Pretty much all productivity and non-NBA thinking has taken a back seat since Hinkie went full Hinkie last Thursday. As this is as good of a forum as any to share my thoughts / provoke discussion, here goes.The Good:
Keeping to the plan:
In my eyes, the Sixers made the absolute most of the picks they were slotted into. The Sixers have continually preached the value of taking the 'best player available,' and its hard to dispute the fact that Embiid and Elfred Payton were likely the highest rated / best players available for the Sixers at each of their respective draft slottings. With these two picks, the Sixers were unabashed in their desire to take the highest rated players, rather than drafting for need / avoiding overlap / filling out a starting 5.
I strongly believe that had Jabari / Wiggins had fallen to 3, or Gordon / Randle / Vonleh / Stauskas fallen to 10, then we would have seen these guys in Sixers RWB and the media would be having a completely different conversation on the Sixers following the draft. However, the Sixers had the 3rd and 10th overall picks, and the Cavs / Bucks and picks 4-9 made (relatively) smart decisions (the Stauskas pick is a bit of a headscratcher with Jimmer's failure just a couple years ago, and the top 10 selection of Ben McLemore last year). This left the Sixers with the choice of Embiid versus the field at pick #3, and the significant drop off after the top 9 guys for pick #10. Putting aside potential trades (and I'm not sure there were any truly compelling deals ever on the table), I'm not sure if Hinkie could have made better selections with the 3rd and 10th overall picks. So I can't begrudge the Sixers organization for making these picks, even with the very large, red-tinged flags I'll discuss below.
The Elfred Payton selection epitomizes why folks get so excited about Hinkie doing Hinkie. Payton was definitely the fastest 'riser' in the draft, with many giving him a top 10 graded player by the time the draft rolled around. Drafting Payton as the BPE, and proceeding to ship him off to Orlando for the 2017 first we gave away in the Dwight Howard deal, and another 2nd rounder for next year, and Saric, who it seems like we wanted at 10 all along, was pure master stroke in my eyes. I'm not going to get much further into it here, as Michael Levin did a great job explaining why this trade was such a coup for the Sixers elsewhere.
Again, important to keep in mind that our draft slotting required us to make the most of the picks we we had, not the mock drafts we had envisioned. Would I have traded Payton and a future 1st/2nd to move up 2 picks and get Stauskas? Compelling to think about, but I'm not sure I would (though the continued lack of shooting on this team will be brutal.) Hinkie continues to take the long view and isn't willing to mortgage the farm for marginally higher value. In addition, you see how much it hampers teams to not have a first round pick (and if you're having a hard time seeing it, imagine Shabazz suiting up for the Nets or Knicks [both in dire need of PG talent] instead of the Heat.)
I'm all for getting maximum value out of your assets, wheeling-and-dealing, etc., but what took place with Michael Carter Williams over the past several weeks is pretty much inexcusable in my book. If you lived under a rock leading up to the draft, allow me to catch you up: MCW was thrown into almost every draft-day trade column out there, with zero support / confidence given to him by Sixers management (and if you don't believe me, rewatch footage of his interview and interactions with Elfred Payton following the selection -- dude had no idea what the Sixers were doing).
if you look at the teams that have had success, its because they've stuck to their guns and investing in the player, his development, and his place in the team (read: Tony Parker, Dirk Nowitzki, etc.), sometimes at the expense of salary cap space, flexibility, etc. I understand the notion of selling high on MCW, and his ceiling potentially not being as high as someone like Exum (though count me among the dubious here). The fact is, there's a reason the Sixers drafted him at 11 last year, and gave him the keys to the offense to the degree they did last year -- to the degree that MCW beat out 10 other players projected to be better than him for the Rookie of the Year honors (well, 9 not counting Noel).
Is MCW perfect? Trust me, I watched enough Sixers basketball last year to know that he isn't -- he turns the ball over too much, complains to the referees at an almost Evan Turner-level (probably a bad habit he picked up from ET himself), has one of those body types that makes you grimace every time he goes through a well-set pick, and has a less-than-reliable jumper outside of 10 feet. But for better or worse, he's your point guard, and he has the potential to be a pretty damn good one, as long as you treat him and his development the way the Sixers plan to treat their broader roster.
