Sixers spending an awful lot on an awful lot of nothing

WHOEVER COINED the saying "There is no such thing as a free lunch" clearly was not sitting down to dine with Sixers general manager and president of basketball operations Sam Hinkie.

Late Sunday, the Sixers waived center JaVale McGee, whom they acquired from the Denver Nuggets on Feb. 19.

As a result, the Sixers are responsible for a good portion of the $11.25 million McGee is due for the rest of this season and the $12 million he is owed in 2015-16.

McGee averaged 10.2 minutes, 3.0 points and 2.2 rebounds in six games for the Sixers.

When everything is done, McGee will earn around $16 million for a little more than an hour's worth of playing time for the Sixers.

OK, so McGee technically did not get something for giving nothing, but the Sixers are paying a pretty hefty tab for a couple of servings of Hamburger Helper.

Unless the Sixers do the unexpected and sign a maximum-contract free agent this summer, McGee will be the highest-paid player on the payroll for the 2015-16 season, without being on the roster.

If you ever needed more evidence that money in the NBA is tossed around like Monopoly money, this would be it.

For fans, the only money that really matters is what counts against the salary cap. That's the money that could affect how the Sixers are able to conduct business.

That, however, is no concern, because, even with McGee's "dead" money, the Sixers' salary-cap figure going into 2015-16 is projected at $24.1 million, and that would be if they exercised all team options and qualifying offers.

Right now, the Sixers are the only team with a projected payroll of under $32 million for 2015-16.

If, however, you are Sixers principal owner Josh Harris and members of his cabal of investors, you might have some questions about why you are paying millions of dollars to players who have spent little, if any, time actually playing for your basketball team.

With the waiving of McGee, the Sixers have eight players - McGee, Jared Cunningham, Eric Maynor, Ronny Turiaf, Marquis Teague, Christapher Johnson, Jorge Guttierez and Andrei Kirilenko - who are on the 2014-15 payroll, but not on the active roster.

Despite those players being worth around $20 million in salary, only McGee actually played in a game for the Sixers this season.

Again, the basketball side must be separated from the money side, because the prizes in most of the trades that brought in these contracts were draft picks the Sixers acquired.

For instance, Turiaf, who is injured and not able to play this season, was acquired from the Houston Rockets along with a 2015 second-round pick for reserve point guard Alexey Shved.

Turiaf's contract was a throw-in to make the deal work, and he was always going to be waived by the Sixers.

From the basketball angle, this season, the Sixers acquired a protected first-round pick and four second-round picks for eating the contracts of players whom they did not think would contribute to their rebuilding.

It is a conscious strategy that Hinkie has utilized to acquire assets that can be used to help the Sixers acquire more talent down the road.

"One of the ways we are trying to build our team is to transact with other teams," Hinkie said at the NBA trade deadline when he acquired McGee, "to try to help other teams to solve their problems and help other teams with the issues they have as a way to try to build our future . . .

"Ways in which we might use our cap space to help other teams and they might help us for our future. We looked at other deals that were in a similar range, some were much smaller, some were bigger.

"This time last year, we did very similar deals by taking on Eric Maynor and Byron Mullens, and we picked up seconds. This year, we took on JaVale McGee and picked up a first. It became clear to us that we were the lone buyer in that kind of market, and this might be the last opportunity for us to be the lone buyer for contracts like that for the next year's [salary cap] space."

In basketball lingo, that would be getting something for nothing.

In actual dollars and cents, however, the Sixers, by trading for McGee's contract, then waiving him, will end up paying around $16 million for a pick that will, at best, be in the late teens.

According to the website realgm.com, the guaranteed value of the 19th pick in the 2015 draft - the best that could be conveyed to the Sixers for McGee in this draft - is a little more than $4 million guaranteed over three seasons.

The math says the Sixers could end up paying close to $20 million for a player who most likely will be little more than a rotational player.

The money the Sixers have eaten on these waived players will have little, if any, effect, on what they will be able to do in the future and those picks are unquestionable assets.

Still, for those who say that the Sixers got something for nothing in these trades, when did almost $30 million become nothing?

 


Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

Columns: ph.ly/Smallwood