History has proven that for the Philadelphia 76ers, international players have been an unimportant entity. Since their first draft in 1950, the Sixers have drafted just seven foreign players. All seven were dealt quicker than the wind on draft night. Whether the organization has had concerns over whether they're able to adjust, or simply just didn't take the time to thoroughly scout, the front office has always opted for the homegrown, collegiate basketball player rather than the foreign prospect.
Sometimes it pans out, sometimes it doesn't. In 2004, then President Billy King opted for Andre Iguodala over Latvian big man Andris Biedrins, a wise decision. In 1998, the Sixers selected Larry Hughes over German power forward Dirk Nowitzki, a bonehead move. Foreign guys can indeed be a big question mark, their potential effectiveness in America based on whether or not a team feels they can harness their certain skill set.
However, the blatant disregard that has been shown towards foreign players is partially attributable to why the team has been atrocious for the majority of a decade.
After his hiring in May, Sam Hinkie went on 97.5 The Fanatic with Mike Missanelli. Naturally he was asked about Andrew Bynum, but in his attempt to dance around the question, his answer was resounding. "Ask me about a player in Africa who is draft eligible" he said, "Or a player in Olympiakos in Greece, or a player in Real Madrid playing in the Euroleague Final Four this weekend. It's my job to be able to evaluate those guys and figure out if they'd be a good fit for the Sixers."
Hinkie has made it clear that his rigorous evaluation of talent won't just stop in the States, but span the globe.
Australia is one place where he'll certainly have some assistance.
After an exhaustive three month search, Philadelphia agreed to terms with former San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Brett Brown on a four-year deal to become the Sixers head coach. Brown possesses a strong background in player development, but another weapon in his arsenal is his experience in the land down under.
Brett Koremenos of Grantland has some more on Brown:
Brown spent the majority of his coaching career in Australian basketball, doing time as an assistant and head coach in both the National Basketball League (the Aussie pro league) and the national team program. Being part of a limited talent pool — the population of Australia is 23 million, lower than Texas — made the maximization of skills a vital part of competitive success. Coaches like Brown, who spend their formative coaching years working without the benefit of high-impact players, tend to be exhaustive about details and fundamentals because they can’t win games simply by rolling out talent.
Brown coached in the NBL from 1988-2002, and was on the coaching staff of Australian's national basketball team from 1995-2012 (he became head coach in 2009). He's helped use the knowledge he gained of his players in Australia to his advantage in the NBA. In March 2012, Brown helped bring Australian guard Patty Mills to San Antonio. Mills has performed well in the limited action he's seen, and had his option picked up for the 2013-14 season.
In January, Brown caught Popovich's ear again as the team signed Center Aron Baynes, who helped Australia capture gold in the 2011 FIBA Oceania Championship. By April, Baynes found himself starting an elimination game in the NBA playoffs, tasked at defending Dwight Howard. The 26 year-old put up six points on 3-6 shooting, and helped hold Howard to just seven points.
Brown's knowledge of his national team players has helped the Spurs, the king of international entities, scoop strong players in the past, and now he may be able to help the Sixers in regards to a 2014 draft eligible Aussie: 19 year-old Dante Exum.
Exum has flown surprisingly quietly under the radar, but word of his abilities is likely to get out fast. ESPN's Chad Ford ranked him 3rd overall on his 2014 NBA draft big board (insider only). Draft Express has Exum going third overall (ahead of Marcus Smart and Jabari Parker). Considering how highly touted the upcoming draft is, that's quite the ringing endorsement. Exum stands at 6'6" with a 6'9" wingspan, similar to that of Michael Carter-Williams. Exum is typically the ball carrier, but functions better without the ball in his hands than Carter-Williams, leaving a move to the two guard as a pro not out of the question. At the 2013 FIBA U-19 Championship, Exum averaged 18.2 points per game, and almost 4 assists a game. He also took the floor in the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit, scoring 16 points on 6-8 shooting as he helped lead the World to a 112-98 win over the USA.
If the Sixers were to miss out on a top 2 pick, Exum could become an option for them.
Regardless, bringing in Brett Brown as the head coach shows the Sixers commitment to find the best talent, no matter where it may lie. It's a deviation from the norm, and a step towards becoming a sound organization.