By Joe Yamulla || Sports Editor
The man behind the Philadelphia 76ers’ controversial draft process has officially stepped down. Last week, Sam Hinkie decided to resign his position of General Manager and leader of the Sixers’ front office. If you aren’t a Philadelphia sports fan, or a follower of the NBA, I can sum up Sam Hinkie’s approach pretty quickly. The NBA is an extremely competitive league, and landing some successful draft picks could turn a last place franchise into a contender in two seasons. Hinkie, instead of fighting the seesaw of mediocrity, decided to go full-out rebuild, and collect enough draft picks and assets to turn the Sixers into a force in the East. The process was good in its intentions, but it was extremely behind schedule and painful to watch. Hinkie is gone, and for many (including myself) it’s a “thank God” reaction. Yet, there are few who are disgruntled and frustrated to see one of the most unique GMs in sports go. I’ll highlight a bit on both arguments, but Sam Hinkie’s process was out of control and an absolutely dagger to the organization and the city of Philadelphia.
Sam Hinkie was hired after the debacle known as the Andrew Bynum trade in 2012. The Sixers had the brilliant idea to trade Andre Igoudala, ship out most of their core, and go all out with the Lakers center Bynum. Bynum was a stud, a star actually. But the man had glass knees. Philadelphia molded their team around him, and brought in sharp shooters Nick Young and Dorrell Wright. Bynum never played a game, and the Sixers franchise was in limbo. Sam Hinkie got hired as the team’s GM in 2013, and made the smart decision to clean house. All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday was sent to New Orleans. Thad Young was sent away, as well as other players like Nik Vucevic. Hinkie drafted Michael Carter-Williams out of Syracuse, and Nerlens Noel (who tore his ACL) out of Kentucky. In 2013, the process began and the Sixers were ready for a hard year of rebuilding with an extremely young team.
To the lovers of the process, this was a breath of fresh air. They saw the team making smart and affordable moves to become dominant in a few years. Believers in Hinkie felt that his ways were genius, and that going full-board asset collection was the only way to win. To an extent, this is very true. A team needs to get a young nucleus of guys in the draft, clear cap space, and then look to maybe make a splash in free agency. I believe in this process, but Hinkie ran his ship to an extreme.
For three straight seasons, Sam Hinkie put teams on the court that were so bad it’s criminal. He built the roster around some young 20 year-old athletic kids out of their freshman years in college, and un-drafted free agents that had no business wearing an NBA uniform. It wasn’t the players’ fault, and it for sure was not head coach Brett Brown’s fault. Let’s face it, compared to NBA standards, the Sixers just stink. Then, once we saw some glimmer of hope in rookie of the year Carter-Williams, Hinkie and his mad scientist brain thought it was a brilliant idea to trade him to Milwaukee because his shooting wasn’t progressing the way that fit his hopes for the process.
Carter-Williams is a gifted 6-6” point guard and the last Sixers rookie of the year since the city’s beloved hero Allen Iverson. But, Hinkie didn’t like how he fit with the Sixers, so just like the rest of the talent in Philly, he was sent out the door.
Then, Hinkie used his next draft pick in 2014 on another injured player. The Sixers selected Joel Embiid. It’s 2016 now, and Embiid still hasn’t played a game due to injury. Then he drafted Dario Saric, who won’t be able to come over to play in Philly until next season. In 2015, he drafted Jahlil Okafor, but wasted the remainder of his picks on bizarre foreign big men that turned into draft and stash assets. All this added up to the Sixers winning 19 games, then 18, and now this season only an embarrassing 10 wins. This isn’t rebuilding, and this is no process to believe in. This is sheer stupidity by Sam Hinkie, thinking that getting assets and draft picks will turn into wins. It’s not rebuilding, it is straight up season tanking and then expecting the city of Philadelphia to take it.
Hinkie was flawed in that he was beyond all levels of extreme, but he was just wrong. Getting a number one overall pick doesn’t always translate to success. Paul George is a superstar, and he was drafted 10th in 2010 by the Pacers. The Sixers second overall pick, Evan Turner, turned into nothing more than a solid role player. A rebuilding process should show signs of improvement every year. The Minnesota Timberwolves are a great example of a successful rebuilding team. They went from being worse than the Sixers two years ago, to a solid and competitive team out West now. Instead, the Sixers got worse. Hinkie turned fans off, and deterred all free agents away from even giving Philadelphia a brief consideration. Keep in mind, Philadelphia is a top five market in America. It is a passionate sports town that should never be seen as a place where careers go to die.
The Sixers are placing their hopes of success in the hands of Jerry and Bryan Colangelo now. It’s smart that a basketball organization is now being run by basketball minds, not math minds. At the end of the day, this isn’t an equation. These players are people, and looking at them as assets or numbers just does not and will not ever work. It’s been tough watching the Sixers be beaten down, embarrassed, and blown out of the building for three years now. The franchise deserves better, and the fans deserve better. It was time for Hinkie to go. His plan was a disaster and a nightmare I’m glad to have finally woken up from. At least the 76ers will never put a Hinkie roster back out there on the court after this awful season ends.
I finally have some high hopes for the organization. Hinkie had a grand idea of making the Sixers a championship team and I respect that. I appreciate his hopes to make Philadelphia the next Oklahoma City and fill it with superstars. The problem was, he just didn’t know how to do it. He had no clue where he was taking the team, and he didn’t know when it was time to stop making moves for the never-ending future. Fortunately, he’s gone before the organization completely self-destructs. The process era was memorable, it wasn’t fun, and I’m glad it is finally over. Now I can finally believe in the future for that team I somehow still love, the Philadelphia 76ers.
Sophomore Joe Yamulla is the sports editor. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org