It goes without saying that the 2013-2014 season was one of the worst in franchise history for the Philadelphia 76ers. Not only did the 76ers wind up with the second worst record in the league at 19-63, but they tied the record for most consecutive losses with 26. However, the 76ers have no one to blame but themselves. Over the last several years, they have brought on injured player after injured player and conducted bad trade after bad trade. This trend does not seem to be going away with their latest trade of, arguably, their best player in Thaddeus Young as part of the blockbuster Kevin Love trade, which was finalized earlier this morning. As a result, this latest trade is another sign of a Philadelphia 76ers team that is tanking once again.
In the trade, Young will be traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, along with Andrew Wiggins and Andrew Bennett from the Cleveland Cavaliers. In return, Philadelphia will receive Miami’s 2015 first-round pick from the Cavaliers, as well as two players from Minnesota that include guard Alexey Shved and forward Luc Mbah a Moute.
Initially, the trade looks a tad bit controversial by disposing Young, considering his contributions to the team. After all, the seven-year power forward put up record numbers last season. He was the top scorer on the team with 17.9 ppg, while also contributing 6 rpg and he was third-best in the league in steals with 2.1 spg. He is a highly valuable piece for a team with limited talent, while being able to play both ends of the floor exceptionally well at the tender age of 26. Despite all his upside though, Young’s contract gives him an opt-out clause at the end of next season, where he can become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Due to this reason, it was, initially, a smart move to elect to move him this summer by getting assets rather than risk losing him for nothing.
The problem with the 76ers in their execution of trading Young is that they are not receiving anything worth of note to make up for the loss of him. Two years ago, when Shved landed in Minnesota, he was looked at as a solid point guard off the bench to relieve Ricky Rubio. The problem is that he never lived up to his potential. His first season in Minnesota, he averaged 8.6 ppg and 3.7 apg in 23.9 mpg. Last season, he fell out of the rotation with only 4 ppg and 1.1 apg with playing 10.5 mpg. With Michael Carter-Williams as a starter in Philadelphia, and plenty other guards to go around, it is likely that Shved will serve a similar role for the 76ers, as little more than a bench warmer.
Another player picked up in the trade is journeyman power forward Mbah a Moute, who will be on his fourth team in two years. Unfortunately, the forward has little to show for it as well, as last season he averaged a mere 3.3 ppg, 3 rpg and 1 spg with an average of 14.7 mpg played. Instead of Philadelphia obtaining a player who could replace Young, the 76ers received a player with poor to mediocre statistics, who is not a potential starter. Instead, Mbah a Moute will have to compete with three other power forwards for playing time. In other words, Philadelphia’s second piece for Young is another player who will most likely be sitting on the bench a good portion of games.
The third asset Philadelphia got is a first-round draft pick from the Miami Heat in next year’s draft. The problem here is that, while Miami has been reshaped for the upcoming season without LeBron, the Heat are still, likely, to be within the top six or better teams in the Eastern Conference. Because of this, it is unlikely that Philadelphia will luck out with a high prospect with this pick during next year’s draft. It would be one thing if Philadelphia got a first-round pick from a potential lottery team. Instead, Philadelphia, in all likelihood, will come up with a mediocre to decent rookie for the 2015-2016 season.
Between Shved, Mbah a Moute and a lackluster first-round draft pick in next year’s draft, Philadelphia received peanuts for Young, a player who will serve as a huge asset to Minnesota with the absence of Kevin Love. As a result, the trade would be a puzzling one for any other team. For Philadelphia though, it makes sense. Philadelphia is continuing with their strategic tanking.
It all started in August of 2012 when the 76ers traded their best player, Andre Iguodala, for the oft-injured Andrew Bynum, who would never play a game for Philadelphia. The following summer, the 76ers traded away Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans for draft rights to Nerlens Noel, a big man who would not play a single game of his rookie season due to injury. At the trade deadline last season, Philadelphia sent Evan Turner for the oft-injured Danny Granger, who they would eventually waive. Prior to the trade deadline, they disposed of their leader in rebounds and blocks, Spencer Hawes. They traded him to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Henry Sims and aging veteran Earl Clark, the latter of whom was also waived. Lastly, during this summer’s draft, the 76ers picked up Joel Embiid, who was found to be injured just five days before the draft, thus giving them another injured player on the squad.
Now with Philadelphia unloading their best player, Thaddeus Young, for essentially nothing, along with their long two years of questionable transactions, it makes one wonder what the strategy is in Philadelphia. They have one solid player in last year’s Rookie of the Year, Michael Carter-Williams, along with two potential, but injury-prone, big men in Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel. With the current squad, they now have one of the worst rosters in the NBA. Whether they will officially announce it or not, this is a team that is tanking. They want to take advantage of the draft system by having the worst record this season, in order to get that 25 percent chance of a top pick in the 2015 draft.
The 76ers certainly are not the first team to take advantage of tanking in order to receive a quality draft pick. However, with this latest trade of Thaddeus Young, the Philadelphia 76ers have executed their most obvious sign of tanking yet. It now begs the question of when is enough going to be enough for Philadelphia. Eventually, with word coming from the NBA that draft rules will be tweaked, their strategy will explode in their face. One thing is for sure though. The Philadelphia 76ers are likely to be the worst team in the league next season.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey