Trade Analysis: Robinson, Burks to Philadelphia

Financial deals are commonplace among the big moves throughout the last hours before the trade deadline. They’re not often huge: a minimum player here, a second-round pick there, but they can still be important, particularly when one of the teams in the deal is a title contender and can help another team get out of the luxury tax and save some cash. Wednesday night, we had one of these financial trades between Golden State and Philadelphia.

The full terms:
The 76ers receives Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III.
The Warriors receive three second-round picks: Dallas’s 2020 pick, Denver’s 2021 pick, and Toronto’s 2022 pick.

The Sixers had amassed a number of future seconds as they transitioned out of the Process Era and can now use those picks to build the back end of their roster, as they’ve done here. They still have a couple of moves to make, as this trade would put them over the 15-man roster limit – they’ll either have to cut two players or find a trade that nets them two open roster spots. The latest reports are that they’re trying to find other moves to make rather than cutting two of their guys, but they may be forced to do that if nothing materializes.

Philadelphia is just over $1 million outside the luxury tax with Burks and Robinson on the roster, so they’re able to weather two cuts without triggering the tax themselves. That’s an important consideration for them, seeing as their team is about to get a whole lot more expensive with Ben Simmons’ max contract kicking in next year. With four players all making $27 million or more for at least the next two years, staying out of the tax is important for a Sixers team that likely plans to be expensive for the foreseeable future and does not want to deal with repeater tax penalties.

After making a number of consolidation trades, the Sixers have been starved for quality depth the last two seasons. Having unreliable players further down the roster was a big part of what sunk them in the playoffs last year – they were great with Joel Embiid on the floor and played like a lottery team any time he had to come out of the game. Against the best of the best, that’s just not going to cut it. Adding Al Horford was supposed to alleviate that, and still might come playoff time, though there have been some major integration pains for Horford and the Sixers this year.

Burks and Robinson won’t directly help with that frontcourt problem, but they should give those guys a little more space to operate. The natural limitation of the Simmons-Embiid combination is the lack of shooting those guys provide – Simmons can’t and won’t space the floor in any way and Embiid is entirely wasted standing out beyond the three-point line when he’s one of the most efficient post players in NBA history. Solving that particular issue might not come down to changing Simmons or Embiid but changing the players surrounding those guys, which is where Burks and Robinson can help. Both are shooting well from beyond the arc this season and have to be respected in those positions, opening up more space for Simmons and Embiid.

Burks brings some extra scoring punch the Sixers need on their second unit in addition to his growing outside shooting. Philadelphia was rumored to be in the market for Detroit’s Derrick Rose, but Burks gives them most of Rose’s production at a fraction of the cost, both on their salary sheet and in what they had to pay for Burks in the trade compared to what they would have had to send out for Rose. I do worry how Burks’ scoring will translate to the playoffs, but in a reserve role, he’ll be better than any of their other options. Robinson isn’t an absolutely deadeye shooter, but he has to be guarded from beyond the arc and is big enough to fit into the Sixers’ defensive scheme. He’s had an up-and-down career but keeps getting chances to prove he’s the sort of 3-and-D role player every team needs.

The three picks Philadelphia sent out are nearly inconsequential. Dallas’s 2020 second is nearly assured to be in the bottom ten picks, as is Denver’s in 2021. Toronto’s 2022 pick might have some upside, but they’ll still have Pascal Siakam and either Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby or a whole bunch of flexibility to go after some big-name free agents in 2021, which would push their pick down the draft board significantly.

Burks likely doesn’t factor into the Sixers’ long-term plans, but at this price, he was a fine pickup. He’s rumored to want real money this summer and Philadelphia isn’t going to be the one to give it to him, but sending three low-end second-rounders for even a pair of rentals is a decent deal for a championship contender. Robinson might be more amenable to a smaller contract, but we’ll see how he fits in with the team.

Philadelphia was able to get a good deal on these guys because Golden State is fighting like mad to get out of the tax. It always made sense to move Burks for value, but moving off of Robinson makes it clear that the Warriors are doing what they can to dodge the tax. That’s a worthwhile pursuit, too – getting out of the tax this year could save them somewhere between $15 million and $40 million in repeater tax penalties next year, as they’d be a non-repeater team for 2020-21 if they get out of the tax this year.

They’re still not all the way out of it, with another $472,891 to go before they’re clear. They’re already down to 11 players and are actively looking for ways to get off more salary, which is either going to take moving Kevon Looney’s $4.46 million contract or two of the Jordan Poole/Jacob Evans/Omari Spellman trio. NBA teams are only allowed to dip below 14 players for two weeks at a time and cannot sign more than two 10-day contracts on a 14-man roster, so the Warriors are going to have to fill out their roster with two (if they trade Looney) or three (if they trade two of the others) rest-of-season minimum contracts before they get into the 10-day dance. Moving just one of Poole, Evans, or Spellman isn’t enough to get the job done; they’d end up a few hundred thousand dollars short. Further down the roster, moving Alen Smailagic or Eric Paschall doesn’t make a ton of sense from a basketball perspective and Damion Lee cannot be traded at all for any reason until the three-month anniversary of his contract signing date, which doesn’t occur until after the deadline.

There’s a positive human element to this particular trade for the Warriors, as Burks and Robinson both had very good years for the Warriors in spite of a whole lot of losing. When they signed up to join the squad, they had no idea it was going to be this dire, even with Klay Thompson out for the year. Stephen Curry’s injury threw Golden State’s entire season down the tubes, but those guys played hard and played well for them and taking care of them by sending the pair to a championship contender will be noticed by other role players throughout the league.