How will the Nets handle the Sixers’ first-round pick?

What will the Brooklyn Nets do?

The 76ers sent their unprotected first-round pick in the June 23 NBA Draft to the Nets as part of the blockbuster deal for James Harden before the February trade deadline. However, the Nets have the option of postponing the pick, instead taking the Sixers’ unprotected first round in 2023.

Brooklyn has until Wednesday to make its decision.

The Sixers will have the No. 23 pick in this draft if the Nets defer until next summer. Otherwise, the team will have no choice in the first or second round.

READ MORE: The Sixers are in a tough spot — and there aren’t many ways to alter their fate

Right now, the sentiment around the league is that Brooklyn will likely put off the pick until 2023.

It would be to risk the Sixers regressing in 2022-23 and getting a higher pick next summer. Based on how the Sixers ended the season, the postponement could be a smart move for the Nets.

There is a lot of uncertainty about Harden’s future level of play. He looked more like an enabler for the Sixers than he was during his tenure as a three-time scoring champion and 2018 MVP with the Houston Rockets.

While Embiid had the healthiest regular season of his career, the MVP runner-up was hampered in the playoffs with a torn ligament in his right thumb and an orbital fracture near his right eye. He underwent surgery on Monday to repair his right thumb. He also had a separate procedure to repair an injury to his left index finger.

So there’s always the chance that Embiid gets hurt and misses regular season games. And there’s still uncertainty surrounding the rest of the Sixers’ roster.

Even if the Sixers finish with the league’s best record next season, Brooklyn would trade the 23rd pick in this year’s draft for the No. 30 pick in next year’s draft. It’s only a seven point difference. While Tyrese Maxey (drafted 21st in 2020) is a gem, NBA teams rarely find difference makers late in the first round.

But the Nets could be in line to pick somewhere, at least, a few spots better than No. 23 next year if the Sixers slip back.

Keeping the pick wouldn’t be ideal for a Sixers team with salary cap issues and a lack of available roster spots.

The NBA‘s projected salary cap will be $122 million and the luxury tax level is $149 million for next season. The Sixers will have more than $140 million tied to 12 players if Harden chooses his $47.3 million player option or refuses to take a deep discount. And that $140 million doesn’t include Danny Green’s $10 million unsecured salary.

READ MORE: Can James Harden still be an elite goalscorer? Or is the Sixer just a facilitator? Daryl Morey won’t tell.

It has been reported that the Sixers are looking for a third star to partner with Embiid and Harden. The problem is if they do it through a sign and trade this summer or use their $4.1 million semi-annual exception or the $10.3 million mid-tier exception for non-taxpayers, they cannot exceed the luxury tax of $155.7 million. apron next season.

Next season’s cap for the No. 23 pick is $2.5 million. For salary cap flexibility, the Sixers better take a veteran minimum salary cap of $1.8 million.

As a result, the Sixers would likely have to trade the player selected at No. 23 or hide the player overseas if the Nets postpone the pick. They are prohibited from trading the pick until they have made their pick due to the Stepien Rule. The rule prevents teams from being without a first-round pick in consecutive drafts. Teams can, however, agree to a trade before the draft and select a prospect on behalf of another team.

Meanwhile, draft and hideout players are not uncommon at the Sixers. They selected Furkan Korkmaz with the 26th pick in the 2016 draft. The guard spent the 2016-17 season in Turkey before joining the Sixers as a rookie in 2017-18. Former Sixer Dario Šarić was another draft and stash player. The same goes for Filip Petrušev, whom the team selected with the 50th overall pick in the 2021 draft. He has spent this season playing in Turkey.

Perhaps the best thing about draft and stash selection is that they won’t count toward the Sixers’ cap until they physically play with the team.

READ MORE: Joel Embiid says Sixers need tougher players like PJ Tucker. They also need more from James Harden.

Every dollar will count for a Sixers team looking to add toughness to the roster. Miami Heat forward PJ Tucker would be a solid free agent option if he doesn’t pick up his $7.3 million option for next season.

Harden’s deadline to opt out of the final year of his contract is June 29. The start of free agency will be at 6 p.m. one day later. Assuming Harden opts for the final year of his contract, he will be eligible to sign a four-year extension on August 10. His contract could influence some of the Sixers’ other offseason moves.

That’s why there’s some intrigue with what the Nets decide to do with the pick.