Denver salary-dumps JaVale McGee onto 76ers, apologizes with 2015 First Round Pick

DENVER receives: the rights to Cenk Akyol
PHILADELPHIA receives: JaVale McGee, the rights to Chukwudiebere Maduabum, Oklahoma City’s First Round Pick–top-18 protected

LOVE this trade for the Sixers. JaVale is owed $11.25m this season and $12m next season, fully guaranteed. That is an absurd amount of money to pay someone who has played just 22 games over the last two seasons. If he keeps that pace, he will make over $898k per game next season!! I’m going to let that sink in for a second… So how could I possibly be in favor of Hinkie’s latest move? Philly was so far below the salary floor, that they were going to have to disperse that $11.25m regardless. This is literally no additional money out of their pocket this season. Their 2016-17 payroll is obviously not finalized yet, but set to come off the books after the season: $6.6m to Jason Richardson (hasn’t played since January 18, 2013, won’t be resigned at that rate), $4.4m to Luc Mbah a Moute (could be resigned; isn’t a part of the long-term future, but good defender and mentor to fellow Cameroonian center Joel Embiid), $3.3m to Andrei Kirilenko (though he’s not being paid now, as per terms of his suspension). Those are 3 of Philadelphia’s 4 highest paid players, easily making room for JaVale’s contract, especially because Henry Sims is the only other player on the team not yet under contract next season (currently $915k). I’d say they have the room to for JaVale–his contract at least, attitude might be the kicker here, though I think it’s a good risk. Side note, with the trades the Thunder made this deadline (addressed below), I believe this pick will convey to Philadelphia this season. Currently tied for 8th place in the West (with Phoenix, who just traded away two of their best four players), OKC needs to stay in the playoffs and finish with a record better than 18 teams. That means: all seven non-playoff west teams + all seven non-playoff east teams + four additional playoff teams (currently ahead of MIA + CHA, within 5 wins of CHI, CLE, MIL, WAS). Not guaranteed, but they need to pass two of those last four teams (most likely MIL + WAS) or another West playoff team. If not, it’s top-15 protected in 2016 and 2017, where a healthy Thunder team (plus their first round pick) will most certainly finish higher than that. Barring another major injury, I believe it will happen this year. Even if it doesn’t, my grade will not change: A+

Just because Philadelphia won this trade, does not inherently mean Denver lost this trade–though I’m not 100% convinced they won it either. I went back and forth with my buddy Matt (Denver native, huge Nuggets fan) on this trade at length after it went through. He supported the deal. Either he was eager to get rid of JaVale’s contract or he’s a HUGE Cenk fan; I don’t remember exactly where we landed on that. He recognized McGee as being deadweight, and was in favor of cutting ties earlier rather than later. A late first round pick that likely won’t be conveyed until next year is more than adequate compensation to him. So the only way to grade this is: How will Denver use the newly minted $12m this summer? And will that be more valuable than a late first round pick? The Nuggets currently have about $55.5m on the books for next year + Jameer Nelson’s $2.8m player option + Thomas Robinson’s $4.6m team option (discussed above). With the 2015-16 salary cap expected to be around $66.5m and the tax line at $81m (as per http://cbafaq.com/blog/?p=304, among others), the Nuggets could have some room to play with, which you have to assume they will try, otherwise, why not just keep JaVale? I’m not sure who they will sign that will be a better asset than OKC’s pick, but they do earn points for shaving $12m off the cap the year that Kenneth Faried’s $11m extension starts: C-

**All stats/salary/research from Basketball-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted**

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