What if Sam Hinkie was still the Philadelphia 76ers’ general manager?

Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images /
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Philadelphia 76ers
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images /


Though the summer of 2019 happened most recently, it’s also the most difficult offseason to predict. So many stars switched teams, and many of them did so in tandems.

The actual Sixers front office did some tampering to acquire Al Horford, and had a serious advantage in retaining Tobias Harris. But Harris was mostly traded for as insurance against Butler leaving, and Horford was acquired as insurance against Embiid getting hurt.

Fultz might seem like dead money, especially in an offseason where the Sixers need to spend, but he still has value across the league. The Magic traded a protected first-round pick and a high second-round pick for him in real life. If the Sixers really wanted someone, and that someone wanted to come to Philly, they could use Fultz in a sign-and-trade.

In fact, two star guards were signed-and-traded to contenders last summer. Jimmy Butler went from Philly to the Miami Heat, and Kemba Walker went from the Charlotte Hornets to Boston. It’s no guarantee that either player would choose Philadelphia over those two spots, but the Sixers would at least have a chance, and in both cases could give more assets than Miami and Charlotte did.

That’s where this timeline truly differs from the real one. The Sixers still have a treasure trove of assets going into the 2019 NBA Draft and free agency. The Kings’ 2019 first and the entire Tobias Harris trade package (Shamet, Sixers’ own 2020 first, Miami’s unprotected first in 2021) are still in Philadelphia, as are Covington, Saric and Grant. They don’t have a third star yet, but they have several means to acquire one.

So the Sixers go into the draft with the Kings pick (late lottery), their own first (mid-20s), and three second-round picks. They need a backup center (unless Brett Brown comes to fully trust Holmes), and then possibly another guard.

The Kings pick could be used on a guard/wing hybrid like Nickeil Alexander-Walker, or a backup big like PJ Washington (if he falls) or Brandon Clarke. There were options, leaving the late first as a bit of a luxury to potentially fill the other hole. The second-round picks are even harder to gauge, and there could be a diamond in the rough among their three picks, but he likely spends 2019-20 in the G League.

So the Sixers go into free agency with Simmons, Embiid and Covington as guaranteed starters. Hill or Shamet could start at the 2 if they can’t pry a big fish, while Saric and Grant once again fight for minutes at the 4. The rookie guard (Alexander-Walker, Ty Jerome, Romeo Langford, etc.), Fultz, Korkmaz, Holmes and the rookie big (Washington, Clarke, etc) round out the bench.

It’s tough to determine what free agents would have done in this different timeline. By all accounts, Walker really wanted to stay in Charlotte, but they clearly didn’t want to pay him. Maybe the Hornets like a package of Fultz and picks better than inking Terry Rozier to a huge deal.

Even if the Sixers strike out on the summer of 2019, they still have tons of flexibility moving forward. And that’s really the point of this exercise: Instead of the franchise being drained of assets in a “death by a thousand cuts” way, they still have tons of flexibility. That remains true when Simmons’ extension kicks in starting next season, a contract that Hinkie also undoubtedly negotiates.

Hinkie’s prudence with assets went a long way. Even though his successors were somewhat careless with picks, they still had a ton to spare — enough to trade for Butler, overpay for Harris and still have enough cap space to sign Al Horford (spoiler: He’s not in this timeline).

In terms of performance, this timeline isn’t much different from the real one so far, but it certainly has a brighter future. And if the past is the same either way, I’m sure most Sixers fans would prefer the latter.

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