Feb 20, 2014, 5:36 PM EDT
Well, that was unexpected. With the clock showing 0:00 at the trade deadline, the Sixers scored a game-changer in bonus time, sending Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen to the Pacers in exchange for Danny Granger and a future second-round pick. With the NBA world leveled by the Woj Bomb–don’t you ever doubt that man Adrian–we were left to sort through the rubble and try to figure out what the motivations were behind the men who turned the keys.
And I gotta say: I really don’t know why either team did this trade.
Let’s approach it first from the Pacers’ point of view, because there’s at least a logical, if flawed rationale there. The Pacers are trying to win a championship this season, and by all indications, they have a very respectable chance of actually doing so. They’ve cashed in most of their valuable assets–draft picks, cap space, young talent–in an effort to go all-in for this summer, finally beat the Heat in the playoffs and take home the first title in Indiana’s NBA history. Their lone remaining asset was the expiring contract of Danny Granger, the former All-Star and one-time franchise player whose skill has gradually eroded over the last three seasons, to the point where he’s generally an ill-fitting on-court minus for the Pacers right now. It makes sense that they would swallow the tough pill of dealing a beloved player in order to further fortify their rotation and go into their playoff push with a maximalized roster.
But then the question becomes: Why Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen? The Pacers certainly don’t need Allen, as he represents an upgrade over nobody in Indiana’s frontcourt rotation and can barely get playing time on even the lowly Sixers these days. So that would imply that they value Turner as the prize here, except that his lack of three-point shooting, poor defensive fundamentals and lack of offensive self-awareness would seem to make him a very poor fit on the Pacers–especially given that they already have a combo guard playmaking type in the younger, more athletic and basically just all-around better Lance Stephenson. Evan might be able to spell Lance a little and anchor the second unit, but he’s never been able to contribute much in the 15-minutes-off-the-bench role he’s had in spurts with the Sixers, and there’s little indication that he’ll be able to–or willing, considering how much he’s groused about his early days on the bench since being moved to the starting five–in Indiana.
OK, so Evan’s not a perfect fit for the Pacers, but whatever, he was added for basically nothing, gives them something resembling scoring punch off the bench a year after the Pacers had to rely on Sam Young, Orlando Johnson and a then-still-dead DJ Augustin as their second-unit perimeters in the playoffs, and might ostensibly be transformable under the Pacers’ strong team culture and respected head coach Frank Vogel. I don’t love it for them, but I don’t think it’ll submarine them exactly, and it’ll be fun to root for Evan on an actual playoff team this season.
As for what the Sixers could possibly be getting out of this, I’m a little less clear.
As desperate as many Sixer fans were for Evan to find a different home at this trade deadline–and it’s hard to blame anyone for feeling that way, given how frustrating Evan’s four-year marriage with Philly was for much of the time and how inevitable it was that both sides would be moving on soon enough anyway–I think we at least hoped we’d get something of value for our troubles. And let’s be clear about it: The Sixers got nothing of value in this trade. Nothing.
They didn’t clear cap space–Granger’s expiring deal is worth more than Turner and Allen’s combined, and all three of them expire after this season. They get a little closer to that much-talked-about-but-ultimately-inconsequential salary floor, but the only person that should have to care about that is the guy signing checks, and affects the on-court product not in the slightest.
They didn’t get a player of value in return–Granger is unlikely to play a single game for the Sixers, with buyout rumors already circulating. The 30-year-old Granger has absolutely no place on the Sixers, and the idea of him starting at the three for Philly while flanked by James Anderson and Arnett Moultrie a couple days after he had playing for one of the model organizations in pro sports would be so depressing that he’d probably sprain a tear duct before tip-off. Even if he did suit up for the Sixers, Granger’s basically toast anyway–he hasn’t been a good player in two seasons, and this season was averaging just eight points and four rebounds on 36% shooting for the Pacers. He’s unlikely to play another relevant NBA minute, and if he does it won’t be for Philadelphia.
And they didn’t get much of a draft pick, either. The future second-rounder goes to Philly in 2015–just throw it on the pile of the six total that the Sixers received today, counting one they get for taking Byron Mullens off the Clippers’ tax bill (he’ll probably be waived too)–and is unlikely to be higher than #56, unless the Pacers suddenly fall apart between now and next summer. There’s been one player of legitimate consequence selected in that range in the last five years–the Kings’ Isiah Thomas–and while it’s always better to have picks than not have them, the chances of the pick panning out into something of significance for the Sixers are not good, even for an original Rat Pack member like Sam Hinkie.
