The moment the Philadelphia 76ers hired Jerry Colangelo to an unspecified role, it was clear Sam Hinkie wasn’t going to last for much longer. The great tanking experiment is over, but it doesn’t mean the rebuilding process is ditched, or that good times are waiting just around the corner for Hinkie.
We’ll begin with Hinkie, who got the job in 2013 and since then the Sixers have won a total of 37 games, although this season isn’t over yet. He stripped the team apart from every viable asset, loading up on draft picks, and set out on his way to create a championship contender. While some defending him said the Sixers were never the worst team in the NBA in the first two years of the Hinkie era, this season they’re by far worse than anyone.
Without analyzing every single move Hinkie made, the overall feeling from his “process” with the full support of the team’s owners until the NBA kind of twisted their arm to ditch the losing, was that it’s all based on luck. Hinkie might be a Stanford grad who worked under Daryl Morey (we’re seeing how well it’s going in Houston this season…), but the analytical approach hasn’t been helping. He used the team’s high picks on three big men: Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid. The Sixers waited one year for Noel to recover from an injury. He’s a good defensive player, but very limited offensively. You can say the opposite about Okafor. Embiid? He’s going to be two seasons removed from his last basketball game when the next NBA season begins.
Hinkie wasn’t fired, he resigned, giving a 13-page letter as his resignation manifest. He quoted people from all walks of life like billionaire investor Warren Buffett and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. What was his point? Probably that he was doing a good job, or at least what was asked of him, and should have been given the chance to carry on losing while stockpiling draft picks and ignoring the free agency market. Who knows, maybe this was the year he was finally going to start signing players, if anyone was willing to play there anymore.
The big problem for the Sixers going forward is that they’re starting almost from scratch. Yes, there are very few players on the team you consider as valuable pieces for the franchise going forward. And even if Embiid does start playing and well, they’re going to have to trade him, Noel or Okafor, and not on a very high value.
Then there’s who is coming in next: Bryan Colangelo. The son of Jerry Colangelo. Which suddenly feels like everything was orchestrated so Colangelo jr. could get a general manager job again. He didn’t succeed in Toronto, and it’s been a very long time since the good things he did in Phoenix happened. Nepotism? Or picking the right man for the job? Time will tell, but the way everything is happening for the Sixers, from the league forcing them to ditch the process and from Jerry Colangelo taking over from within, it doesn’t feel very proffesional.
There’s a big argument among Sixers fans, amongst themselves and with others around the league, whether or not Hinkie leaving is good. It tells the story of how opinions differ regarding what is a good rebuilding process and how long should it take. Whether luck is something to be avoided when calculating factors, or is it always something that helps teams, regardless of the process they’ve chosen.
Personally, I hate seeing what the Sixers did – not just one year of losing only to come back next year (Celtics for example), but stripping the team down completely, and then entering some sort of limbo that never ends unless the man calling the shots sees the one, perfect opportunity to improve. It could take years. Maybe even a decade. Some think it’s worth the wait if the other option is mediocrity at best. Others, probably the majority, want to see their team actually trying to improve and show some progress instead of keep throwing promises around while getting gradually worse.