Critics of Philadelphia 76ers/Sam Hinkie Continue to Look Foolish


If you’ve read my work on this site in the over two years that I have been here, you know that I don’t give any of the Philadelphia teams passes on anything. I think Chip Kelly is a very good coach, but the #InChipWeTrust thing, which suggests that Kelly can do no wrong as a coach or in the front-office, annoys me. And my criticisms of the entire Phillies’ front-office and Ryne Sandberg have been well documented. I don’t pull any punches or hold back when I believe something about the Philadelphia teams.

That said, I really believe in what Sam Hinkie and the Sixers are doing currently, and last night’s lottery results made me an even stronger believer.

Of course nationally (and from a few locally) there were mixed reactions about the team landing the number three pick, though those takes tended to be poorly-researched, illogical responses.

It’s true that the Sixers have tanked for two seasons and aren’t guaranteed to leave either of those years with a superstar. Beyond that, two of the main criticisms of Hinkie and the Sixers plan have been foolish, to say the least.

“They only draft injured players.”

In the 2013 NBA Draft, the beginning of the Sam Hinkie era, the Sixers traded Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans for the rights to Nerlens Noel and the Pelicans’ 2014 first-round pick. Had Noel not blown his knee out, he unquestionably would have been the first player selected in the draft. He probably should have been anyway.

Regardless, Noel sat out one season. Then after sitting out that one season he debuted this past year, and though he got off to a slow start, had a tremendous rookie season. Not only was he a first-team all-rookie selection, but he became just the second rookie since 1946-47 to average over 1.5 steals and blocks per game. The other? Hall of Famer David Robinson.

Also, keep in mind, the Sixers traded Holiday for Noel and the pick, and Holiday has only played 74 total games over the past two seasons. Noel missed the entire 2013-14 season and has played in 75 total games over that same period.

In addition the Sixers also landed what turned out to be the 10th overall pick in this same trade. Knowing what we know now, I would have traded Holiday for Noel’s rights straight-up.

The Sixers used that 10th pick to draft Elfrid Payton, who they traded to the Magic for Dario Saric (who at the very least, was a better prospect) and a 2017 first-round draft pick.

So explain to me how Sam Hinkie didn’t fleece the Pelicans?

Joel Embiid, a season later, was taken with the third overall pick and ended up missing the entire 2014-15 season as he recovered from surgery on his navicular bone.

Embiid, widely considered the best prospect in the draft, was taken because he was worth the risk, and there wasn’t another obvious player to take at that spot. Some, at the time, suggested that the Sixers should have taken Australian point-guard Dante Exum instead. In Exum’s first season with the Jazz, he started 41 games and averaged a whopping 4.8 points-per-game.

Will Embiid be able to stay healthy in the long-run? Who knows. Big men and foot injuries don’t tend to pair well together — ask Yao Ming — but each case can be different and rehab and re-injury prevention methods can rapidly change.

Many scouts felt that Embiid was the second best prospect that had been in the draft this decade, with only Anthony Davis being more highly touted, so to take a chance with him at the third spot was smart. Superstars win championships in the NBA (one of the few sports cliches that is actually true), and if you have the chance to land one with the third pick, there are very few times where the risk wouldn’t be worth the possible reward.

“Sam Hinkie got one good player and traded him away.”

Uh, yeah.

The 2015 NBA Draft was always supposed to be one littered with talented big-men and Emmanuel Mudiay. Though Mudiay playing a limited number of games in China has made him a relative unknown, D’Angelo Russell’s emergence as an elite prospect made it more clear that if you are a bad team that needs a franchise point-guard, 2015 is the year to fix that.

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I wrote last summer that that 2014-15 would be a make-or-break year for both Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel, because the Sixers were likely to have another top-five pick with a draft heavy in the positions that they both play. The front-office apparently felt that Carter-Williams’ lack of improvement shooting the ball, mixed with the fact that he didn’t seem to have great chemistry with Noel, meant that they could do better at point-guard.

So it shouldn’t have really come as a shock that the team moved on from Carter-Williams. It was surprising that they did so in-season, but the Sixers got a very good offer for him and capitalized. Last night’s lottery results didn’t help the value of that pick, but it will still probably be a pick in the top half of the first-round next year.

In the meantime, the front-office didn’t settle on a point-guard that they didn’t think was good enough to win them a championship. Is Carter-Williams a good NBA player? Of course. Was he the right point-guard to lead this team to a championship? Well, probably not. If you are going to build your team around two talented big-man, having a point-guard who doesn’t shoot well and isn’t getting along with one of them on-court, doesn’t make a ton of sense.

Gary Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times even suggested last week that the Bucks aren’t necessarily committed to Carter-Williams, probably because they are noticing similar flaws in his game.

"One might imagine the Bucks are set at the point-guard position, especially after making a midseason trade for Michael Carter-Williams and Tyler Ennis.There are some NBA officials, though, who contend the Bucks aren’t totally sold on Carter-Williams, just like they weren’t completely sold on Brandon Knight, whom they dealt to Phoenix in the deal in February."

It’s hard to imagine if they moved him this summer or sometime in the future they would get better value than Hinkie did.

Might the pick the Sixers acquired not turn out to produce a player better than Carter-Williams? Maybe not, but if they end up with a better point-guard and didn’t settle for someone they didn’t think was good enough, then so be it. That pick could still produce someone who contributes to the team in the long-run as well.


So I’m left throwing my hands up at critics of Hinkie. The plan hasn’t succeeded yet, but it looks as though it’s heading more in that direction than one that would lead you to think it wasn’t.

Keep in mind, the Sixers have a ridiculous amount of cap-room to add a supporting cast and even other stars around the core that they are building through the draft. They also own a possbile six first-round picks in the next three-drafts, leading you to think they if they don’t hit on every draft pick, they’ll be alright.

It’s gotten to the point where if you don’t like how Hinkie and the Sixers are going about building the team, that’s one thing. One could argue that the NBA has set themselves up for something like this, but that’s neither here nor there. The reality of the situation is that Sam Hinkie isn’t some loon just throwing darts at a board and simply acquiring ‘assets’– he’s a first time General Manager who appears to be taking an approach that will set his team up for sustained success.

Next: Sixers Rumors: Sam Hinkie Only GM to Watch Emmanuel Mudiay