Ever since the draft and its aftermath, dedicated fans have tried to figure out what Hinkie's long term plan is for the Sixers. The only problem is Hinkie is a notoriously tight lipped person. He refuses to come out of his Hinkie nerd cave and tell us all his thoughts and plans. This is a good thing. No fan of a professional sports team should want its team's general manager to reveal their plans to build a championship. Unless of course you are a bitter member of sports media; in which case, DRAG THAT NERD OUT OF HIDING. But, I digress.
The immediate future part of the plan is pretty obvious. The Sixers have two lottery picks, both pretty much guaranteed to be top 10 and one guaranteed top 5. Sam Hinkie will look to get at least two starters out of those picks with at least 1 hopefully turning into a superstar. He can then use any number of his million 2nd round picks this year to draft possible role players or whatever else. This draft is a huge part of the Sixers' rebuilding plan and that is apparent to pretty much everyone. The larger question is what is Hinkie going to do with his cap space.
Estimates have the Sixers with over 30 million in cap space next year and I think even more the further out you go. So what will they do with it? They could use it to sign free agents perhaps. Some people have named Lance Stephenson or Eric Bledsoe or any number of players. The thing is the Sixers would have to overpay to get any free agents at this point and it would be dangerous to sign free agents before they knew whether or not their current crop of young players (MCW, Noel, 2 unnamed lottery picks) is good enough to eventually compete for a championship.
So what to do with all this cap space? Rent it of course! Realistically the Sixers are two maybe 3 years away from being serious contenders. It would be beneficial if they could use that time to push their hopeful young core to the limits and see what they can do. In the meantime though cap space has to be used and if you're gonna use it you might as well get assets from it and maintain future flexibility.
There are two ways you can capitalize on the cap space. The first way is using it to get underused young players for free from contending teams. The Sixers did this when they acquired Tony Wroten for a 2nd round pick that was traded to 3 other teams, each time under circumstances that guaranteed the Sixers would never lose the pick. The other way is to take on bad contracts for draft picks. This is another thing the Sixers did when they traded for Byron Mullens and Eric Maynor and were rewarded with 2nd round picks for their trouble.
There is a sexier version of renting your cap space, though, and for an example of that look to the Utah Jazz. The Utah Jazz let Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap walk last year and decided that now might be a good time to rebuild. They either didn't want to spend their money in free agency or couldn't after that. So they did the next best thing, rented out their space to the Golden State Warriors who really wanted to get Andre Iguodala.
The three team trade between Denver, Utah, and Golden State looked like this:
Denver got: Randy Foye (via Utah), GS 2018 2nd round pick
Golden State got: Andre Iguodala (via Denver), Kevin Murphy (via Utah)
This was a huge haul for Utah and all it took was paying 24 million for one year of a trio of players that they didn't have any future plans for. If Hinkie decides that the Sixers can't or shouldn't sign any impact free agents over the next year or two this is the route he should go as well. Here is a list of possible benefits for the Sixers:
1) Immediate Acquisition of future assets
2) Possible "veteran presence" to put around their young team
3) Players you acquire could be used at a later date for more picks or as salary filler
4) Maintain flexibility until you want to sign/acquire a superstar
5) Stockpile future assets to trade later
6) Offset the loss of previous draft picks traded away by Doug Collins
The big question is if there are any teams out there that the Sixers can get this kind of deal from. Some have mentioned Chicago as a possible target. Chicago has Carlos Boozer signed for 16 million next year and they might want to use that money instead to sign Carmelo Anthony. Chicago could send a pick or two the Sixers' way to make it happen. The only problem is that Chicago can amnesty Boozer, so this depends on if the ownership would rather spend the dead money or if they'd give up the asset(s) to not have to pay for the amnesty.
Another possible scenario I've toyed around with a lot over the season is helping to facilitate a Kevin Love trade or the building of a mega team. Phoenix or maybe Boston would be the teams that come to mind in this scenario. The details of this are fuzzy but the Sixers are in prime position to play facilitator for anyone.
Ultimately I don't know exactly what Hinkie has planned. He has put himself in such a great position with so many different options for building the team. The more I think about it though, I think I prefer the plan I've outlined above. It looks to be the best combination of stockpiling of assets, player development, and maintaining cap flexibility/ability to acquire superstars when the time comes.