Fans who have stuck with the 76ers through three trying years have been despondent after Sam Hinkie stepped down. And yet - the thing fans should be most angry and bitter about is allowing the Colangelos to use the franchise to secure Bryan Colangelo a third, undeserved shot at being an NBA general manager.
Connections that you're born into tend to be more powerful than ones that are curated - blood is thicker than water - and Jerry and son appear to have concocted a successful plan to put Bryan in power in Philadelphia.
The Colangelos once served in the same capacity they are expected to fill in Philadelphia while in Phoenix. It actually looks good if you don't squint - the Suns drafted Amar'e Stoudemire, signed Steve Nash, and sparked a revolution in the NBA. His first Executive of the Year award came in the SSOL Suns debut year, the final full season in his 11 years as general manager of the franchise and first true title contender. Then Bryan had a falling out with Robert Sarver, the Suns' at-the-time-new-owner and decided to move on.
Where did he go? Toronto. His record there is, generously, mixed. In his first season, he won Executive of the Year again, powered mostly by Chris Bosh evolving into a superstar himself, or something completely different than what a GM would normally be credited for. The 47 wins Toronto had in his first year were the most they had while he sat atop that organization, spanning parts of eight seasons.
In fact, that was his only team above .500. His Toronto teams toed the treadmill of mediocrity for most of his tenure, the never-ending transitive state the Sixers publicly have proclaimed they're attempting to avoid. He had excuses and brashness and trading real players for Rudy Gay's contract. He signed mediocre players to large contracts, the late 2000s and early 2010s version of Billy King.
He gave Andrea Bargnani a contract so ludicrous even his father would frown upon him for it. He had this thing with Landry Fields and Steve Nash that's almost too crazy to be true. He gave ex-Sixer Jason Kapono a hilarious sum of money. Colangelo with cap space and a market a tier below top free-agent status in a year with an exploding cap figure is a dangerous proposition.
On a related note, the Sixers want to "make a splash." Welcome to the Sixers, Bryan!
Those obvious warts mask that his draft history is generally very solid. He drafted DeMar DeRozan, a very good player, in the back end of the lottery. He traded for Kyle Lowry, who after his general managing days evolved into a superstar. He also drafted Jonas Valanciunas at number 5, a solid pick. Of course, all three blossomed more or less after Bryan got canned so Toronto could replace him with Masai Ujiri. His draft record in Phoenix, starting more than 20 years ago, is even better.
If anything, Bryan knows what it feels like for others to benefit from the fruits of their labor, if you're looking for a similarity between the Colangelo-kin and the now former team president. Toronto is looking pretty good right now, largely built off pieces acquired under Bryan's watch.
In his Wall Street crony manifesto, Sam Hinkie laid out the results of his three years of stewardship in front of the Sixers ownership group. On the surface, what he's done appears very impressive - up to four first round draft picks, impending debuts for two additional lottery picks hopefully on the horizon, and the most cap space and flexibility in the NBA right as the NBA's cap figure is set to make a historic one-year jump. You could argue that the landscape Hinkie laid out is as favorable to an incoming general manager as any in NBA history.
In reality, what Hinkie did best was stick to a vision and remain patient. Waiting three years and not doing anything is what netted the Sixers the vast majority of their present flexibility. To his credit, netting additional picks, hitting on a fair share of second rounders and undrafted free agents, and turning a profit each year also should make the owners feel good.
His gift is going directly to the Colangelos, again because blood is thicker than water.
The Sixers ownership group, headed by Josh Harris and David Blitzer most visibly, for some reason believed Hinkie would accept being a co-GM to the newly hired Colangelo, so much so they considered the search during the season and announced their intentions to do it and are finalizing a contract with Bryan today, per Adrian Wojnarowski. They're either really, really, ridiculously dumb (highly unlikely for self-made millionaires and billionaires), or they were willfully trying to get Sam Hinkie to step down and are blowing smoke.
Even then, a more open search would be prudent. Avoiding charges of nepotism, for one, would be a good PR strike for an organization that could use some. Having your general manager search consist of the Chairman's son and a man fired from his previous general manager position for making racist statements about players in the NB freaking A really makes it seem like the search was anything but exhaustive.
Additionally - look at the assets and players Hinkie has left the new general manager to, well, manage. Why not just fire Hinkie - which given all the negative publicity, historic losing, and lack of mainstream media savvy, could be more than justified - and go with a full search if you're unhappy with him? The Sixers should be, by far, the most attractive job available for any general manager candidate. Test the waters and conduct an open search.
With the knowledge of availability - rather than the inevitability of a Bryan Colangelo reign - what possibilities open up? There are plenty of NBA general manager types who have similar or better resumes available, whether you're talking current GMs (like Rich Cho) or an adviser (like Kevin Pritchard). There's no telling who may have been interested, and it seems they weren't ever going to have a chance.
The difference in candidates could be the difference between being a title-contender and a run-of-the-mill nice team. Even Colangelo won't be able to help but build a good team. The question is could they have done better, and the answer based on Colangelo's mixed record is a near-resounding yes.
But blood is still thicker than water.