Philly has quietly let their window closed just like the Houston Rockets did by allowing Luc Mbah A Moute and Trevor Ariza walk in free agency with no suitable replacement available.

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To me at least, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Though admittedly it hasn’t been fun to watch LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Mikal Bridges all land on other teams after being the apple of many fans in the 215’s eyes this offseason, what interim GM Brett Brown has done so far this season has been targeting future assets to continue to make his team competitive for years to come.

In Chandler and Muscala, Brown added two key cogs that the team clearly like last season, a second 3-and-D combo forward and a back up big man who can knock down 3-pointers at an impressive clip, and who also just so happened to be on the final year of their respective deals. Though the duo could conceivably play themselves into new contracts with the team this season, they help to maintain the Sixers cap flexibility moving forward as they once again try to go big-game hunting in the even more loaded 2019 free agent class.

That same theory of building up the team can also be said about Brown’s slightly more controversial decisions to purge his roster of some young role players on the rookie deals.

While it’s a somewhat hard pill to swallow watching the trio of young, ascending players leave town for essentially a one-year rental, it proves again that the Sixers are not solely concerned about winning now, but for years to come. Though Holmes, Anderson, and Luwawu-Cabarrot would have all surely played a larger roles on the team in 2018 than recent signees Jonah Bolden, Shake Milton, Landry Shamet, and Zhaire Smith, these players are all locked into very cap friendly four-year deals worth between $1-2 million a season.

With teams typically investing a number of their roster spots in cheap, short-term contracts to even out the payroll, as evidenced by recent moves by the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, and Rockets, filling these seldom-used slots with players who could conceivably continue to get better and potentially develop into sleeper starters is really smart roster construction, especially for a general manager with no prior experience in the role.

Simply put, over the last few weeks Brett Brown has sneakily found ways to improve his roster while also adding future assets in the process. Though it may not be as exciting as signing a face of the franchise-level player like  Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, or LeBron James, the team has instead taken on a few key role players, resigned their own veteran leaders, and filled out their remaining roster spots with a few high-upside prospects, adding future draft capital in the process.

Next: Philadelphia 76ers find suprise value in ex-Bucknell forward Mike Muscala

In a sport that all too often focuses almost irresponsibly on short-term success, Brett Brown instead opted to take a page out of Danny Ainge‘s playbook in hopes of replicating the Boston Celtics model of asset acquisition in the City of Brotherly Love, hopefully setting the Philadelphia 76ers up to be major players both now and for the foreseeable future.