It’s not often that the Sixers’ former President of Basketball Operations Sam Hinkie speaks publicly, let alone to ESPN. However, the former mastermind behind “The Process” joined ESPN’s Pablo Torre on his podcast to discuss the recent hiring of his former boss, Daryl Morey.
This episode has a ton to unpack, so let’s dive in:
Pablo Torre began this interview with Hinkie by asking him how he felt about the Sixers hiring Daryl Morey. Hinkie responded with this:
“I was stoked. I’m stoked now. I think it’s great news. [Daryl Morey] isn’t a good hire, he’s a great hire. It’s a really big move for a franchise I care a lot about, with a bunch of people I care a lot about. I just think it portends really great things for the future, for the Sixers.”
Hinkie was a mastermind behind many great trades during his tenure. The fact that Hinkie openly praised the hiring so excessively speaks volumes to how great of a basketball mind Morey is.
It’s also worth mentioning how much Hinkie expressed his care and love for the franchise that basically forced him out years ago. While most would have some form of ill will, it’s refreshing to see that Sam Hinkie took the high road here, and showed nothing but love and respect to his former franchise.
Pablo Torre went on to ask Hinkie if he felt weird about the Sixers hiring his former boss, even comparing the situation to a husband getting a divorce and marrying his ex-wives’ sister. Hinkie had this to say:
“It hasn’t begun yet so we’ll see. I expect on occasion it may be a little strange. Mostly it will be great. Only a mind like yours would come up with an analogy like that. I think of it as obviously a good thing for Daryl and something that he wanted to do, which is awesome, and a good thing for the Sixers. And God bless em’ for getting to that answer, I think it’s a great answer regardless of the oddity of it. It makes my life simple. I’ve been a Sixers fan and a Rockets fan more than the other teams for awhile. I can continue to do that, it’s cool.”
This situation would be somewhat strange for anyone, let alone Sam Hinkie. It makes sense that he would feel a bit of awkwardness when seeing this situation unfold with time.
Pablo Torre eventually asked Hinkie how often he got to watch his former teams play, specifically with the Sixers since his resignation four years ago.
“I watch a bunch for sure. I don’t watch every game and I surely don’t watch all of every game. I live on the west coast so post-dinner a lot of nights you can catch the fourth quarter, and I’m as guilty as some fans — the game’s close and it’s interesting and you turn it on. The game’s not close with eight minutes to go, you don’t watch, you live to watch another day. I watch a bunch, I keep track a lot because I care about how they do and I care about the people there. I’m a fan from afar.”
While Hinkie doesn’t work in a NBA front office anymore, it is cool to see that he keeps up with his former teams. While the Sixers have shipped off the majority of their Hinkie-special players, the roster still does contain some personnel from his regime, including Joel Embiid and Glenn Robinson III (as of the end of this past season).
In fact, Hinkie was then asked how often he texts or speaks to Joel Embiid. While Hinkie wanted to keep specific details private, he did say that he “frequently” texts Joel Embiid, not everyday, but when Embiid needs something.
The conversation then shifted in regard to the “Process” himself, Joel Embiid. Torre asked Hinkie how he felt about watching Joel Embiid play over the past few seasons:
“I’m a huge fan. He’s amazing and has grown a lot, has gotten better and better, and came out in his first game ever and was amazing in that game. So it’s great fun for me.”
It’s great that Embiid and Hinkie share a friendship to this day. Both have become symbolic figures for the Sixers going forward. Hinkie is arguably one of the best minds in sports, and it’s great to have him in Embiid’s corner going forward.
It’s no secret that the Sixers have shipped off former Hinkie-drafted players in the past in mostly bad trades (cough Jerami Grant, Richaun Holmes, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor cough). Torre questioned Hinkie on how it felt to see some of his former players thrown in trade rumors:
“Oh gosh. Don’t people remember what it took to get them? For all of them. Getting a star player in the NBA isn’t impossibly hard, but close. It requires either an incredible amount of luck, or an amazing amount of time, or some other way to try and get at it. To have a young player who is nominally in a traditional sense just entering his prime and say: oh we’ve got to blank — no, you’ve got to get great players on your team.”
This is something that Sixers Twitter can be very guilty of a lot of the time. We’ve seen the countless trade machines shipping off Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid. Hinkie is spot on here — you have to surround your top talent with well-fitting pieces and exhaust all efforts before you even think about moving on from your top talent.
It’s easy to forget about the Process years as we steadily drift further and further away from them. It took a ton of time and effort for the Sixers to get their treasure chest of assets; it’s best to respect and value them going forward.
The conversation went on to pivot to Ben Simmons, a player that Hinkie didn’t draft but is a core piece of the Sixers’ future. Hinkie was asked to give an informal scouting report on Simmons:
“I would say the obvious thing is that he doesn’t make or shoot 3s, and that’s real, and for him to be truly amazing [that’s] part of his game you’d like to see develop. There’s a lot more to it — for as big and athletic as he is, you’d like to see him use both hands around the rim, finish with his left hand around the rim, and finish over bigs, and go to the line. Those would move the needle far more [than shooting]. He’s already All-NBA, he’s amazing.”
While Simmons’ shooting will always have the spotlight shined on it, Simmons can definitely improve in other areas. We’ve seen Simmons favor his right hand when it comes to finishing around the rim, which could definitely be improved. Simmons drawing more contact and trying to get to the free throw line would definitely help his game offensively, as those are the easiest points to get.
Simmons and Embiid’s fit has always been in question by national media outlets. Hinkie was asked to weigh in on the big debate:
“I’d be loath for anyone who says the obvious answer is to move on from one or both. Yes, you could trade a young player for an older, better-fit player whose not as good, that’s for sure. I’m not sure I would.”
As stated before, the Sixers should do absolutely everything they can to win with Simmons and Embiid before even thinking about trading them. Trading either of their unique talents for worse, better-fitting players would not benefit the franchise going forward.
Sam Hinkie was known for valuing and drafting picks over his tenure. While he has had a ton of draft success, he has received criticism for his 2015 pick of Jahlil Okafor. Hinkie was asked bluntly if drafting Okafor was labeled as a “L” in his mind:
“You should accept all the L’s, that’s the nature of leadership. It’s lonely. All the L’s you should accept. All of the bad decisions get hung on you. That’s the nature of it. That’s the nature of the job. It’s always been that way.”
It’s rare to see some GMs or front office basketball personnel take ownership and responsibility for their misses. I gotta give Hinkie a ton of props for this response.
A lot of people speculated that Hinkie was pressured into taking Okafor at the third overall spot in the 2015 draft, or that he was unable to take Kristaps Porzingis due to his agent declining a workout with the Sixers. Hinkie didn’t come up with either of those excuses, and just held himself accountable.
The final question I’ll highlight is the one Sixers fans have been begging to have answered since Hinkie’s resignation. Sam was asked what the percentage chance was of him returning to the Sixers for a second stint (possibly under Daryl Morey). This was his answer:
‘‘Zero. I’ve turned that chapter of my life. I very much like what I’m doing now.”
Even though Daryl Morey is a great basketball mind and I’m ecstatic about the hiring, this answer does sting a bit. Hinkie was arguably the greatest GM in 76ers’ history and put together an impressive track record. The fact that he will never return definitely does hurt to hear. But, it’s to be expected. A return was never likely, and this comment puts the dagger in any speculation.
This podcast episode was incredibly informative about a ton of topics, ranging from Colangelo’s burners to stories with the Houston Rockets. This post doesn’t do this episode justice on how great the hour-and-a-half episode is and I greatly encourage you all to check it out here.