Before last night’s NBA Draft, 76ers fans didn’t know much about new general manager Sam Hinkie. We knew that he had a background in analytics, but it wasn’t clear what that meant in terms of how he was going to build the Sixers.
Apparently, we should have paid attention to how his former team operated. Hinkie was the assistant GM for the Houston Rockets. Under his watch, the Rockets missed the playoffs for three straight seasons while they stockpiled assets and cleared cap space. Last season, armed with a slew of tradable assets and unburdened by overpriced contracts, they were able to acquire Jeremy Lin and James Harden, and are now one of the favorites to sign Dwight Howard.
The Rockets were willing to sacrifice a few seasons in order to build a legitimate championship contender. If last night’s moves were any indication, Hinkie is taking the same approach with the Sixers.
The Sixers could have drafted the best available big man in last night’s draft, and then gone after Josh Smith in free agency. Those moves likely would have been enough to get the team back into the playoffs. But would it have realistically gotten them any closer to winning a championship?
Instead, Hinkie’s biggest move was to trade point guard Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans. Of all the players on the 2012-2013 76ers, Holiday seemed the most likely to return. He was considered the team’s best player, and after making the All-Star team in his fourth season, Holiday looked like a player the team could build around.
In hindsight, I’m not sure if Holiday was actually that good, or if the team just overhyped him because there weren’t many other bright spots on a mediocre-at-best team. (For those of you unfortunate enough to have been exposed to the Washington Nationals, I like to call this phenomenon “Ryan Zimmerman Syndrome.”)
Hinkie’s motivation for trading Holiday was likely due to some combination of these three factors:
- Hinkie wasn’t that optimistic about Holiday’s future and thought he’d ultimately be a good player who would be paid like a star. If a team wants to win a championship, it is crucial to avoid having too many of these types on the roster.
- Holiday’s presence might have caused the Sixers to be just good enough to avoid a high draft pick in what appears to be a loaded 2014 draft.
- Hinkie really liked what he got in return.
In exchange for Holiday, the Sixers received New Orleans’ first round pick in the 2014 draft, and the draft rights to Kentucky center Nerlens Noel.
A year ago, Noel was rated as the top high school player entering college, and many suspected he’d be the top pick in the draft. His freshman season was shortened due to an ACL injury, which presumably caused his draft position to slip.
Noel is an exceptionally athletic player who excels at shot blocking, but he needs to add bulk and has some deficiencies on the offensive end. My optimism is tempered because that description sounds eerily similar to former Sixer Samuel Dalembert. It’s also a bit concerning when a player who relies on athleticism suffers a major knee injury.
Noel wasn’t the only prominent new addition. Later in the first round, the Sixers used their own pick to draft Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams. “MCW” is considered a “pass-first” point guard who has exceptional size and good athleticism.
Williams’ biggest weakness is his shooting. Then again, Jason Kidd wasn’t regarded as a great shooter either. If Williams can get to the rim and set up others for easy points, a sub par shooting stroke can be tolerated.
While Noel and Williams will hopefully develop into productive players, neither is expected to become a franchise player. So it seems that Hinkie’s real goal last night was to set up for next year’s draft.
The 2014 draft is expected to be loaded with talent, and projected top pick Andrew Wiggins is expected to be the type of player that a championship team can be built around. The Sixers have already gained an additional first round pick (albeit one that is “top five protected”) and without Holiday on the roster, the Sixers’ performance next season is likely to earn them a high draft position.
The 2013-2014 season might be tough for Sixers fans to watch, but in the end, the goal is to win a championship. If Hinkie’s plan does ultimately pay off, one lost season will seem like a small price to pay.
In conclusion, here are some other positives and negatives for the Sixers after last night:
- Noel sports a high top fade. I am super excited about rooting for a guy with a high top fade.
- Next year’s lottery drawing will likely be very exciting for Sixers fans.
- Tickets for the 2013-2014 season should be readily available.
- I am not a fan of hyphenated names, so I am less excited about the selection of Carter-Williams.
- The Sixers best offensive player next season might be Spencer Hawes.
- Any time a draft pick makes me think of Sam Dalembert, I get a little worried.
- Sixers fans probably won’t be receiving too many Big Macs next season.