At this point, after more than a decade of being fans of a team that is an afterthought in the NBA, I think we can all agree that the Sixers, possibly more than any team in the league, needed a new fresh approach. Enter Sam Hinkie, the new Sixers president/GM. The man, that was second in command in one of the most controversial front offices in the past decade - the Houston Rockets. And when I say controversial, I don't mean that in a negative way in the slightest. But he and Morey, with their new-age statistical approach, did turn a lot of heads around the league over the years, and their results didn't really help either side (pro-stats and old-school), as the Rockets made some brilliant moves, but also remained mediocre for a long time.
So here we are, trying to embrace the fact that things will change in the next few years. But how will the team change exactly? Let's look at what the Rockets did during the 2007-2013 period (after Hinkie was promoted to vice president of basketball operations), or at least sum the most important transactions up (All of Houston's transactions in Morey's reign can be found here). To put some context into the Rockets situation, they were a borderline contender with aging stars with extremely fragile health in Yao and McGrady when Morey took over and promoted Hinkie. So essentially, they soon realized they needed to fully rebuild the team, with very little in terms of assets. The situation pretty much couldn't have been worse. The current Sixers situation is not that much better.
In free agency they signed 4 prominent names over the years: Francis, Ariza, Asik and Lin. While the earlier signees (Ariza and Francis) bombed rather spectacularly, the recent ones proved to be great value. Asik clearly outplayed his contract last year, whereas Lin underperformed a little bit on the court but made the team a lot of money off it, so I consider him a good signing for the organization.
In the draft, they've been mostly hit and miss. They haven't been great in the first round, drafting some average or not yet proven guys such as Brooks, Patterson, Morris, Jones, White and Lamb. In the second round, however, they've been able to find some real gems such as Parsons, Budinger, and Landry. They've been heavily involved in draft day trades and trades involving draft picks, perhaps more than any other team. For the most part they've treated draft picks as assets.
They've been extremely active on the trade front. This is the area where the Rockets have clearly been most successful turning average players and fringe assets into better assets or players. They've made multiple trades of average players for 1st round picks, as well as trades in which they ended up getting the best player available by far (Harden, Martin, Dragic, Scola) using various lesser assets. My favorite Morey/Hinkie trade is the one with the Suns where they traded Brooks for Dragic AND a first round pick. Brooks eventually went back to Houston on a 10 day contract and the Suns overpayed to get Dragic back in free agency. The Rockets got a 1st round pick for free.
All in all, they've been extremely successful on the trade front, creative with mixed results in free agency and bad drafting in the first round, but great at drafting in the second round.
It has to be noted, that we don't really know how Hinkie will actually lead this team, and what his plan is. We will never know of which decisions Hinkie agreed or disagreed with Morey. We can however guess, what he is going to do based on the Rockets past, and this post is exactly that - an educated guess, so take it for what it is.
So having all this in mind, I created a list of what we can expect from the Sixers in the following years:
1. Players and draft picks will be treated as assets
- Welcome to the world of Joshua Harris. No more emotion and gut, just cold hard facts. Don't get attached to any player, because he might get traded tomorrow for "better" assets.
2. The team will not truly tank
- Nothing in Morey's (Hinkie's) history suggests the team might tank. Was it because that's their philosophy or because the Rockets owner never allowed tanking? Did Harris hire Hinkie because he comes from a team based in a similar market with similar goals (rebuilding towards contention without tanking)? We will find out soon enough, but the history says, forget about Lucy and bury it for a long long time.
3. Performance/cost will be the key stat used in the compilation of players
- Harris hinted at looking at $/wins in his exit interview and Hinkie's hire demonstrates the direction Harris wants to take the team i.e. cheap role players, tradeable contracts, flexibility...
4. Acquiring stars needs to be the ultimate goal
- The Rockets learned the hard way how difficult it is to win without stars. They've put themselves in the prime position to pounce year after year with a ton of assets at their disposal and eventually got one in Harden. Hinkie just started tasting the rewards and will certainly want more in Philly.
5. Heavy use of the D League
- The Rockets have sent and called a host of players from the D League. 10 day contracts are a regular occurrence with them. Expect the same for the Sixers. Very few of those players actually amount to something but anything is certainly better than nothing.
6. Finding gems in the second round of the draft
- Waiting for the next Parsons or Budinger to be drafted with one of those two second rounders in this 2013 draft.
7. Bad drafting in the first round
- It's probably mostly as a result of treating the picks as assets instead of trying to grab the best future talent (or even player for their own team), but the Rockets track record suggests the next Sixers star won't be coming through the draft. Why couldn't Harris let DiLeo be GM and do the draft, while give power over final say in the organization to Hinkie as the president of basketball operations. My mind would've been at peace...
8. Trading cash for 2nd round picks
- Is this even possible? Why have the Sixers never bought a pick? Why...
9. Heavy use of the so called second draft (high draft picks that have fallen out of favor in their first 2-3 years)
- Can't wait for Hinkie to announce the acquisition of Derrick Williams, Austin Rivers, Wesley Johnnson and Jan Vesely. Anyone else excited? He'd probably spend a heavily protected second rounder. The same one for all of them over and over again.
10. Playing the probabilities
- The decision sometimes will be great and sometimes will backfire. The ultimate result over time will inevitably be positive. The question is: Will Hinkie be part of the organization long enough to experience it?
11. No bidding against yourself
- No more Dalambert, Brand, Hawes, Kwame... even Iguodala. Let other teams dictate the price. The flip side is the Sixers will lose a nice player one day when a team gives him a poison pill contract. But at least the team won't have grossly overpayed players. The days of ridiculous contracts to non-factors are gone.
12. Fast pace, offensive minded players and lots and lots of three pointers
- Turning one of the perennially slowest teams into a fast paced team will be a very difficult job for the chosen coach. Anything less than a very good offense will be considered an underachievement, considering offensive statistical gems are far easier to find than defensive ones. For reference look at the Rockets roster. Oh yeah, and you better get used to long threes early in the shot clock than mid range jumpers late in it.
13. Bye, bye Bynum
- He was burned by injury prone stars, not once but twice before with Yao and McGrady. You can make the case for Martin as well who was injured most of the time. I expect Hinkie to cut ties with Bynum, but he will definitely try to squeeze as much as possible out of him in terms of assets. Does that mean a sign and trade in the summer or signing him first and trading him at the trade deadline or next summer? We'll see. But I seriously doubt hiring Hinkie means Bynum will be a Sixer long term. This is however the most difficult decision to project going forward.
Overall, I view this hire extremely positively. Not everything will go according to plan, but at least you'll know that the men running the organization are probably smarter than you, their work is based on facts and will be ready for any chance to make a splash that will come the Sixers way - or any NBA teams way really. Prepare yourselves, because we are all in for a wild ride. A ride that will be so not-Sixers. And at the very least, it's GONNA BE FUN!!!