I'm guessing this what it felt like when the unknown executioner raised King Louis XVI's head to the crowd after his execution by guillotine in the French Revolution. I'm speaking figuratively, of course, but the sense of liberation feels pretty damn strong. It's a freedom from oppression of an old-fashioned way in which sports teams are now run. And most importantly, it's the beginning of a new hope for Sixers fans.
When head coach Doug Collins and GM Tony DiLeo were removed from the organization and Sam Hinkie was brought in to be the Head Of Basketball Operations, a new style of thinking would be the motif of this team. Yes indeed, analytics will have a major role in assembling the Sixers franchise going forward. However, the use of advanced statistics brings something else to the team personnel wise: every player donning a Sixers jersey will be there because they fit the mold of the team. Under Collins and DiLeo (but mostly puppet master Collins), player signings seemed to have no rhyme or reason, such as a) giving Kwame Brown a contract, and b) giving him a second year player option for $3 million.
Under Hinkie & Co., the Sixers front office will be executing moves with a purpose, and not giving out contracts like they're presents for the audience of Oprah!. But another new initiative in Philadelphia will certainly be to rack up extra draft picks, especially in the second round.
Since Hinkie joined the Houston Rockets as their VP in 2007, here have been a list of their second round picks: Carl Landry, Luis Scola (who was drafted by San Antonio but his rights were traded to Houston), Joey Dorsey, Maarty Leunen, Jermaine Taylor, Sergio Llull, Chase Budinger, Chandler Parsons, and Furkan Aldemir. Four out of the nine of those players have had successful careers, which is phenomenal in the latter portion of the draft.
Meanwhile, the Sixers have consistently struck out with their second round picks. Other than Lou Williams and Lavoy Allen, Philadelphia's usage of second round picks has been mind boggling. The amount of effort they've put into trading out and back into drafts is seemingly more complicated and much more migraine inducing than actually scouting draft eligible talent talent.
Here are some very painful examples.
- On February 23rd, 2006, the Sixers traded their second round pick (and Lee Nailon) to the Cleveland Cavaliers for a conditional second round pick. Cleveland chose Daniel Gibson with what was the Sixers pick, and for whatever reason Philadelphia opted not to take Cleveland's selection, the 55th overall pick.
- However, they did give up a 2007 second round pick to acquire the 37th overall selection, forward Bobby Jones. Jones, who would spend one season in Philadelphia, was selected before players such as Paul Millsap and Ryan Hollins. They would then trade for Edin Bavcic, the 56th overall pick from Toronto in exchange for cash considerations.
- In 2007, Philadelphia used the second round pick they acquired in the Rodney Carney trade of 2006 draft night on Kyrylo Fesenko. Fesenko, drafted ten picks before Marc Gasol, was then traded to Utah for Herbert Hill and future draft considerations.
- In 2008, the Sixers were left without a second round pick after trading it to Utah three summers prior, in order to obtain the final pick in the 2005 draft. That 60th overall pick was then traded to Phoenix.
- In 2009, the Sixers second round selection was in the hands of Miami, as they acquired it along with Daequan Cook and cash for Jason Smith on draft night in 2007. Miami would then trade that pick to Minnesota.
- On February 18, 2010, Milwaukee acquired Primoz Brezac, Royal Ivey and Philadelphia's 2nd round pick, the 37th overall selection, in exchange for Jodie Meeks and Francisco Elson.
The difference in late drafting philosophies between Houston and Philadelphia over that period is great. Houston saw value immense value in second round selections, an ability to refine raw talents and turn them into solid players. Judging by their track record, the Sixers have not felt the same way.
The Sixers were the kids at the lunch table who tried to give away the nasty carrot sticks their mom packed as a snack. To Houston, those carrot sticks were as good as cookies.
It's a part of the reason why the Rockets have been on the rise, and Philadelphia has been in the back of the pack. Talent will always be on the board no matter where a team picks, but it's a matter of seeing the importance of late picks, and then scouting strongly. Neither has been a strong suit of the Sixers front office.
But with the draft preachings of Sam Hinkie, Philadelphia has another brand new, shiny weapon: a D-League team. As painful as the name the Delaware 87ers is, the Sixers are now just one of six teams with direct ownership over a developmental league team. That gives them all the more incentive to use their second round picks. Seeing as the maximum active roster size in the NBA is 13, teams struggle to find places for their second round picks. A common trend has become taking foreign players who plan on staying overseas for a couple of years, or simply have no plans of coming to the NBA at all. If they do make NBA rosters, they typically find themselves contained to the end of the bench, and at the bottom of the rotation.
Having sole proprietorship of a D-League team now allows the Sixers to draft players without having to worry about having the space for the players to be on the team. Philadelphia can give them D-League assignments, allowing them to receive solid minutes every night and improve their game.
Because the Sixers have an extra second round pick in the upcoming June draft, Sam Hinkie will have two chances to prove why late picks are still valuable.
There's good reason to believe he'll be able to.