Then the playoffs rolled around, and Hill averaged 4.7 points in 17.1 minutes of action and was thoroughly outperformed by Tyrese Maxey, Furkan Korkmaz, and even at times Shake Milton, who had about as hot and cold of a postseason as you will find.
Okay, okay. That’s not ideal. Hill was supposed to be a reliable, efficient 3 point shooting combo guard capable of playing alongside any member of the Sixers’ backcourt sans the turnover issues that plagued the team all season long.
But hey, it’s cool. Surely the Sixers would ship Hill and his very moveable contract out of town along with one or more assets to bring back a better-fitting piece moving forward, right?
… welp, I guess not.
The Philadelphia 76ers wasted four picks and Tony Bradley on George Hill.
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In theory, that sounds like a lot of money for a second-round pick, and in a way, it was. Last season, the Sixers signed Paul Reed to a standard two-way contract worth no more than $449,155 before extending him to a three-year, $3.9 million deal after the trade deadline. Is Charles Bassey, the player the team ultimately drafted, worth four two-way Paul Reeds?
That, my friends, is a topic worthy of debate, but do you want to know what is unquestionably not worth $2 million? A second-round pick you never get to use because it was traded alongside three others, Tony Bradley, Vincent Poirier, Terrance Ferguson, and the rights to Emir Preldžić.
In the lead-up to the trade deadline, the world was the Philadelphia 76ers’ oyster. They had picks, players, moveable contracts, and much of their mid-level exception left to further fortify their roster if they suddenly found themselves in need of another veteran to fill a legitimate role following a two or even three-for-one player swap.
And, to Morey’s credit, the team’s initial decision to trade for Hill wasn’t a bad one by any means. They didn’t surrender a first-round pick, got a player back with two years left on his deal, and still had enough premium assets left on the books to swing a difference-making trade for a player like Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell, or even Marvin Bagley Jr. if they felt like really getting creative at the deadline.
Had one of those deals gone down, maybe, just maybe, we’d be looking at the 2020-21 season in a different light, but unfortunately, that just wasn’t meant to be. The Sixers found themselves “reinforced” – if you want to call it that – by Hill and Anthony Tolliver and were never really able to replace the production they lost from letting Bradley make his way to OKC.
But again, it’s cool. Surely some team would like to add a veteran combo guard with 139 games of playoff experience under this belt to their roster, right? I mean, the Sixers clearly did and paid a much higher price for his services than what would be asked in a picks-plus-player swap for a better-fitting player.
*sigh* remember earlier in the article? Didn’t happen.
But, like, why? Was Hill that undesirable after an ugly set of showings in the playoffs? Or were teams with similarly priced role players, players like Al-Farouq Aminu of the Chicago Bulls, simply too pricey when taking on Hill’s contract was factored into the equation?
While we’ll never know for sure why teams weren’t lining up for Hill’s services at $10.04 million – though we can make a pretty good guess – this decision may simply come down to avoiding the hard-cap, as NBA insider Bobby Marks pointed out in his post-Furkan Korkmaz extension tweet.
You see, with Hill’s $10.04 million still on the books post-Korkmaz extension, the Sixers were a mere $6 million under the tax. While the team could surely go over that number to further fortify their roster using the Al Horford exception or the MLE, it would press them up against the hard cap and thus limit the sort of moves available to the team moving forward.
By releasing Hill a day before his contract would have become fully guaranteed, the Sixers shed $8.725 million from the books and freed up their ability to pressure different team-building avenues that may not have been open before.
Granted, any sort of cost-saving hard-cap considerations gets thrown out the window if the Sixers pull off a massive trade for a player like Damion Lillard, Bradley Beal, or De’Aaron Fox, but as a general rule, it’s a lot better to be under the $138 million hard-capping line than over it when there are still moves to be made in free agency.
Assuming the market for Hill was as soft as the available clues would suggest, maybe its better to be free of his money for nothing more than a $1.225 million cap hit than have to attach an asset to his contract when the team still has the optionality to land veteran talent without his matching salary?
At this point, that’s the most generous reading of the material that I can muster.
In summation, the Philadelphia 76ers traded their best young developmental big man, some cap filler, and not one, not two, not three, but four second-round picks for a player who didn’t turn the tides of a single playoff game and was ultimately released for nothing in order to shed money off the cap. Yeah, I’d call that trade an abject failure if I ever saw one, right up there with the Boston Celtics trading three seconds for Evan Fournier only to let him sign with the New York Knicks for nothing in free agency. But hey, at least Brad Stevens got Josh Richardson out of that deal, that’s… something, right?