Regardless of if Andrei Kirilenko plays a single second for the Sixers this season, the trade the team made to acquire him from Brooklyn was a smart move.
For Brooklyn the move was all about shedding salary. The Nets are desperately trying to trade away some salary and potentially gain back some assets, as the franchise's immediate future looks bleak at this point. Kirilenko, 33, is in the final year of a $3.3 million contract, and the Nets save close to $12 million in luxury tax by unloading him.
In return, the SIxers also received Jorge Guitterez, a 2020 second round pick, cash considerations, and the right to swap 2018 second-round picks. That is a pretty sizable haul, and all it cost the Sixers was a fringe-NBA player in Brandon Davies.
With their abundance of salary cap space and no immediate intention to contend, these are exactly the kind of moves that the Sixers should be making this season.
While the haul coming back along with Kirilenko may not seem ground-breaking, and some are opposed to the concept of paying a player to essentially not play, such deals are a smart way for the Sixers to use some salary space in the present while continuing to fortify themselves for the future.
The Sixers have the most salary cap space in the league, and in essence are just sitting on it. Said space will be invaluable when the team is ready to sign some players to help their climb back to contention; now is just not that time for the team. Instead of not using this year's salary space and eventually distributing it among the remaining roster players, the team could continue to take on a couple unattractive contracts with some assets attached.
As the season progresses, teams making that playoff push will want to make moves and sign players, and in turn may be looking to unload an unwanted contract. In order to compete in the present, such teams would be willing to part with picks or other assets, and as long as those contracts don't have multi-year qualifiers, the Sixers can capitalize. The team can acquire a plethora of future picks and cash considerations this way without altering the season's on-court product.
K.J. McDaniels, who is quickly demonstrating that he could be a big part of the franchise's future, was a second-round pick. They can be very valuable. And Kirilenko's contract was only a $3.1 million hit for the Sixers; taking on an even larger contract could net them even more.
Regardless of if Kirilenko is immediately waived, or plays for a while and is then dealt at the deadline, the move had little to do with his services for the Sixers. Instead, it had everything to do with wise utilization of the Sixers' ample cap space and continuing to stockpile picks for the franchise's future.
As the season winds on, the Sixers' ample salary cap space will look increasingly appealing to teams looking to make that playoff push. The Kirilenko deal is likely not the last time we will see Sam Hinkie make a move involving acquiring someone who might not suit up for the SIxers.