Philadelphia 76ers forwards Rodney Carney, Calvin Booth and a future No. 1 pick have been traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves to free as much as $2 million in additional salary cap space for the Sixers to offer Elton Brand or Josh Smith, multiple league sources said.
Minnesota sends Philadelphia its $2.8 million trade exception from a 2007 deal of Mark Blount to the Miami Heat.
Carney and Booth have been told of the deal, sources said. The deal can’t be finalized until the NBA trade moratorium is lifted on Wednesday.
Sixers general manager Ed Stefanski has methodically cleared room over several months to make his franchise a major player to lure Brand or Smith. Now, the NBA's July free agency period has been delivered a deeper drama. Stefanski's intentions are clear: Get into the bidding with the Clippers and Warriors for Brand or make an offer to the Hawks restricted free agent, Smith, that will be too steep for Atlanta ownership to match.
Getting Carney and Booth off the cap gives the Sixers the chance to offer a starting salary of approximately $14 million a season. The Sixers won't know the precise figure until the league announces next season's salary cap on Tuesday.
The 76ers have the luxury of going hard after Brand, 29, until he decides on a team. Most league executives still believe he'll return to the Clippers for a five-year, $70 million deal, which is about $20 million less than the Warriors are offering. Nevertheless, this salary dump gives the Sixers the flexibility to get into the competitive bidding for Brand.
One league executive believes Brand has delayed his decision on returning to Los Angeles with hopes that Stefanski could cut this deal and make him a comparable offer to that of the Clips. He was born and raised in upstate New York, and has been intrigued with returning to the East Coast. Should the Sixers lose out on Brand, they'll still be in position to turn their attention back to Smith, a 22-year-old rising star.
For a cost-conscious Atlanta ownership, an offer that exceeds Philly's original $11 million a year could be too rich for them. Still, ownership loves Smith, a hometown kid who could be on the brink of stardom. Nevertheless, the Hawks would have seven days to match Philly's offer sheet, and should they do so, the lapsed time could cripple the Sixers' chances of securing a star player elsewhere.
Smith, 22, visited Philadelphia on Monday and left impressed with the 76ers' desire to secure him. Stefanski had envisioned a wildly athletic and versatile frontline that includes Smith, Andre Igoudala and Sam Dalembert. Still, Brand would give the Sixers a fierce low-post presence, toughness and leadership. Either way, it appears the Sixers have thrust themselves into the game now.