Twitter has been rife with rumours that the seven footer may join the Sixers roster on Tuesday when the long awaited Al Horford/Danny Green trade is made official. Whilst teams aren’t allowed to discuss other players until trades are official (you will note that Daryl Morey has not mentioned Danny Green by name) it is a little strange that there has been zero reporting about Poirier joining the Sixers from any mainstream media. Hell, he is even on the Sixers NBA 2K21 roster! To get to the bottom of this mystery I have delved deeply into niche NBA Twitter in the search of some answers.
The 27 year old French big man signed a two year contract with the Boston Celtics in 2020 after playing a big role in getting Baskonia into the top three of the Spanish ACB League in 2018/19. Unfortunately he struggled to find a spot in Brad Stevens rotation, and finished the season with the meagre averages of 1.9 points and 2.0 rebounds in the 22 games that he managed to step onto the hardwood. With Boston facing a roster crunch it was clear leading into the offseason that Poirier and his remaining $2,619,207 in salary were surplus to requirements in Beantown.
The Sixers appear set at backup center with the acquisitions of Dwight Howard (free agency) and Tony Bradley (trade) – so why would they need Poirier? Well the aforementioned $2,619,207 contract could prove to be the catalyst behind this.
With the benefit of hindsight, let me explain in chronological order why it appears that Poirier is a lock to be part of the trade that is expected to become official on December 8 (whether he remains on the Sixers roster is a different story).
When Adrian Wojnarowski dropped his ‘Woj bomb’ on draft day about Daryl Morey’s first transaction as the Sixers President of Basketball Operations there was no mention of Vincent Poirier, who was still on the Celtics roster at that time.
As former New Jersey Nets Assistant GM Bobby Marks tweeted above, it was expected that OKC would take Al Horford’s contract into their cap space which meant they weren’t required to send out more players for ‘salary matching’ purposes.
When The Athletic’s Sixers beat-writer Rich Hofmann followed up with what we thought was the full detail of the trade (which now included the Sixers receiving Terrance Ferguson) there was also no mention of Poirier.
Then there were these tweets…..
Ok, so if a team is operating ‘over the cap’ they need to comply with salary matching rules. Specifically they can only receive 125% (plus $100,000) of the salary that they send out in trade. So for OKC to take back Al Horford ($27.5m) they would need to send out a minimum of $21.9m in salary. The previously reported Green and Ferguson add up to $19.3m ($2.6m short of a legal trade).
Shortly after this the Boston Celtics announced that they had traded Poirier to OKC in a move, that in isolation made zero sense for a rebuilding OKC. The Thunder didn’t even receive any draft picks for taking Poirier’s contract of Bostons hands. In hindsight, Thunder GM Sam Presti was up to something. The only explanation for this trade from the Thunder perspective was they needed the contract for salary matching in a future trade.
One of NBA Twitter’s sharpest minds, and amateur ‘capologist’ Albert Nahmad sprung into action to explain the situation…..$2.6m short for salary matching? Remember Poirier’s $2,619,207 contract that I mentioned at the top of this article?
It was several days later when French newspaper L’Equipe reported that Poirier was part of the Horford trade – this was not picked up by any US based media.
And an instagram post by Poirier’s trainer which tagged both Poirier and the Sixers added further fuel to the fire.
Albert Nahmad explains how the trade will work below to satisfy NBA rules.
We won’t have to wait long to find out if Albert’s predictions are true as it is expected that the Sixers and Thunder will introduce their new players on Tuesday (December 8) which is the first day that Green and Poirier can legally be ‘aggregated’ in trade.
Whilst it is a sound bet that Poirier and Ferguson will join Danny Green as outgoing salary from OKC in the trade, there is no certainty that all three will start the season on the Sixers roster. Whilst Poirier might have the ability to be a decent NBA backup one day, the Sixers are already well stocked with center depth. Daryl Morey woud be very motivated to move Poirier to another team via trade, as he would cost the Sixers a combined $9.16m in salary and luxury tax if he remains on the roster for the rest of the season or is waived. It is unclear whether or not Morey views Ferguson as a positive value piece or if he was essentially used purely for salary matching purposes.
It is possible that the trade on Tuesday could be expanded to a three team trade if another team is willing to take on either Poirier or Ferguson (or both) in exchange for a small asset (second round pick).
I for one, will be very pleased when this trade is made official as I have spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about all of the possible scenarios. We won’t have to wait much longer.