Eleven months ago, the direction of the Sixers took the most dramatic turn in my lifetime. Out of nowhere, what was once a situation coated in mediocrity and apathy suddenly became something radically different, something unlike anything Sixers fans had ever seen.
A nation watched on sadly as prospective top pick Nerlens Noel remained on the board after the first five picks in the draft. At this point, my draft party exploded, yelling at the television to new Sixers GM Sam Hinkie (because he could totally hear us) to trade up for the falling star. (Note: I might have been the only one yelling.)
Suddenly, a wild Woj Bomb appears.
New Orleans has traded Nerlens Noel to the 76ers, source tells Y! Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 28, 2013
Great. Probably gave up a 2nd or something to move up, good work Sam, let's call it a night and hit the print deadline. Nothing else to see here. Good night, everybody!
Philadelphia sends Jrue Holiday and a first-round pick in 2014 to New Orleans for Noel, league source says.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 28, 2013
That...that doesn't make any sense. Both on a value scale and a "we don't have a first round pick in 2014" scale. But, Woj is never wrong. Everything we believed in was a lie.
Of course, eventually, the record was corrected and it was revealed that it was indeed the Sixers getting the first round pick, not giving it. The trade was Holiday and the #42 overall pick (which ended up being D-League standout Pierre Jackson) for Noel and a first round pick in 2014 that was protected from picks #1-5. In one move, Hinkie had pressed the reset button on the entire franchise, basically announcing to the world that the 2013-14 season was going to be a rebuilding year. Good bye mediocrity, hello tank factory.
Sixers fans spent an entire year watching Pelicans games, and many changed their minds multiple times throughout the year as to whether they were rooting for the Pelicans to win or lose. (Team Panic vs Team Chill has multiple spinoffs -- it's basically like the NCIS franchise at this point, in that of course it found its way to New Orleans.)
Rumors on Rumors
After all of the hand wringing, here we are. For Holiday (and the 2nd rounder), the Sixers got Noel and the 10th pick in the 2014. Two top ten picks for their best player, and really, their only tradeable asset with value. Of course, trading Holiday also allowed the Sixers to pick Michael Carter-Williams, who, as you may have heard, won the Rookie of the Year Award in a landslide.
Hinkie was asked on multiple occasions if he was satisfied with the return on the trade of his star player, and continued to emphasize his process-over-result mentality. Tuesday night, he was asked, now that he knows the result, how he assessed the trade he had made a year before. He paused for a few seconds, to the point where you could see the wheels turning in his head, almost like he wanted to say "YEP, NAILED IT!" before strolling out the door Vince McMahon-style yelling "HINKIE OUT!" to a group of puzzled reporters. What he said instead was more meaningful.
"It's not about how it turns out." Hinkie said, and repeated it again for emphasis. "It's about what you knew at the time, and how that plays out for your particular team and their particular team."
He compared it to comments he had made about the Andrew Bynum trade upon his hiring, saying "It's a really tough way to live to judge it as good or bad for you or others based on how it turns out, because sometimes lots of things happen that you couldn't have known."
And he's right. A lot of people say it's a cop out, to not judge things on results, because in reality, sports is a results-based industry. There's no championship trophy for the best-run organization in the NBA, only one for the team that wins a 16-team tournament at the end of the season. The MVP award doesn't stand for "Most Valuable Process." However, if the Pelicans had won the lottery, something that only had a 4% chance of happening, would that have made the Holiday trade a bad trade?
We all know people who would say "Yes, it didn't work out the way we wanted, so it was a bad move." They'd say the same about the Bynum trade, and countless other moves that seemed like good ideas at the time, before working out unfavorably. They're results driven, because realistically, most things in life are based on results.
The bottom line when it comes to the Holiday trade is that I think most people can agree that the result from the Holiday trade was satisfactory. Two top 10 picks for a player who is realistically a fringe All-Star player is great value, and it also opened so many more opportunities for the Sixers to succeed. It's a prime example that if you follow the process, the positive results will follow.
That said, the Holiday trade was a great move regardless of the result. Even if the results hadn't gone the Sixers way, it would've been great. Even if the Sixers hadn't drafted Carter-Williams, or if the Pelicans made the playoffs, it would have been the right move to make for the Sixers when they made it on June 27, 2013. The events of Tuesday night don't change that -- they just validate it.