As February 19 quickly approaches and with it 2015 NBA trade deadline, more and more fans will be wondering what kind of tricks Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie will pull out of his hat. Last season’s deadline netted the Sixers a bevy of second-round picks, tons of cap space and a clear path to the draft lottery and Joel Embiid. Will this year see more of the same?
Don’t count on it.
Last season Hinkie had a number of assets to shop around to the rest of the NBA, including Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young. This season there are precious few players currently on the roster that would get the Sixers much of anything worth talking about. Sure, Henry Sims or Luc Mbah a Moute might get you a late second rounder if you find a team desperate enough, but why bother? And any player that would net some serious assets are (hopefully) part of the front office’s long range plans and aren’t going anywhere.
Which puts K.J. McDaniels in a bit of an odd position.
When the Sixers drafted him with the 32nd pick out of Clemson, the 6’6” swingman was known for his tenacious defense and intense work ethic. And while his stat line of 9.2 points, 1.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game might seem a bit unimpressive, when you add in his 1.4 blocks per game as well as his highlight reel-worthy dunks you have a player with a bright future in the NBA. Maybe not as a starter, but as a key member of any team’s bench.
Now normally, with the rookie season McDaniels has been having, you would think he would be safe from even being mentioned in any trade deadline discussions. Like Robert Covington, McDaniels should have a huge “not available” sign on him and that would be that.
The problem lies in the contract that McDaniels signed at the start of the season. Unlike most rookies, who sign a standard four-year deal which normally includes team options for the last two years, McDaniels signed a one-year, non-guaranteed contract that makes him a restricted free agent at the end of the 2014-15 season. If at that time the Sixers make him a qualifying offer of $1.2 million, the team can then match any offer that may come in.
What all that means is that, while highly unlikely, another team could lure McDaniels away with big money as long as they have the cap space available. It’s why he opted to go this route; a bigger payday if he played they way he knew he could during his rookie year.
So what if Hinkie doesn’t see McDaniels as part of the Sixers’ long-term plans? Or already has his eyes on a replacement in the 2015 NBA Draft?
With that one-year deal, McDaniels becomes the perfect player to try to move at the trade deadline, especially if you are as asset-obsessed as Hinkie is. McDaniels has shown the entire NBA what he can do and what he brings to a franchise. If you are rebuilding like the New York Knicks or the Los Angels Lakers, acquiring a young, talented player like McDaniels is exactly what you want to do and this might be your chance. All of a sudden the one-year contract, qualifying offer and money become another team’s problem and the Sixers get yet another asset in return.
As I said, all that is very unlikely to happen. The safe money says that Hinkie and the Sixers make the qualifying offer and then work out a contract afterwards. I honestly don’t see McDaniels going anywhere anytime soon unless someone comes to Sixers with an offer they just can’t refuse.
But if we have learned anything during the Season of Tanking and Tank 2.0, it’s that nothing Sam Hinkie does should surprise anyone anymore.