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July 02, 2015

Grading the trade: Sixers acquire Stauskas, Thompson, Landry, first-round pick, and two pick swaps from Kings

Sacramento is betting on itself in free agency, a move that has the potential to fail spectacularly to the Sixers’ benefit

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As someone who both is a serial joke repeater and pays a lot of attention to the NBA, the Sacramento Kings/Grantland YouTube video is pretty much my holy grail. The three-part series chronicles all of the analytical and scouting legwork the Kings go through to prepare for the 2014 NBA Draft, but when the moment of truth (the 8th pick) arrives, the buck seems to stop with owner Vivek Ranadive, who utters three now-infamous words:

For me, Stauskas.

The video has some educational value, as well. Right before the Kings make their selection at 8, then-general manager Pete D'Alessandro and Ranadive turn down a trade offer from Sam Hinkie and the Sixers: the 10th pick (eventually used to select Elfrid Payton, trade for Dario Saric, and recoup a first rounder from Orlando) and a couple of second rounders for Sacramento’s 8th pick.

If we are to believe the always-candid Brett Brown, this very well could’ve been an attempt to trade up for the man that The 700 Level’s Andrew Unterberger famously dubbed “Sauce Castillo”:

It’s pretty crazy how much a player’s value can change over the course of one calendar year. Just a tad more than 12 months later, Stauskas is now a Sixer for a price far less than the 10th pick and a couple of second rounders. Amazingly enough, the 21-year-old “sniper” (in quotes because he shot 32 percent from deep as a rook) isn’t even the most interesting aspect of the trade that sent him to Philly.

On a wild and wacky first day of free agency around the association, two rebuilding teams provided quite the nightcap. Let’s focus in and examine what exactly Vivek and Hinkie have done here.

The Trade

Kings receive: The rights to Arturas Gudaitis and Luka Mitrovic

Sixers receive: Nik Stauskas, Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, Top-10 protected pick two years after Sacramento conveys its pick to Chicago (Stepien Rule!), and the right to swap picks with Sacramento in 2016 and 2017

(This is all pieced together by the reporting of a few well-respected names: Zach Lowe, Pablo Torre, and Derek Bodner)

Why the Kings did the trade

Even though Fran Fraschilla essentially called Gudaitis “a warm body” and Mitrovic “a stretch-4 who can’t stretch the floor” only a week ago when the Sixers drafted them 47th and 60th respectively, the Kings think otherwise. Ranadive and VP of basketball operations Vlade Divac believe these two players are building blocks of a potential title contender moving forward.

OK, not really. For the Kings, this move was all about creating cap space. They shed a couple of bad contracts in Landry and Thompson that are worth around $13 million combined for each of the next two seasons. Throw in Stauskas’ rookie deal and the Kings saved just under $16 million for this season, moving them from $9 million to $25 million under the cap after taking back a couple of players stashed in Europe who won’t count against their books.

Who are they reportedly chasing? Glad you asked!

These are not top-tier free agents Sacramento is targeting. Rondo hasn’t been a particularly helpful player for the last three years and was an unmitigated disaster for the Mavericks. Think about it: Even Quincy Carter had a better Dallas career than the former Celtic. Also, the mercurial point guard seems like a shaky fit at best with both head coach George Karl and star big man DeMarcus Cousins, who are already a poor match themselves.

For whatever Ellis puts on the table, he takes almost as much off. Matthews is an excellent player, but he literally just tore his Achilles tendon in March, an injury that is historically very difficult to recover from.

Even though it’s extremely risky and the reward doesn’t seem all that promising, the Kings’ rationale is pretty clear here. As an organization, they obviously feel like they can both:

1. Land at least a couple of these free agents.
2. Improve to the point where a pick swap the next two seasons will be meaningless because their record will be much better than the Sixers’.

Why the Sixers did the trade

This isn’t quite the haul that the Boston Celtics received from Brooklyn in return for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett a few years ago, but it’s close enough. For what amounts to a salary dump, the Kings are giving up a lot of good stuff here. This is precisely the type of deal that validates Hinkie’s strategy of hoarding close to $40 million of cap space. When teams become desperate to shed salary like Sacramento, their first call is to Philadelphia. 

Let’s start with the players in question. Landry, whose two seasons in Sacramento were marred by injury, knows Hinkie from their time together in Houston. Before Chandler Parsons was considered the gold standard of second-round steals, Landry was the guy. Now nearing his 32nd birthday with two years and $13 million left on his contract, his best days on the court are behind him.

Thompson, a product of Rider University and Lenape High School, is slated to come home to his native South Jersey. After spending his entire professional career up to this point with the Kings, the soon-to-be 29-year-old is guaranteed all of his $6.43 million contract this year and $2.65 million his $6.825 million contract in 2016-17.

Whether or not the Sixers decide to keep both or either of Landry and Thompson around (assuming those guys would even want to stay), they certainly have the financial capabilities to do so. It should be noted that the three players the Sixers have the most invested in also play in the frontcourt like the two former Kings do.

Simply due to his age and recent draft status, Stauskas is the most intriguing player of the three. That said, here is a word of caution to anyone who believes that the Sixers are automatically getting the guy from Michigan: Stauskas had a very disappointing rookie year, which is obviously a major reason why the Kings felt comfortable including him in the deal.

  TS%FTr
AST%
WS/40
UM 13-14
 64%52 %
19%
.193
 SAC 14-15
 49%22% 9%.021


As a throw-in attached to money that the Sixers had to spend anyway (salary floor), there is a lot of logic in taking a flier on Stauskas. He has the pedigree of a guy that can help remedy the Sixers’ biggest weakness, their abysmal outside shooting. After all, this is the dude who made 102 triples in five minutes. If the Sixers really are going to play inside-out with Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, and possibly Joel Embiid, they’re going to need knockdown three-point shooting. Stauskas didn’t showcase high-level marksmanship as an NBA rookie, but it’s reasonable to think he’ll improve.

The Sixers are also betting on Brett Brown and the player development system making a world of difference from Stauskas’ experience in Sacramento. His splits after the All-Star break were far better than before it, which is encouraging. Stauskas has a ways to go, but so do the Sixers. The shared timeline should provide a mutually beneficial relationship. 

The picks are probably the most intriguing part of this transaction, as Hinkie essentially bought more ping-pong balls. Even if the Kings somehow sign all three of the aforementioned players (doubtful), it’s hard to envision a scenario where they make the Western Conference Playoffs. If Sacramento is back in the lottery, the Sixers basically have two sets of odds. As Bodner pointed out, the Sixers’ odds of the top pick (15.6% to 21.9%) and a Top-3 pick (46.9% to 61.2%) would’ve increased a lot last year when the teams had the 3rd and 6th-worst records.

Make no mistake: If there aren't any protections on the swaps, there is a scenario in play where the Kings land a top pick in the next two years and the Sixers get to make it instead.

Verdict

Like some of Hinkie’s best trades, this move comes risk-free. It might never turn into a home run, but there's zero potential for a strikeout. We still have to see what the stipulations are on the future pick, but at minimum he got Stauskas and another first rounder for taking on a couple of contracts that aren’t burdensome to the Sixers at all. In the same transaction, he also bet against the Sacramento Kings. Hinkie did a good thing here. GRADE: A

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann