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Are 76ers Penny Pinchers or Savvy Shoppers?

Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

Of the many grievances filed against the Philadelphia 76ers under the new regime, one of the more common misperceptions concerns the team’s unwillingness to spend money. The team refuses to venture into the marketplace in pursuit of mid-level free agents, while also having spent large swaths of time well below the salary cap floor. Thus, a sizable contingent of people feel the Sixers pinch pennies at the expense of both the fans and the players. In regard to at least the salary floor, that’s a ridiculous notion, as players currently on the team would split any remaining money up to the floor, an added boon for guys on minimum salary deals.

In a broader sense, however, the Sixers are willing to spend money. They simply don’t want to throw it away via more conventional means just to appease the hot-take-prone section of the general public. The organization values preserving cap space, not because it’s more money in ownership’s pockets, but because that space can be utilized to acquire future draft picks, pick swaps, young prospects, etc. Philadelphia would rather gather those things, which could be of great benefit to the franchise in the long term, rather than middling veterans who might only add a handful of wins in the short term.

Don’t believe me? Check out how much dead money the Sixers currently have on the books for the 2015-16 season:

That $26M figure is largely money the team owes to JaVale McGee ($12.0M) and Gerald Wallace ($10.1), guys who represented the price of doing business in order to pick up a variety of draft considerations. Rather than just letting those guys languish on the end of the bench, or play them in order to obtain some return on their investment, the Sixers cut them loose in order to take a look at even more younger players who might help the team long term. This process increases overall expenses even further as the team then signs those new players. This strategy isn’t limited to this season either, as the Sixers had over $22M in dead money last season as well.

In fact, we saw yet another example of this line of thinking when final cuts were made Monday afternoon. In addition to Pierre Jackson, J.P. Tokoto, Scottie Wilbekin and Jordan McRae, Philadelphia cut ties with Furkan Aldemir. Not only was Aldemir due a guaranteed $2.8M this season, but the team had gone above and beyond the normal standard in terms of player development with the Turkish big man:

Nevertheless, the undrafted Christian Wood clearly outplayed Aldemir during the summer and the preseason, and the Sixers recognized a sunk cost and kept the guy with the most long-term outlook for the organization. Once again, saving a bit of money was never the team’s top priority.

A counterpoint to this argument might be the fact that Carl Landry remains on the roster. He, along with Jason Thompson, was the salary dump poison pill from Sacramento that enabled the Sixers to acquire Nik Stauskas and a host of juicy draft considerations. At 32 years of age and currently rehabbing from offseason wrist surgery, he surely has no role in the long-term future of the franchise, and is seemingly kept around due to his relatively pricey contract of $6.5M each of the next two seasons.

However, if not for Landry, the oldest player on the Sixers’ roster would be Robert Covington at the ripe old age of 24. Everyone aside from Landry was actually born in the 1990s (as someone born in the 1980s myself, this fact makes me feel impossibly old). Much like with Jason Richardson and Luc Mbah a Moute last season, the team must recognize some value in having a veteran presence around in the locker room. Additionally, the organization might feel that upon his return from injury in a couple months, a sustained period of solid play from Landry could render him a viable asset in the market by the trade deadline or during next offseason (Landry is under salary next season at around the same price).

Whatever your misgivings about the way the current regime operates in Philadelphia (and there’s certainly one or two legitimate ones), they should not include the notion that the team is cheap. At every turn, the organization has shown a clear willingness to spend money, but only when it benefits the team across its long-term time horizon toward eventual contention. When the opportunity is right to start spending money on actual players to take the court in the here and now, I’m confident the Sixers will not hesitate.

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