Since Sam Hinkie took over as Sixers President, General Manager, and Lead Guitarist 13 months ago, the phrase "collecting assets" has been bandied about substantially more than it was in previous regimes, when it was called "finding winners." In a few months, Hinkie turned a team with very few real assets (Jrue Holiday and a leftover case of "Thump & Bump" t-shirts an intern found when they cleaned out the Spectrum) into a team with a plethora of assets, both in the form of draft picks and real life basketball players.
He did this by making trade after trade, signing after signing, turning over every stone he could to try and find an asset with even the slightest value to the Sixers long-term future. As a result, he's quickly developed a reputation as a man who always has his finger on the trigger, ready to strike whenever the next trade or signing becomes possible.
NBA Draft Series!
Within minutes of the Sixers receiving the 3rd pick, people from every corner of the basketball intelligentsia were looking for the next big trade the Sixers were going to make, and most of them centered around the idea that Utah would trade up to select Jabari Parker because Parker is a Mormon, and thus a natural fit for the Utah Jazz and their large Mormon fan base.
Now, I know what you're thinking. TRADE DOWN FOR WHAT?!
In a vacuum, it's not a terrible idea. Accumulating even more assets at the cost of moving from #3 to #5 sounds exactly like something Commander Hinkie would do. What complicates matters is how that relates to the Sixers draft board.
You have a better chance of getting Hinkie to give you his Minecraft password than you do of getting him to share his draft plans. But any trade the Sixers make would speak volumes about how they feel about the current draft crop.
When the Sixers made it clear they were "rebuilding" this season, many complained about the feasibility of a plan to tank even though they'd only have, at best, a 25% chance at the top overall pick. The counterpoint to that was that the Sixers weren't tanking for one particular player (let's just call him Shmandrew Schwiggins), but rather for a guaranteed shot at one of the top handful of players in a draft class that was projected to be very deep. That was the Sixers thinking, according to a source within the organization I spoke to early in the season, who said that the team felt there were at least five potential stars at the top of the 2014 NBA Draft class.
That was then, though, and this is now. If the Sixers still feel like there are five potential stars in the draft, then a Utah trade would make some sense. Add more value, and still get a guy you think can you can build the franchise around. Easy, right?
Here's something to consider though. This is your franchise player. There are three ways to acquire a star player in the NBA -- trade for them, sign them as a free agent, or draft them. (The fourth way, kidnapping them at gunpoint, was banned after the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol.) The reason teams accumulate assets to trade for a star is because they very rarely get the chance to draft high enough to get a good shot at one. Going back to Hinkie's roots in Houston, since the Rockets drafted Yao Ming first overall in 2002, they haven't had a lottery position better than 8th, and have been 14th position or in the playoffs in all but one year. As such, they've accumulated assets to trade for players like Tracy McGrady and James Harden. Well-run teams don't often see the better half of the lottery.
So I pose this question -- do you really want to play games with the guy that could be your franchise player in order to improve on the margins? I'm the first to admit that if somebody wants to absolutely blow the Sixers away with an offer, like Utah offering multiple unprotected firsts and a lifetime pass to the Utah Olympic Oval, by all means, don't reject the idea of trading down entirely. In lieu of that, however, this is the Sixers biggest and best chance to acquire a star. It's unlikely they'll look at the board at #3 and not see anyone they want.
In general, when it comes to drafts, I'm a big proponent of picking "your guy" with high picks, especially in basketball. If Hinkie wants a third first round pick this year, chances are he can get it without touching the two firsts in his breast pocket. This isn't the time to settle for your fourth or fifth choice because Enes Kanter likes soft pretzels.
Caveat: Sam Hinkie is my superior, and if he does in fact trade down, I will be convinced he had a good reason for doing so immediately. So just pencil me in for a post praising the trade a month from now. That said, if I were him, I wouldn't seek to make my life more difficult. Stay at #3. Pick a star. Roll with him. Trade down for what.