When Sam Hinkie took over the Sixers in May of 2013 and gutted most of what was left of a once playoff-hopeful roster, he took a fairly basic approach to filling in the rest of the roster around his newest lottery picks. He would take fliers on players who had never quite made it at the NBA level, players who would come in with nothing to lose and had chips on their shoulders. If a few of them worked out and turned into NBA players, then terrific, the team had just churned out a few cheap rotation players. If they didn't, then oh, well; you take shots, miss a large majority of them and move on.
Part of this approach seemed to be finding talented athletes and morphing them into disruptors of some sort. Some on defense as turnover-forcing glue guys, who could play into the team's pack-the-paint strategy with furiously long closeouts and gamble in passing lanes; i.e., the JaKarrs, Jeramis and K.J.'s of the world. The others as shooting specialists, with optimal size and tools to hopefully grow into contributors on the other end as well. This is the umbrella Hollis Thompson fell under (James Nunnally just won MVP of Serie A, guys!).
For each of these players, Hollis Thompson included, there was a role and a strength to play to. Thompson would bang in an inexplicable 39.1 percent (!) of his threes over his first three NBA seasons, on 846 attempts, and the team would try to bring him along in other departments. But he unfortunately never got there, and it's limited what he can bring to an NBA rotation severely.
3-and-D wings are the cream of the crop, and every team wants one (or a few). Ideally, they have an above-average-to-elite skill on both ends of the floor. But there aren't nearly as many out there as we think; not every pro wing is a superstar or a 3-and-D guy, they just happen to have a variety of other plus-level skills to bring to the floor.
So, enter Hollis Thompson. Hollis Thompson's elite NBA skill is obviously three-point shooting, but it's not an exaggeration to say that he brings nothing else to the floor. He needs the ball to be effective, doesn't move or shoot well of the ball (15-of-57 from the field off screens this season), doesn't provide secondary creation for his teammates (7.4 AST%, lower than Richaun Holmes'), doesn't get to the free throw line (2.2 attempts per 100 possessions), can't put the ball on the floor and attack and can't defend his position. He's not particularly strong, doesn't move great laterally and his attentiveness wanes quite a bit on that end.
The Sixers' developmental team would have loved to produce a handful of cheap, team-friendly two-way wings for the front office to chew on in the team-building process, but it wasn't just about that. Hollis Thompson defended power forwards at Georgetown, and although he had some of the physical tools to play on the perimeter at the next level, becoming a below-average defensive player in the NBA was probably always the likely outcome. But he never broke out of his comfort zone and showcased anything tangible outside of shooting in-rhythm standstill threes.
If you're a three-point specialist and you have some shortcomings on the other end of the ball, fine. But if you need the ball in your hands to have any positive effect on the floor, you better be a pretty dynamic scorer/creator. For Hollis Thompson, it's standstill three-pointers or bust. 96 percent of his three-point attempts this season were catch-and-shoots, and he shot just 4-of-17 (23.5 percent) from deep off-the-bounce, per SportVU data.
Hollis Thompson is the only player on the roster who was on the floor with the team for each of Hinkie's three seasons at the helm (Noel was rehabbing during year one). It's a shame to have to give a guy like that the boot. I'm sure he's been a big part of building towards their culture too, and it's always a benefit to coaches like Brett Brown who go through immense roster turnover to have fixtures like Thompson, players who know the system and know their role. But as the organization starts building towards something successful over the long term, with an absurd amount of talented tall people in hand, they'll likely start looking for wing players who bring a lot more to the table as decision-makers. Hollis Thompson hasn't brought enough secondary skills along to set him apart from the bunch, so I'm swiping left.