It's an uncertain time in the NBA. More than ever, it feels like the entire league is blanketed in a shade of grey where nobody is for sure doing one thing without something else happening under the table or internally or some faraway kernel in some executive's mind. Everyone is smarter. Information is more available than ever before. And that's made teams even more difficult to figure out. Some writers would lament the status of half the league (AKA "The East"), but for my part, it's made for a less predictable casserole top to bottom than I've ever seen. And a better NBA for The Thinking Man.
As we are a Sixers blog, let's talk about today's Tom Ziller column where he's come off a Sixers win over the Kings feeling like this Hinkie guy's got it all figured out. Read all of it, because it and Ziller are good, but since I don't trust you, I cherrypicked the bear* necessities:
Hinkie has basically squeezed three years of a deep rebuild into one. Assuming Noel comes in strong and the 2014 draft works out properly, the Sixers could be good as soon as next season.
The Sixers will have four lottery picks in two years, with one of those likely to be very high in one of the best drafts of the past decade. To get that many lottery picks, you usually need to be awful for multiple seasons. The Sixers were technically pretty awful in 2012-13 under previous management, but that was an unhappy accident, not a tank season. Hinkie and coach Brett Brown could yank the Sixers out of the quicksand in June and be poised to take the division in 2013-14.
We knew Hinkie's decisions would potentially lead to a team chock full of exciting youngsters and roster flexibility. We just didn't realize it could happen so soon. If Hinkie pulls it off -- that is, if he wants the Sixers to be good in 2014-15 instead of lagging behind to get another high pick -- he could rewrite the book on what rebuilding means.
It's nice to see people recognizing that the Sixers' rebuilding plan wasn't just 1. Be Bad, 2. Profit. And I agree with a lot of this, which is about as good a piece of writing you'll get from a national guy about the Sixers. A few things, some agreeing, some not-so-agreeing.
1. Taking the division with MCW, Thad (?), and three rookies seems unlikely.
As bad as the Atlantic is this year, it's more than likely a blip on the radar than a sign of abject horror for years to come. If Boston's "not tanking" this year, then they're even more "not tanking" for the less exciting 2015 Draft. Providing they don't trade Rajon Rondo or get worse otherwise, they'll be going for a playoff spot. Brooklyn has no reason to be better next year except that Prokhorov will set them on fire (actual fire) if they're not. The Knicks, sure. Toronto? Who knows.
Even if they don't trade Thaddeus Young, finishing over .500 next year seems like a long-shot with the Sixers pick, the Pelicans pick, and a raw raw raw Nerlens Noel supplementing Michael Carter-Williams, who will likely be the team's number one option, since the top draftee is likely to be 19 or 20.
Which means they'd have to get splashy in free agency to really make a push for the playoffs. But...
2. The Sixers aren't prepared to dive headlong into free agency yet.
A Sixers source disclosed to me the likelihood that it'll be "a while" before they are able to make any big signings.
That's not to say it's impossible -- I've said on here and on the podcast that Hinkie's rebuild will not be a straight line. If the right opportunity comes along, he'll take it, even if it means more wins.
But the free agency crop this offseason leaves much to be desired. Plucking non-stars like Luol Deng or Greg Monroe or Rudy Gay or Marcin Gortat or even, *swoon*, Gordon Hayward (love you though) for max or near-max money does not jive with Hinkie's philosophy of maximizing on value and not settling for mediocrity. Eric Bledsoe is the only one I'm looking at with one eyebrow raised, but that seems unlikely.
3. Houston never tanked.
Just remember that. Tanking is the best option for the Sixers right now. Better options may present themselves going forward.
4. Making the playoffs in 2014-15 means relinquishing a first-round pick to Miami.
To reiterate: if the right move comes along via trade or free agency, Hinkie will make it at the expense of losing games to retain a draft pick in a middling year. But unless he gets significant pressure from Josh Harris and ownership to Win Now, he's fixing to miss the playoffs next year as well.
The 2012 Draft day trade of the 27th pick, Arnett Moultrie, from the Miami Heat for a protected first-rounder haunts the Sixers and reeks strongly of Doug Collins Shit Stew. If the Sixers miss the playoffs this year and next, they never give Miami a 1st -- instead relinquishing a second-rounder in both the 2015 and 2016 drafts.
Andrew Bynum cost them a protected first-rounder as well, which would go to Orlando in 2016 if the Sixers give Miami the consolation prize. You can be damn sure Hinkie isn't looking to pay the price of his predecessors twice over -- he's only coughing up one first-rounder.
This is also the reason I've been saying 2015-16 is the year the Sixers will go big in the offseason and make the playoffs. In keeping with that, look for a 2016 draft pick to come our way in a Thad/Evan/Spencer trade.
5. Ziller probably overrates the Sixers right now.
Sure, the Sixers have won three in a row on the road and now stand at 11-21 on the season, far better than most of us had them heading into October -- they'd have to lose 50 straight to match my preseason prediction of 11-71 -- but in context, it doesn't look as rosy. Their SRS is 29th in the league and they've won 4 out of 5 games decided in overtime. They've beaten teams without their top players (Miami, Houston, LAL), on really rough patches (Cleveland, Denver, LAL), and just bad teams by being less bad on that particular night (Milwaukee, Sacramento, LAL).
Yes, the wins pile up and yes, every win matters when you get to the Lottery -- but don't mistake these wins for overall valuation of the product. Michael Carter-Williams is good, maybe very good, but he's not ready to lead the team into the playoffs next season.
6. How good was that Jrue Holiday trade?
Man. I love Jrue, but man. Packing those four lottery picks together is and will be gigantic. Hit on 3 of 4? This is the closest anyone's gotten to the Oklahoma City Thunder model -- Kevin Durant (#2, 2007), Russell Westbrook (#4, 2008), Serge Ibaka (#24, 2008), James Harden (#3, 2009), and some select veterans.
Replace that with Nerlens (#6, 2013), MCW (#11, 2013), Hypothetical Jabari Parker (#3, 2014), Hypothetical Jerami Grant (#13, 2014) and a few 2015 free agents -- that's a fun 7th seed in the 2016 NBA Playoffs with a lot of room to grow.
7. Remember Doug Collins?
*Intentional. Jungle Book goes hard.