So what did we do it for? Well, there’s arguable karmic benefit in freeing Evan from this miserable team and sending him to a legitimate contender, to prove his winning ways didn’t expire with his college eligibility. There’s a sense of mercy with the fans, who had just been stuck with Turner (and to a lesser extent, Allen) too long, and maybe even with Coach Brown, who undoubtedly found it challenging trying to get Evan to adhere to his defensive principles and not do the little things (complaining to the refs, lazing back in transition, forcing bad looks and getting easily discouraged) that drive coaches insane.
And yeah, a lot of sardonic folks around the league will tell you that the ever-present Tanking Rankings had a good deal to do with motivating the decision to make this season. Earlier in the season I probably would have agreed, but at this moment, I’m not sure what the point is. The Sixers are already firmly entrenched in the upper tier of the TRs–#2, with only Orlando a game behind providing any kind of real challenge–and they were only getting worse, having now lost nine straight, with seemingly no end in sight to all the losing. The only team remaining ahead of them is Milwaukee, and the Sixers could lose all 27 games they have left and still not catch the Bucks, who have just ten wins on the season and might not win another five games before the summer. So we traded away two long-tenured Sixers just to ensure Orlando–playing better of late–doesn’t accidentally lose a couple more games than we do this final third of the season? Good get, Hinkie.
Don’t get me wrong–I’m not suggesting we could have done much better. Evan Turner’s value around the NBA was clearly never much more than zero–maybe we could’ve conned someone into taking him while he was still hot in Nov/Dec, but the isn’t as half-dumb as it used to be, and most GMs were probably smart enough to suss out that ET was gonna turn back into ET at some point sooner or later anyway. I’m still a little surprised a package deal of both he and Hawes couldn’t have attracted a little more–we nearly got a then-still-valuable Josh Smith from the Hawks for that combo at last year’s deadline–but if we couldn’t get much for them, hell, they weren’t alone. Nobody gave up much of value at this trade deadline, and that’s probably the way it will be for most future deadlines going forward.
But I wasn’t a deal-at-all-costs advocate when it came to ET. I don’t believe in trading players for the sake of trading them, unless they’re actively detracting from your ballclub’s future, and as many problems as you might have had with Evan, I don’t think you could argue that he wasn’t generally a good soldier for the Sixers. If they had ridden out the season with him, I doubt we’re in much of a different place than we will be at season’s end without him. Maybe he’s happier in Indiana, and if so godspeed, but it seems disrespectful to both him and the fans who rooted for him–and yeah, as furious as he made me at points over the last four years, I still count myself as one of those–to deal him for the proverbial bag of baseballs.
Ultimately, I think Sam Hinkie did a good job at this trade deadline. He took three players (Hawes, Allen and Turner) who were not in the team’s future plans, and turned them into six present-and-future second-round pick–all of which can be eventually used to either pick future role players of Hinkie’s exquisite choosing, or to grease other deals that result in more long-term benefit to the Sixers–as well as three buy-super-low young guys (Eric Maynor, Earl Clark, Henry Sims) who could conceivably have some remaining value. It’s not a masterpiece, exactly–especially considering the summer he’s coming off of–but it’s certainly a job well done, given the difficult circumstances of this deadline market.
But this last part of the dealing will leave a sour taste in my mouth. I don’t really know how you go to Thad and MCW, the last men standing now on this gutted (and skeletal to begin with) Sixer roster, and say “yeah, you guys still gotta play out the string this season minus the team’s only other vets, and we didn’t get any help to make it easier, but hey, see Jabari Parker against Maryland on TV the other night?” There’s a difference between trading to rebuild, and trading just to tear down, and this was squarely the latter. I’m not gonna condemn Hinkie for it–he’s a smarter man than I am, and it’s entirely possible I’m just not seeing the bigger picture yet–but I’m not gonna applaud him for swinging the wrecking ball just yet, either.
Adios, Evan. I’ll always cherish the time we spent together, and I’ll miss certain things about you a great deal. See you at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
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