Bust Out – Beyond the Bison

Julian Dorey, Senior Writer

What a deadline.

The Thursday post-All Star game always makes for a huge build-up every year. Who stays? Who goes? Who’s buying? Who’s selling?

But generally, we only see one really big deal once every two years or so. Deadline deals like the Ray Allen-Gary Payton deal of 2003 or the Tim Hardaway banishment from Golden State in 1996 are few and far between.

Heck, the rumor mills in the 24 hours leading up to the annual 3 p.m. Thursday deadline churn out a higher volume of gossip and pure innuendo than all of the actual past deadline transactions combined.

That’s why this year, to use a cliché, was a year unlike any other.

In the early afternoon, Sam Hinkie kicked things off in his usual blatant-robbery style fans have become accustomed to. The Sixers sent Cenk Akyol (literally a no-name 27-year old player playing overseas and averaging minimal statistics. In essence he will never play a second in the NBA) for JaVale McGee’s monster terrible contract that has a year and a half left on it—and yet another first round pick.  This one via Oklahoma City, who actually is going to have a slightly better pick than usual this year because of early season injury problems.

Oh yeah, how could I forget, in true Hinkie fashion, he acquired the rights to 23-year Nigerian big man Chukwudiebere “Chu” Maduabum. He’ll probably never play in the NBA either—but Hinkie has undoubtedly actually watched his tape. Because he’s a basketball psycho. You can’t make this stuff up.

Right thereafter, Denver returned to the fray and landed what amounted to a future first and future second round pick in exchange for veteran shooting guard, Arron Afflalo. Denver is a sinking ship—and an almost-30-year-old two-guard isn’t exactly a need for them. Meanwhile, Portland landed a pretty solid rotational shooter for their playoff run in the deep western conference.

After a few inconsequential moves (including a well-over-the-hill Kevin Garnett heading home to Minnesota to close out his career), things got crazy around 2:40 p.m.

After speaking with incompetent Nets GM Billy King for weeks about big man Brook Lopez, Sam Presti finally hung up the phone and pulled off a solid, last-minute move to help Oklahoma City for their playoff push. He sent longtime disgruntled backup point guard to greener pastures in Detroit (I cannot believe I am putting “Detroit” and “greener pastures” in the same sentence, but I guess, as Kevin Garnett once screamed, “Anything’s possible”)—and he finally unloaded a seemingly worthless Kendrick Perkins to Utah (who, in turn, bought him out). In return, Presti received an embarrassment of riches. He replaced Jackson with capable veteran point guard, DJ Augustin—and he acquired solid swingman Kyle Singler, shooter Steve Novak (who might actually be decent for the Thunder), and the big man he coveted in versatile center Enes Kanter.

As if that wasn’t enough to swallow, Twitter and the media alike only had mere seconds to process that deal as Miami immediately came to an agreement to land All-Star point guard Goran Dragić in a three-team deal. Miami essentially surrendered two future first-round picks (they literally now have none over the next several years) and a bunch of slop for Dragić (New Orleans was the minor third team brought in to make the salaries match up).

With another major transaction completed and fans everywhere literally panting—Sam Hinkie essentially closed off the deadline with a nuclear warhead (in reality, did people really think a simple first-round pick acquisition would be Hinkie’s deadline swansong as he headed off quietly into the night? Common).

In a three-team deal that saw solid, young point guard Brandon Knight shipped from Milwaukee to Phoenix, Hinkie unloaded reigning rookie of the year and presumed franchise “cornerstone” Michael Carter-Williams to the Bucks and received the horrendous Lakers first-round pick via Phoenix. This pick is Top-5 protected this year, top-3 protected next year, and not protected in 2017. If you have watched the Lakers recently, you’d know that chances are that pick will be pretty darn good whenever they get it.

The truth is that Carter-Williams was never going to be a cornerstone. He is a good play—but he has a ceiling. Hinkie saw that that ceiling was near and he sold MCW. High.

After moving MCW, Hinkie literally closed things off (though a couple more inconsequential deals did go down in the final minutes as well) by shipping promising rookie K. J. McDaniels to Houston for new point guard Isaiah Canaan and a future second-round pick. Some were disappointed that Hinkie moved McDaniels—but it was the right thing to do. The Sixers had two very promising small forward rookies (McDaniels and Jerami Grant)—and McDaniels had bet on himself by taking a rare one-year deal prior to the season that would allow him to hit the open market this summer as a restricted free agent.

McDaniels’ bet was successful—someone was going to throw him a three-year, sub-$20 deal. Hinkie knew it and he didn’t think he’d be able to match that by analyzing one season of play from the youngster. So, instead of losing him for nothing, he took three quarters on the dollar and called it a day.

Calculated and smart.

The deadline was nuts—and we’ll be judging winners and losers for sure in the years to come. But the early report card seems to show that the tank-tastic Sixers pulled off another step in their grand plan in a big way—and won the deadline outright.

We’ll see. Craziness.

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