Following the results of Tuesday’s lottery, the NBA draft order for 2022 has been decided. The Philadelphia 76ers, on the other hand, are still unsure whether they will have a first-round pick in this year’s draft.
The Sixers transferred their unprotected 2022 first-round pick to the Brooklyn Nets as part of their blockbuster transaction for James Harden at the February trade deadline. The Nets, on the other hand, have the option of taking the Sixers’ unprotected 2023 first-round pick.
According to Rich Hofmann of The Athletic, Brooklyn has until June 1 to make a decision. Until then, the Sixers must prepare for any scenario.
The Sixers will get the No. 23 overall pick in this year’s draft if the Nets defer until 2023. They’d have no picks in the first or second rounds if they didn’t do so.
Here’s how both situations would impact the Sixers’ remaining off-season plans.
If Nets Take The Pick?
Sean Marks, the Nets’ general manager, indicated during his end-of-season press conference in mid-May that the organization is treating the predraft process as if it will take the Sixers’ pick this year.
“We’re going through as if we’re trying to find somebody for this roster,” Marks said. “For this team that can help us move forward with. If we find a group that we think is going to be there, then we’ll keep the pick. That’s what we’re planning on right now.”
That’s a possibility for the Sixers as well.
Although clubs have identified immediate difference-makers in the late first round in previous years—see 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey (No. 21 in 2020) and Memphis Grizzlies swingman Desmond Bane (No. 30 in 2020)—the hit rate in that section of the draft isn’t outstanding. There’s a prospect who barely entered his team’s rotation and quickly slipped out of the league for every Maxey, Bane, or Bones Hyland (No. 26 in 2021).
Maxey solidified his status as a starter last season, but the Sixers already have a slew of young players pushing for playing time, including Paul Reed, Charles Bassey, Isaiah Joe, and Jaden Springer. They shouldn’t commit another roster space to someone who they won’t be able to trust on in next year’s playoffs unless they believe they can discover an immediate difference-maker at No. 23.
Given their luxury-tax issues for next season, the Nets may prefer to sign a cheap bench player. The Sixers, on the other hand, are said to be focused on a greater prize this offseason. By taking this year’s choice rather than delaying it until next year, Brooklyn may unwittingly aid that objective.
Next season, the No. 23 pick will be subject to a $2.5 million cap charge. If James Harden chooses to exercise his $47.4 million player option or opts out and refuses to accept a big discount, the Sixers will have more than $140 million invested in 12 players (not including Danny Green’s totally nonguaranteed $10 million salary).
The Sixers aren’t allowed to cross the $155.7 million luxury-tax threshold at any time next season if they want to attract another star via a sign-and-trade this summer or use the $10.3 million non-taxpayer mid-level exception or $4.1 million bi-annual exception. The Sixers would gain nearly $700,000 in financial freedom by rostering someone on a minimum contract rather than the No. 23 overall pick next season, because experienced minimum contracts would carry a $1.8 million budget charge.
If the Nets Don’t Take the Pick
Rather than taking the No. 23 pick this year, the Nets may want to take a chance on the Sixers imploding and receiving a higher pick next season. They wouldn’t be taking much of a chance, either.
The Nets would drop from No. 23 in this year’s selection to the bottom of the first round next year if the Sixers finish with one of the game’s leading few records in 2022-23. At most, that’s a seven-spot dip, which isn’t a bad worst-case scenario.
The Sixers might possibly finish higher in the selection order next year, given the remaining uncertainties about Harden’s future prospects and the likelihood of Joel Embiid missing at least 15-20 regular-season games. This uncertainty may also aid the Nets in generating additional interest in their trade market selection between now and next June.
If the Nets want to wait until 2023, the Stepien Rule prevents the Sixers from trading the No. 23 pick until they’ve made their choice. (Teams are not allowed to make trades that would deprive them of a first-round pick in consecutive years.) They might, however, negotiate an agreement on a trade ahead of time and draft a prospect for another team at that place.
Due to salary-cap problems and a lack of roster places, the Sixers may consider trading the pick or using it to draft and stash a player. Trading it for a heavily protected 2023 first-rounder, as the New York Knicks did with the Charlotte Hornets at last year’s draft, might provide them with additional ammo in the future. A draft-and-stash player, on the other hand, would not be counted against their cap sheet this year.
The Sixers’ offseason order of operations isn’t going to help them here, either. The draft (June 23) takes place before to Harden’s opt-out deadline (June 29) and the start of free agency (July 1). (6 p.m. ET on June 30). Harden won’t be able to sign a four-year extension until August 10 if he opts in.
Harden’s next contract structure will have an impact on the rest of the Sixers’ offseason moves, since it will essentially determine whether they will operate as an above-the-apron or below-the-apron squad. While the $700,000 difference among a veteran minimum contract and the No. 23 pick may not appear to be significant, every dollar counts if the Sixers want to stay below the threshold.
The Sixers will find out in less than two weeks whether the Nets will take their first-round pick this year or delay it until the 2023 first-rounder. Until then, they’ll have to spend their time investigating this year’s class in case they finish up at No. 23 on the list.