The Final Cut – Showdown for the Sixers final roster spot

Whilst the Philadelphia Sixers are considered one of the front runners to acquire wantaway superstar James Harden there is (at least) one more transaction that will be made by Daryl Morey and his front office in the next couple of days.

The Sixers currently have 16 players on their roster (plus two way players Dakota Mathias and Paul Reed ). They need to get down to 15 players (two way players don’t count) by 5pm on December 21.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS DEPTH CHART as at 19 December 2020

CJoel EmbiidDwight HowardTony BradleyVincent Poirer
PFTobias HarrisMike ScottPaul Reed (2 way)
SFDanny GreenFurkan KorkmazTerrance FergusonJustin Anderson (NG)
SGSeth CurryMatisse ThybulleIsaiah JoeDakota Mathias (2 way)
PGBen SimmonsShake MiltonTyrese Maxey

It appears that their are three players fighting for the final two roster spots. Wing Justin Anderson and recently acquired big men Tony Bradley and Vincent Poirier. Both Bradley ($3.5m) and Poirier ($2.6m) are on fully guaranteed contracts that expire at the end of the season whereas Anderson recently signed a non-guaranteed two year deal which will pay him $1.9m this season.

Whilst Anderson fills a position of need (big wing defender) and is reportedly a very good team mate (and a close friend of Joel Embiid), his non-guaranteed contract, and the Sixers luxury tax situation mean the odds are stacked against him making the team unless a trade can be made over the next two days to open up another roster spot.

The third center on the roster is only likely to get court time if either Joel Embiid or Dwight Howard is out injured and both Tony Bradley and Vincent Poirier appear to be adequate for this role. Bradley (28 minutes) got a lot more playing time in the two pre-season games than Poirier (9 minutes), so he looks to be Doc Rivers preferred option. Teams typically don’t go into the season with four true centers on their roster, so under normal circumstances Poirier would look to be the odd man out. As his contract is guaranteed the Sixers are still required to pay his salary if he was waived, and this would still count against the luxury tax.

The Sixers are currently in excess of $10 million over the luxury tax threshold, every dollar spent on salary, incurs an additional $2.50 in luxury tax. Waiving Poirier would cost the Sixers over $9.1m ($2.6m in salary and $6.5m in tax). Of course he could be waived and stretched which would spread his cap hit over three seasons which would help reduce the Sixers tax bill this season, but they are projected to be taxpayers for the next couple of seasons so that does not solve the problem.

The only way to get either Bradley or Poirier’s salary off the books is via trade. So if Team President Daryl Morey would prefer to keep Anderson, he has likely been working the phones to try to find a home for one (or both) of Bradley or Poirier.

As they were recently acquired by trade, their salaries cannot be aggregated (combined) with other players in trade for two months. They can however be traded by themself. As most teams already have full rosters it is difficult to find a team willing to take them on, without sending back another contract, but their are a few teams that could be incentivised to take them if the Sixers attach enough cash (or a second round pick). New York and Charlotte are the only teams that have enough cap space to take either Bradley or Poirier, Cleveland has four non-guaranteed contracts and two open roster slots, so they could one of them into their Traded Player Exceptions. Another interesting option is Oklahoma City – whilst they are in the midst of tearing down their team, they could be interested in taking a flyer on a young Center like Tony Bradley so they can have his restricted free agent rights next season. He would get plenty of playing time as Al Horford’s backup and could be absorbed into one of OKC’s many Traded player exceptions.

If no trade can be found before Monday’s deadline it will be interesting to see who makes the final cut. If Anderson is the unlucky casualty, I wouldn’t rule out a return to the Sixers later in the season once a roster consolidating trade is made.

NOTE: Late Friday night it was anounced that the Sixers had signed former Sacramento Kings and Milwaukee Bucks Point Guard Frank Mason III. Mason was named the G-League MVP last season. and will likely suit up for the Delaware Blue Coats. He is not expected to be on the Sixers opening night roster.

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