Philadelphia 76ers: Elton Brand doesn’t need the buyout market

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

After giving their roster a huge face lift last season, the Philadelphia 76ers appear to be out on this season’s buyout market in 2019 thanks to Elton Brand’s superb showing at the trade deadline.

Last season, the Philadelphia 76ers accomplished the unthinkable: substantially upgrading their roster without surrendering a single draft pick.

After talks stalled out to acquire Philly native Tyreke Evans from the Memphis Grizzlies, the Sixers failed to make a move at the trade deadline, and instead turned their eyes to the buyout market where they poached not one, but two veteran shooters from the Atlanta Hawks in Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova.

Historically, buyout players haven’t exactly been difference makers that vault middle of the pack teams into the playoffs, as they’re typically players on bad teams that no one wanted to surrender an asset for, but Philadelphia impressively bucked that trend. Belinelli and Ilyasova became fixtures of Brett Brown‘s eight-man rotation and helped the team to string off 15 straight wins to close out the regular season, many of which occurred without Joel Embiid on the court.

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However, this season, the Philadelphia 76ers appear to be all but out on the 2019 buyout market.

Sure, there where some intriguing names available post-deadline, like Wesley Matthews, Jeremy Lin, and Philly native Wayne Ellington, but all three have since signed with the Pacers, Raptors, and Pistons respectively, leaving a fledgling collection of misfit players on the open market.

However, in a way, this is actually a good thing, as Elton Brand was able to accomplish everything he wanted to before last Thursday’s 3 pm trade deadline.

Unlike his predecessor Bryan Colangelo, who’s only trade of note may go down as one of the worst in NBA history, Brand navigated the deadline with surgical precision; procuring five players who could help the team both this season and going forward.

And really, he addressed virtually all of the team’s needs.

Need a defensive combo guard who can help to neutralize the likes of Kyrie Irving, Eric Bledsoe, and Kyle Lowry? Brand added Jonathon Simmons in the Markelle Fultz trade.

In desperate need of a true center to alleviate Embiid’s minute crunch? Boban Marjanovic should do just fine.

Upset that the team gave up on Landry Shamet after 50-plus games? Well, Brand shipped him, Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala out-of-town for three forward shooters who are hitting 44, 38, and 37 percent of their shots from 3-point range.

Furthermore, he also freed up cap space for future moves.

Say what you will about the team’s haul for Fultz, but realistically, the move was more about getting off the remainder of his salary as opposed to cutting loose a former first overall pick after only 33 games of NBA action.

Over the next two years, Fultz is under contract for about $9 and $12 million respectively, which while only about 10 percent of the salary cap give or take, is considerable when you consider that Philly will have three members of their starting five in the market for a new contracts come July 1st, with Ben Simmons following suit the next summer. That $10 million could be the difference between offering Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler true max deals, as opposed to slightly less lucrative contracts, and may prevent one or both of the forwards from considering greener pastures on a team with deeper pockets.

Fultz’s current $8.4 million number for the 2018-19 season is more than the combined salaries of T.J. McConnell, James Ennis, Jonah Bolden, and Furkan Korkmaz, four players averaging a combined 23.4 points a game. Sure, Fultz is averaging 8.5, but he hasn’t played a meaningful basketball game since November and may be shut down entirely for the remainder of the season.

With the Sixers starting five slated to take up the vast majority of the salary cap moving forward, retaining that little bit of flexibility could be enough to ensure the team doesn’t miss out on serviceable veterans like Korkmaz, Scott, and McConnel, all of whom will be free agents next year and will have their pick of the litter as to which playoff team they opted to join.

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That’s the beauty of this trade deadline; sure, the Philadelphia 76ers lost a number of quality players, some of whom could end up being really, really good (Shamet), but Elton Brand was able to replace them with even better players across the board and get off future money to free up a path for longevity. While it would be fun for the team to still be players in the buyout market, dubbed ‘second free agency’ by many wily NBA fans, it’s refreshing to know the team already accomplished everything they wanted to and more when it counted.