As was the case with former teammate Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner seemed like one of the more likely candidates to be dealt as the NBA’s trade deadline approached. Turner is a swingman with a relatively large rookie scale contract – nearly $6.7 million this season – one who would be either about to enter unrestricted free agency, about to be offered a whopping $8.7 million by the Sixers to play for the team’s Qualifying Offer, or about to act as a massive cap hold for the rebuilding team while he sorts his summer of 2014 options out.
In Indiana, former All-Star Danny Granger would seem to be just as strong a trade asset. He’s in the final year of one of those giant expiring contracts (over $14 million in 2013-14) that always seemed to be thrown around in trades in years leading up to this one. Injured for nearly all of last season and a good part of this one, Granger wasn’t contributing much to the East-leading Pacers, but the team didn’t seem keen to deal him for fears of either taking more salary on, or nudging closer to the luxury tax in a small market.
So, as the 2014 trade deadline dwindled, the Pacers and Sixers figured that they might as well talk to each other. This is why, as Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Thursday afternoon, the Sixers have sent Turner and Lavoy Allen to Indiana for Granger. And despite our misgivings about Turner’s game, Philadelphia general manager Sam Hinkie did a huge, HUGE solid for Pacers el jefe Larry Bird.
Philadelphia’s motivations, outside of putting a nice guy like Turner on a very good team like Indiana, seem unclear. When paired with the transaction that sent Spencer Hawes to Cleveland earlier on Thursday, the 76ers are inching closer to the minimum salary floor, though they’re still around $2 million below it. Prior to the Granger trade, the difference between the salary floor and the team’s payroll (over $16 million) would have been divvied up between players at the end of the year. Now that chunk of change has been taken over by Granger’s salary, which bests Turner and Allen’s deals by just under $4.4 million.
The 76ers, in the front office’s never-ending quest to secure a better lottery position, will also be dealing its leading scorer for a player in Granger that averages just 8.3 points per game off the Indiana bench, looking out of sorts and nowhere near his pre-2012-level athleticism along the way. The players may not be tanking, but Hinkie is setting this team (currently working with the second-worst record in the NBA) up to fail.
The Pacers are getting a relatively big name in Turner, a player that starred at Ohio State before being taken second overall in the 2010 draft. The 76ers appreciated his ability to lead their team in scoring – 17.4 points per game is nothing to sneeze at – but they weren’t ever fans of his inefficient ways in getting to that number.
The 76ers play at the league’s fastest pace, by far, and the combination of that pace, Turner’s 42.8 shooting percentage, his limited contributions in other areas, his slim free throw and three-point totals leave him a bit lacking as a go-to guy. As a result, his Player Efficiency Rating tops off around 13.3 this year despite that gaudy points per game total, in a league where a 15 PER is recognized as average. Those raw stats may scream that Turner is a star in the making, but Pacer fans should really keep their expectations in check.
Indiana was careful around the trade deadline not to exceed the luxury tax in any deal, a no-no considering the team’s market, even if they will likely play until June this year. The franchise added Andrew Bynum on a pro-rated, minimum deal while still falling short of the tax, and this deal does even more to drop Indy’s payroll. Some have suggested that Indiana dealt for Butler as insurance in case Lance Stephenson leaves this summer as a free agent, but the reality is that the Pacers may have to go into the luxury tax (even after letting forward Luis Scola go) to re-sign either player this summer, as some other team (deluded by per game stats) may throw Turner a contract approaching eight figures per year.
For now, though, the Pacers have added a guy that can put the ball in the basket, someone to add to the team’s already significant depth as they work toward that top seed in the East. Again, it’s hard to be too smitten with Turner’s prospects given awareness of advanced metrics while watching him twirl around the midrange, but this is still an upgrade over Granger at a cheaper price. And Lavoy Allen – no slouch as a sneaky rebounder and tough guy – can play.
The Pacers could play even before this trade, and now they’ve improved while saving money along the way. This franchise could devolve into a tax-paying, capped-out frustration as the years move along, but for now Larry Bird is absolutely owning the 2013-14 season.
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