76ers get: Center Mike Muscala
Since there was no chance of the Thunder keeping Anthony at this point, when evaluating the trade from their standpoint it’s probably best not to consider him at all. Oklahoma City gave up the 2022 protected pick to turn the $9 million-plus that would have been on its books the next three years had it waived Anthony and stretched his salary into Schroder (whose base salary is a flat $15.5 million each year over that same span, with $2 million in unlikely incentives that require the team to reach the NBA Finals and him to make the All-Defensive team or be an All-Star) and Luwawu-Cabarrot (making $1.5 million this season, with a $2.5 million team option for 2019-20).
How well that deal will work depends first on Schroder, whose value around the league has plummeted the past couple of seasons. The Hawks signed him to this four-year extension before he took over as their starting point guard in the fall of 2016. Playing a leading role in the Atlanta offense (his 30 percent usage rate last season ranked 13th in the league among players who saw at least 1,000 minutes of action), Schroder was inefficient, posting a .515 true shooting percentage.
The hope for the Thunder is surely that Schroder can play a role similar to the one Reggie Jackson filled playing behind and alongside Russell Westbrook before he was dealt to the Detroit Pistons in February 2015 because he desired a larger role. Jackson’s a little bigger, which made it easier to play him with Westbrook, but there are broad similarity between their skill sets as score-first point guards who took on leading roles with Oklahoma City’s second unit.
Given that Schroder has spent most of his NBA career playing with the ball in his hands, it will be interesting to see how he adapts playing next to Westbrook. Schroder made just 28 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-pointers last season, per NBA Advanced Stats, but hit them at a 40 percent clip in 2016-17 and 38 percent in 2015-16, so there’s reason to believe he can help space the floor as a shooting guard.
If Schroder is strictly a backup point guard, paying a little more than $6 million for his services above and beyond the cost of Anthony’s potential stretched salary might be an overpay for a team deep in the luxury tax. If he occasionally finishes games to give the Thunder a third playmaker along with Westbrook and Paul George, that cost looks a lot more palatable.
As for Luwawu-Cabarrot, he’s the sort of long-limbed, athletic wing the Thunder have liked to collect in the past. I felt Luwawu-Cabarrot’s best comparison as a draft prospect was Thabo Sefolosha, a starter in Oklahoma City for five-plus seasons. Luwawu-Cabarrot hasn’t yet proved a league-average 3-point shooter like Sefolosha (hitting 32 percent over his first two seasons) or anywhere near his class as a defender. At the same time, Luwawu-Cabarrot is just 23 and on a low-risk deal, so he should be considered part of the value the Thunder get in this trade.
The question of how much Oklahoma City gave up won’t be answered until 2022. In a practice the Thunder pioneered in their 2016 trade for Jerami Grant, the pick has only a one-year window to convey before converting to second-round picks. By 2022, Westbrook will be 33 and George 32, so it’s possible Oklahoma City will already have pivoted to a rebuild and be in no danger of giving up a lottery-protected first. I’d estimate the average value of the pick should be considered something equivalent to the 20th pick or lower.
Giving that up to take a shot at Schroder and maintain the option of moving his contract down the road — something that couldn’t be done with Anthony’s dead salary if he were waived and stretched — seems reasonable, if surprising in that the Thunder took on a bit more salary.
Had Oklahoma City simply stretched Anthony’s salary and filled out the roster with players making the veteran minimum, the Thunder would have been looking at a payroll of about $219 million — some $110 million less than Oklahoma City’s historic salary plus luxury tax with Anthony on the books. This deal leaves the Thunder in between those markers, set to pay about $247 million for the current 14-player roster plus a 15th player at the minimum.
Oklahoma City can save an additional $14 million or so by waiving Kyle Singler and stretching his salary over five years, then replacing him with a minimum-salary player, getting the bill down in the range of $230 million. Assuming Thunder ownership is willing to pay the cost, this looks like a somewhat better roster with the additions of Schroder and Nerlens Noel than last season’s version.
Having used much of their cap space last week to take on Jeremy Lin‘s salary, the Hawks used the remainder of it to complete this trade, which takes them almost right up to the cap. From Atlanta’s standpoint, getting off Schroder’s contract without having to take back another bad, long-term deal (say, swapping Schroder to the Phoenix Suns for Brandon Knight) should probably be considered a win.
Schroder just wasn’t a fit on a rebuilding team. He’d said publicly over the offseason that he wanted to go to a contending team, and was blocking No. 5 overall pick Trae Young‘s path to playing time. So something had to give this summer, and dealing Schroder for expiring contracts means the Hawks have opened up $15.5 million in additional 2019 cap space, giving them nearly $50 million to work with next year.
On top of that, Atlanta adds a first-round pick during what ESPN’s Jonathan Givony indicated last week teams are hearing could be the first year where high schoolers are eligible for the draft. That would potentially produce a so-called “double draft” in 2022 with both the one-and-done prospects from the 2021 recruiting class and 2022 high school seniors eligible.
Though the protection limits the upside on what can be no better than the 15th pick, the Hawks were wise to time getting it for 2022 — particularly because they already could have extra picks coming next year from the Cleveland Cavaliers (top-10 protected) and Dallas Mavericks (top-five protected). Atlanta has to be prepared not to get a first-rounder in this deal if Oklahoma City rebuilds. Even then, however, I’d feel comfortable getting $15.5 million in cap space next summer for the extra salary this year.
To make this deal, Atlanta needed to find a taker for Muscala to create the necessary cap space. Enter the Sixers, who were looking for a stretch big after Nemanja Bjelica backed out of his agreement to sign with them, as reported earlier this week by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Muscala doesn’t offer the same kind of versatility as Bjelica, but he can certainly shoot. Muscala made 1.2 triples a game last season at a 37 percent clip, which is no fluke — he’s a career 38 percent shooter beyond the arc. That makes Muscala a better floor-spacer than Philadelphia’s other centers.
Trading two players for one also solved a small problem for the 76ers, who had 14 guaranteed contracts plus two non-guarantees ( Richaun Holmes and T.J. McConnell) worth keeping around. Philadelphia’s roster now stands at 15 and is likely set.
The cost here was the Sixers cutting bait on Luwawu-Cabarrot, a first-round pick two years ago. However, with a deep wing rotation and Furkan Korkmaz and Zhaire Smith as even younger prospects in the mix, Luwawu-Cabarrot might never have been able to crack the rotation.