That is the question…. Or at least that was the question that
Josh Harris and his group asked themselves when considering whether or not to
hire Sam Hinkie as the new General Manager of the Philadelphia 76ers in May of
Hinkie laid out the plan to management during the hiring
process. It was unique and something that had never actually been done before.
When was the last time a team publicly admitted to throwing away seasons, for
the purpose of adding draft picks, young players, and cap flexibility for the
In a hyper competitive league such as the NBA throwing away
games to this degree sounds like lunacy, but what about the infamous “Treadmill of Mediocrity”,
that a lot of NBA teams dread? You can’t find yourself stuck in the middle. You
either want to be a young developing team, or a Championship contender.
The Sixers were on that Treadmill for 5 years prior to
Hinkie’s arrival, something had to be done; something had to be fixed, so why
not try something that no other team has had the guts to do intentionally? It
was a clear vision that someone had for the team for the first time in a while,
and while it was generally labeled as a 4-5 year plan, the fans certainly
understood and were able to embrace that vision.
Ownership, was initially willing to go along with that
vision as well and at least see it through. Yes it would be painful losing
countless games, yes it would be painful always being in the lottery, but it was
a case of “investing in the future” as Hinkie laid out in a leaked 13 page
letter of resignation, after he stepped from the General Manager position this
In year three of this plan (known as The Process among Sixer fans) Hinkie resigned from the position. The perpetual losing eventually
wilted away at ownership, Harris brought in Jerry Colangelo as the President of
Basketball operations in December to give more of a “basketball voice” instead
of sticking with Hinkie’s vision. It got worse (as mapped out in this report byYahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski) as ownership wanted to bring on additional voices
to “help” Hinkie and his vision as the team was building towards the future,
and he saw the writing on the wall. The 76ers had actually hoped Hinkie would stay, but he decided it was time to move on.
There have been many hot takes on what the 76ers have been
doing for the past three seasons, and it baffles me how misguided most of the
opinions are on the whole “Tanking” subject. I hear comments such as “Sam
Hinkie has/had no idea what he is/was doing as a GM” “His win-loss record has
been terrible as General Manager” and I just question whether or not anyone
understood what Hinkie was actually trying to accomplish.
Was The Process a full proof plan? No, there isn’t a “full
proof” plan when it comes to professional sports, and The Process in my
opinion, did have some chinks in the armor. Hinkie, did lack a human element to
building a team and he reportedly had less connectivity than most NBA
executives would in a multi-billion dollar business, in terms of relationships
with player’s agents etc. There are fair criticisms, however, despite clear intentions that were put on
display for the public to know from the beginning, most of the pundits still
criticized and blasted the Process, without even as much as an attempt to put
things in its proper context.
There were quite a few things I took away from reading
Hinkie’s 13 page letter of resignation, (besides the History and Economy
lessons he sprinkled in throughout the letter) but more importantly it only
strengthened my belief that most of the critics had no idea how to put the
intentional tanking in perspective
Hinkie by all accounts is well respected around the NBA as a
smart man, and Sixer fans got a glimpse of just how smart Hinkie is when
reading the resignation letter he crafted for ownership (that somehow
leaked online). Above all the quotes, from Abraham Lincoln, Warren Buffet,
Elon Musk and Walter White (kidding on the last one), you got a glimpse of a
mapped out vision he presented to ownership when he was first interviewed for
He broke down his thought process into multiple sections,
Innovation, Intellectual Humility, having a Contrarian View, and then he went
on to do a victory lap listing the number of draft picks he has acquired during
his time as GM, and some of the young players he has accumulated. He even went
on to remind ownership (and fans) that before his arrival, the 76ers traded
away their young talent (Moe Harkless and Nikola Vucevic) and their first round
pick in a three team trade for Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson in 2012. That
trade was so bad that the only thing exciting about Bynum’s time in
Philadelphia was figuring out what ridiculous hair style he’d come up with next…
as he sat in a suit on the bench because of injury.
You can't say that it wasn't entertaining....
The part that I think irks 76er fans about the timing of
Hinkie’s departure is that this upcoming off-season was supposed to be Hinkie's make
or break year to cash in on the assets that he's been stockpiling.
The 76ers have the potential to get FOUR first round draft picks for this upcoming draft, including a
solid chance to land two of the top four lottery picks (as well as two pick
swaps with The Kings and Warriors). Dario Šaric is also supposed to come from
oversees to make his NBA debut in the 2016-2017 season, along with the 3rd
overall pick from the 2014 draft, Joel Embiid, who has yet to play because of
multiple surgeries on his right foot. “Replenishing
the pipeline of talent” was always one of Hinkie’s pet phrases when he held his
pressers, and after this upcoming draft, that pipeline will still send the Sixers
17 more draft picks over the next 5 NBA drafts.
Though I’d make the occasional “Ponzi Scheme” joke among my friends, I typically leaned towards Team Hinkie, while also realizing that
he has had some bumps in the road during the Process, but I got it. Sixer fans
got it. We want to win, we want to be a respected title contender again, and
Hinkie wanted to try a method to get us out of mediocrity and give us the best
chance to form a young core (Like the Timberwolves, or the Thunder in 2010) to
eventually compete for a championship. Ownership was with this plan initially
but eventually the dark side of the NBA Business prevailed.
I, along with other Sixer fans think Hinkie deserved at
least one more year to see this through.
Head Coach Brett Brown certainly thought so.
Instead of Hinkie reaping the fruits of bottoming out the
roster, now, newly appointed GM Bryan Colangelo will get to play with the cache
Hinkie left behind, thanks to his Daddy, Jerry.
Bryan Colangelo (who was the Raptors GM/President from 2006-2013)
is the same man who paid Hedo Türkoglu a 5 year 55 million dollar deal in 2009,
and shelled out a 4 year 24 million dollar deal for Jason Kapono in 2007. He
also traded his first round pick for a past-his-prime Jermaine O’neal. Sure,
Bryan has had some shining moments (2x executive of the year award, though both of those can be disputed), but look at his history and the context
behind his decisions, and you’ll see a trade happy mad-man who is willing to give
up future draft picks for mid-level players as well as overpay for veterans,
just to be a “respectable” team. A fear many Sixer fans have now with this
This situation reminded me a little bit of a Boondocks episode
(bare with me here) that I recently re-watched with a buddy. Huey Freeman was put in
charge of directing a 3rd grade Christmas play, and at first, he
bottomed out the talent, much like Hinkie did with the Sixers, and he “fired”
every 3rd grader involved in the play.
He went on to hire big-time actors, producers, and composers
for the play to match his “vision”, only to have his vision high-jacked by corporate
executives who wanted to "change" some things in the script. Huey then decided
to step-down as the play’s main director saying “Just do whatever you have to
do to put on the play tomorrow, but take my name off it, it won’t be my vision”.
At the end of the episode Huey’s third grade teacher ultimately decided to
display the play in Huey’s original “vision”.
This is almost exactly what happened to Hinkie, unfortunately
we won’t truly get to see the final product of his vision, because there is no telling
what the Colangelos might do to screw up the stock of goods that was left for them. If you couldn’t stomach the tanking fine, but the Colangelos, especially
Bryan, is not the answer.
Cheers Sixer fans. There is a chance we could be heading for
more years of mediocrity.