Under The Bleachers: The End Of The Sam Hinkie Era

Above: Sam Hinkie steps down as Philadelphia 76ers GM
Above: Sam Hinkie steps down as Philadelphia 76ers GM

Sam Hinkie stepped down as the general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, turning in a 13-page resignation letter as the end of another miserable season in the “City of Brotherly Love” draws to a close.

Throughout his time at the helm, Hinkie and the Sixers told fans to “Trust the Process,” a means of suggesting the short-term struggles would be worth it once everything the team was building towards came together on the court. After winning 37 goals over Hinkie’s first two seasons, Philadelphia has managed to take another step back this year, having just picked up their 10th win of the season on Tuesday night.

“The Process” doesn’t seem to be working and rather than get fired at the end of the season or be pushed further down the front office hierarchy, Hinkie opted to walk, bringing one of the most polarizing periods in NBA history to a close.

But here’s the thing: Hinkie’s approach of being really bad for a couple seasons, stockpiling assets and building through the draft isn’t a bad approach; he just failed miserably when it came to making picks and surrounding those players with supporting pieces.

What if instead of trading to get Nerlens Noel and drafting Michael Carter-Williams in 2013, Hinkie swapped J’rue Holiday and picks for Giannis Antetokounmpo and selected C.J. McCollum?

What if the following season, instead of picking a second straight injured center, Joel Embiid, and landing Dario Saric at No. 12, the Sixers went with human pogo stick Aaron Gordon at No. 3 (he went fourth) and held on to Elfrid Payton to run the point?

And what if rather than picking a third consecutive big man in Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia used the third selection in the 2015 Draft to roll the dice on Kristaps Porzingis or stretched a little to grab a Swiss Army knife like Justise Winslow?

Things in Philly would like incredibly different if any one of those “what if” scenarios played out, not to mention two or even all three. Now add in some of the sneaky finds Hinkie did have during his tenure – like Jerami Grant or getting Robert Covington from Houston for peanuts – and you have an interesting young core with all kinds of upside. Mix in a few veterans that can help coach up the kids and you might be on to something.

The trouble is that Hinkie did none of that.

He kept doubling down on “The Process,” delaying improvement by taking injured players or guys like Saric that were destined to stay overseas for a couple more seasons. And rather than bring in established veterans to help the youngsters on the roster, they surrounded their young players with more young, inexperienced players, creating a culture of losing where the important early career lessons about how to be a pro weren’t being passed down on the practice court or in the dressing room.

The really crazy thing is that the vision Hinkie had for this team could still come together, just he won’t be around to see it.

As much as they have too many frontcourt pieces with Okafor, Embiid and Noel, all three have trade value if they choose to move one this offseason. Covington, Grant and Ish Smith make the start of a solid bench unit.

They’re going to have three first-round picks this year. Even in a somewhat thin draft, three first-round picks, including No. 1 or No. 2, should produce solid returns, plus they have an abundance of cap space should they shift gears and start looking to bring in free agents that can contribute right away.

Even without trading away the pieces they have now, this group, plus Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram and a free agent point guard (Hi there, Mike Conley!) suddenly becomes real interesting, especially if Saric comes over and that’s without making any other deals.

The on-court results sucked and some of the picks could have been better, but honestly, the Sixers are in better position going forward than a lot of other teams right now and in better shape than they were when Hinkie first walked in the door.

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance journalist based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where he lives with his wife and dog. In addition to his work here, he writes about sports for Complex Canada and covers the UFC for various outlets. His mom also still tells him what to do on a regular basis, even though he’s nearly 40. He tweets from @spencerkyte.

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