If you read the paragraphs above and think I don't "get" it -- trust me, I understand where you're coming from. Tinkering is fun! But at a certain point, you need to build a foundation of basketball players, rather than an infinite stream of expendable assets who could be on the move for a marginally higher projected player. And if the Sixers were a realistic landing point for some of the big ticket free agents, you'd be hearing me sing a different tune -- you absolutely have to make every effort to acquire a transcendent talent. But we've seen every indication that Hinkie & co. want to build this thing from the ground up. Let's make sure we have a foundation to build on top of.
The overwhelming trust in Sam Hinkie and his plan / GM ability that has been more or less the consensus among the blogorati should come with a huge lesson / warning sticker attached. I don't mean to burst the bubble completely, as I still firmly count myself among the Hinkie faithful, but the amount of blind faith placed in Hinkie really doesn't do anyone any good. Hinkie is 1 GM of 30 in an extremely competitive league (you're not seeing many David Khan / Joe Dumars / Isiah Thomases out there any more), where the Sixers count themselves on the wrong side of the wide parity we've seen in the league of late.
Before you jump down my throat, I understand that Hinkie had years and years of Ed Stefanski / Doug Collins incompetence to mend, and I'm in firm support of the direction of the team and the steps Hinkie is taking to escape mediocrity. However, this doesn't mean that Hinkie isn't prone to whiffing on a pick or two (or more). Long story short -- Hinkie should be subject to the same level of scrutiny that the other Philly GMs (and more broadly, all NBA GMs) recieve. Hell, Pat Riley just won 2 championships in 3 years and people are already predicting his demise.
The Ugly: One for each first rounder:
According to Sixers beat writer Jake Pavorsky, the Sixers found 'no red flags' in Embiid's medical records/evaluation. Is this good news? Maybe posturing on their part? I'm not sure, but I'm certainly not willing to stake my future hopes/dreams on the Sixers medical staff right now.
Keep in mind that this is the same staff who presumably provided the green light on Bynum and the Bynum deal. Sure, there was always going to be a risk in Bynum / Bynum's knees, and I'm sure the medical staff warned the front office to this effect, but the Sixers gave up 2 former 1st round picks (one of whom has turned out to be an above-average NBA player), their best player (an above average NBA player) and another first round pick (which it looks like we just recouped in the Payton / Saric swap) in the deal. That isn't the actions of a front office with any sort of advance knowledge of what they were getting. Almost certainly you would have seen considerably more leverage if so.
Long story short, I'd be wary of Embiid's selection as any sort of rubber stamp on his health / ability to make a full recovery. Between the Yao/Walton injury, back issues, hepatisis, bone density, etc., etc., I'm kinda preparing myself for the worst here.
Admittedly, I don't know much about Dario Saric. I know he was probably the highest rated Euro in the draft, and I know that he was able to fill a stat sheet (~16pts/8rbs/5asts) in a fairly competitive European league. But what I also know is that it was reported a month ago or so that Saric was willing to make the jump to the NBA if the Celtics or Lakers picked him. Again, speculating here, but knowing this scares the shit out of me. Knowing that Saric is planing to stay in Europe for 1/2+ years, as I understand it the Sixers have almost no leverage in this whole situation.
To me, you have to keep in mind the possibility that Saric could pull an Eli Manning and continue to play at a high level (and increasingly, be paid for it) in Europe until he feels that the situation he'd leap to the NBA is favorable for him / his career. Keep in mind that this may mean that his camp could determine that Philadelphia is not the market for him, and essentially make the Sixers lives very difficult to try and bring him overseas. For a 2nd round pick / late first, this is a flyer that I'd be willing to take. But at #10, this is a risk that merits strong consideration and concern if you're a Philly fan.
(Note: I know Saric paid lip service to wanting to be in Philadelphia and didn't exactly pull a Zach LaVine after learning he was Philly bound, but this is a guy that's still under contract for 2+ years elsewhere. Think about it.)
That's all I got for now. This is going to be a brutal 82 games. Hoping Pierre Jackson can be as entertaining in the NBA as he was in the D-League.