Leading up the 2013 draft, we did not hear much of anything from new 76ers General Manager Sam Hinkie. No interviews, tips, or leads on what direction the Sixers would go on draft night. He kept his cards close to his chest.
Then on draft night, shortly after Nerlens Noel was drafted sixth overall by the New Orleans Pelicans, a report was released that he had been traded to the Sixers along with a top-5 protected 2014 1st round pick in exchange for Jrue Holiday.
There it was. The first move Sam Hinkie made as the Sixers general manager was trading the all-star, franchise point guard for a player who had not yet recovered from an ACL injury. He then drafted a slim 6'6 point guard out of Syracuse who scouts did not think had a chance to be thrive and be a top point guard at the next level. All Sixer fans were shocked by this and no one saw this coming at all. Thus, the draft was Part I of Sam Hinkie: He Came, He Saw, He Tanked. We learned two important things about Sam Hinkie on draft night that still hold true.
1. Sam Hinkie has a plan to build a contender in Philadelphia and he will stick to his rebuilding plan no matter what people think about it.
2. Only Sam Hinkie knows what Sam Hinkie is going to do next. There were no leads of who the Sixers were considering taking going into the draft and certainly no talk of trading Jrue Holiday. That means when it is quiet you know Hinkie is working on something.
Fast forward to February 19, 2014, one day before the trade deadline. After weeks of hearing numerous reports of different trade possibilities involving Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, and Thaddeus Young, it was quiet. There were not really any major reports to come out regarding the Sixers within serious discussions with other teams. It was almost too quiet.
Remind you of anything?
Just when you think nothing is going to happen, Hinkie makes his move.
Early in the morning, on The Day of the Deadline, the first domino fell when Spencer Hawes was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Henry Sims, Earl Clark (who was later released), and two second round draft picks( CLE 2014, MEM 2014). So the Sixers got two players on non-guarnateed, expiring deals and two draft picks this year(most likely in the high 40s) for Spencer Hawes, who is about to become a free agent and is not in the Sixers long term plans. (Also, really funny to note how Spencer Hawes played his worst game of the season against the Cavs on Tuesday where he was just terrible and showed no effort at all. Two days later, Cleveland trades for him.) Win, Hinkie.
The next domino fell around noon when it was announced that the Sixers were the third team in a trade that sent Andre Miller to Washington and Jan Vesely to Denver. In this trade, the Sixers took back Eric Maynor, a 2015 second round pick(NOP), and a 2016 second round pick(DEN). So the Sixers took on Eric Maynor's salary(2.01 million player option for next season) and two future second round picks, while giving up absolutely nothing. Maynor is not a good player and he is not a good back-up point guard on a good team, but his price tag, for also getting two second rounders, is cheap. Worst case scenario here is that he is terrible, opts into his player option for next season, and just rides the bench.
In this trade, Hinkie also took care of the mistake the old Sixers regime made by sending a future lottery protected first rounder to the Heat in exchange for the draft rights to Arnett Moultrie two years ago. If the Sixers find themselves in the lottery next year then they would lose their second round picks in 2015 and 2016 to the Celtics( who now own the pick). So Sam Hinkie prepared for that situation and made sure the Sixers had second rounders for those two drafts. Win, Hinkie.
Around two o'clock, another domino dropped when the Sixers acquired Byron Mullens and a 2018 second round pick (LAC) from the Los Angeles Clippers for a 2014 conditional pick. So the Sixers got a 2018 pick and Byron Mullens for basically nothing, because the Sixers will end up keeping their pick. Maybe Hinkie sees something in Mullens game that he likes, who knows? What we do know is that the worst case scenario is the same exact worst case scenario as Eric Maynor's, Mullens has a player option next season for only 1.06 million. A very low risk trade with a cheap cap hit to pick up a future second round draft pick. Win, Hinkie.
Then at three o'clock eastern time, the trade deadline finally passed. But that did not mean that Hinkie and the Sixers were done by any means. There were reports from Liberty Ballers and CSN Philly after the deadline had passed that the Sixers might not be done yet. Then, finally, at around 3:30 a WOJ BOMB (a report from Yahoo Sports Adrian Wojnarowski) was dropped onto basketball twitter. The first report just plainly said that Danny Granger had been traded to the Sixers. This was followed by that Evan Turner(FINALLY) and Lavoy Allen were heading to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for Granger and a 2015 second round pick(GSW). So the Sixers use their cap space to take on a big, expiring contract along with a future second round pick and gave away two players who are free agents this season and who the Sixers did not have any plans of re-signing.
The Sixers might keep Granger just to make sure that they can actually score at least 70 points a night or so. I could also see them buying him out and letting him go to a contender(I hope Miami because that would make for an interesting storyline). But either way, it does not matter much what the Sixers do with Granger. He comes off the books after this year and the Sixers are not keeping him beyond this season. They already have one 30-year-old player on the books with knee issues in Jason Richardson, who I always forget is even on the team until they show Nerlens Noel during some of the games and he is sitting right next to him. (Also something else that is really funny about this trade. The media has completely overhyped Evan Turner and this trade. Kenny "The Jet" Smith on TNT said that this trade validates the Pacers as Eastern Conference Champs. I know Sixers fans rip Turner a lot, and deservedly so, but he is not terrible. But he is also not going to be 'the difference' between the Pacers reaching the Eastern Conference Finals and actually winning them. I think he can help but he is not going to make a huge impact). But anyway: Win, Hinkie.
So let us review: The Sixers traded away three players in Hawes/Turner/Allen and a 2014 conditional 2nd round pick. In return they got 2 players on non-guarnateed deals, 2 players on cheap player options for next season, 1 expiring contract, and six 2nd round draft picks. All of that for three players that were going to walk at seasons end. It may not seem exciting to the average fan, but they got assets for players that were not in their future plans instead of letting them walk at the end of the season for nothing.
Moving forward, the memo stays the same: Tank, Tank, Tank. These deals made the Sixers a lot worse than they already were and now catching the Bucks for the worst record in the league actually seems possible. Also with the worst record they are guaranteed a top four pick, instead of a top five with the second worst record. They would also have a higher percentage at the each of the top four picks then they would have with the second worst record.
Looking forward to the draft and the offseason: the Sixers have potentially two lottery picks and five second round picks. They also have a lone asset remaining in Thaddeus Young that they could move on draft night as well. The Sixers also are projected to have about 26 million in cap this offseason (including their two top picks and Maynor/Richardson/Mullens all opting into the final year of their contracts).
So going into next season the Sixers could have MCW, Nerlens, a top 2 pick, a top 8-14 pick, and whatever they get in return for Thad if they decide to move him. Also, just because the Sixers have $26M in cap space this offseason does not necessarily mean they have to use it. This off-season's draft class is only headlined by Gordon Hayward, Greg Monroe, and Eric Bledsoe. Not too exciting. So the Sixers can hold onto their money and wait for that big name free agent to hit the market.
What is most important in all of this is that the Sixers now have flexibility. They have promising young players, high draft picks, and cap space. They have acquired assets, which gives them so many options to explore. There is no guarantee that the Hinkie's plan will work out and he could swing and miss on two big draft picks. But he is giving the Sixers a chance to eventually become a legitimate contender for the first time since A.I. walked out of the door. And that is all that Sixers fans have been asking for: A chance.
Game, Set, Match, Hinkie.