Sixers Fans Should Be Mad

Posted: 04/10/2016 by levcohen in Basketball

Three years ago, the Philadelphia 76ers, a year removed from the disastrous Andrew Bynum trade (they dealt Andre Iguodala, a first round pick, Moe Harkless, and Nikola Vucevic for Bynum, who never played for the team), cleaned house and hired Sam Hinkie to be their new GM. Hinkie’s plan and goals were immediately clear. He thought that the team, which seemed on track to barely make or miss the playoffs for years to come, needed to rebuild. The nucleus of Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, and Spencer Hawes just wasn’t going to cut it. So Hinkie told the owners that he thought the team needed to bottom out and go into asset-collection mode, and the owners gave him free reign. The pushback, mainly from national media, was immediate. First, there were complaints that Hinkie was taking too long to hire a coach. He ended up hiring Brett Brown, the perfect head coach for a rebuilding team at the time. Then came the first draft night. The Sixers traded Holiday for the sixth pick in the draft (Nerlens Noel) and a first rounder the next year (Dario Saric), a deal that should be described as a heist. Then, they took Michael Carter-Williams with the 11th pick in the draft, and MCW subsequently won rookie of the year. So that’s how Hinkie’s short tenure started. Since that first draft, pretty much every single move Hinkie’s made has been a slam dunk. Trading Carter-Williams for a first round pick from the Lakers? Bingo. That pick is worth a ton, while MCW’s career has taken a turn for the worse. Stealing Nick Stauskas and a first round pick from the Kings? Getting first rounders from the Heat and Thunder without needing to trade anything? Great moves. As a result of Hinkie’s wheeling-and-dealing, the Sixers are in a spot that’s undeniably better than they were when the GM took over. The “assets” I listed above (Jrue, Turner, Young, Hawes) are all gone. In return, the Sixers have Noel, Saric, Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid, and as many as four first round picks this year. Will they be good next year? Probably not, but the foundation is clearly being built. Additionally, Brown is universally thought to be a good coach, one who’s kept three under-talented teams together. Why, then, was Hinkie forced out the door?

Ownership has said that they didn’t want Hinkie to leave and that they were surprised that the GM stepped down. I think that’s code for saying that they weren’t brave enough to fire Hinkie, because they can’t have been surprised that he stepped down. When ownership hired Jerry Colangelo to be their chairman in December, it was clear that they were starting to turn away from Hinkie. Colangelo, really, has to be considered the villain of this story. For two years, Hinkie had run a tight ship. Everything the Sixers did was kept quiet. But as soon as Colangelo came in, reports started to float around about Hinkie becoming the “Director of Analytics.” As if Colangelo even knows what analytics are. Worst of all, this. Anyway, the former Suns executive has gotten what he wanted. Hinkie’s out, and now he has control. And guess what? Remember when Hinkie was criticized about being too diligent in hiring his coach? Let’s just say that it’s impossible to make the same critique of Colangelo, who seems likely to hire his son Bryan within the next few days. Yes, his son is the guy who took Andrea Bargnani with the first pick in the draft.

More than anything, Hinkie was a victim of bad luck. Two seasons ago, he missed out on Andrew Wiggins at the top of the draft and instead took Embiid, a center who was clearly the best available player but who has yet to play a game. Last year, both Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell were gone by the third pick, so Hinkie again had to draft the best available guy, Jahlil Okafor. Had Philadelphia gotten Wiggins or Towns or Russell and/or Embiid had gotten healthy, I find it hard to believe that Hinkie would be gone. As it is, I feel like I’ve wasted three years of investment into this team and into this process only to see it terminated right when we were about to see results. It’s a crime that Hinkie wasn’t allowed to have even this summer to see his process out. This, really, was supposed to be the climax of the process, when the Sixers would use their three or four picks to pick players who would turn the team around. Now? They’ll still have the picks, but I have a lot less confidence that they’ll do the right things with them than if Hinkie were still at the helm.

Look: I still find it hard to believe that the Sixers won’t be a really good team within the next few years. Hinkie’s done a great job of generating assets for the team, and the Sixers will also have heaps of money to work with come free agency. But the question now is: do I even want them to be good? I certainly don’t want the Colangelos getting the credit for Sam Hinkie’s work. So when Philadelphia gets good, and when they have Ben Simmons and Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid and Dario Saric leading them to championships, let’s just remember that it was Hinkie, and not Colangelo and Son, who got us here. For the time being, I recommend boycotting anything Sixers-related for some time, because that’s really the only way fans can be heard. It’s unrealistic to expect people to become fans of different teams, but there are other ways we can voice our displeasure towards ownership, which has returned the Sixers to the dysfunctional days of Tony DiLeo and Doug Collins. When the Sixers hired Hinkie, I really thought they were turning the corner and moving forward with an actual plan. Now, they’ve just ruined all of that.


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