What if Sam Hinkie had been able to complete his unfinished business with the Philadelphia 76ers?
Sam Hinkie’s legacy is complicated. The connotations of his actions often speak louder than the actions themselves. But through all the narratives, stories and lore, one thing remains true about him: As general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, he used tactics that changed the league forever.
By now, almost every NBA fan knows what The Process was. Hinkie was hired by the Sixers in the summer of 2013 and promptly made his name known. His first move as GM, trading Jrue Holiday for two first-round picks, was very telling of what was to come.
Hinkie traded every veteran player of value, from Holiday to Thaddeus Young to Spencer Hawes. The Sixers’ roster went from somewhat competitive to outright dreadful in less than a year, and it was all by design.
The plan had several goals: maximize draft position in order to acquire stars, accumulate as many assets as possible and cycle through bargain-bin players to see who would stick. It was all about accumulation, both in quality and quantity, from the ground up.
There were costs though, no doubt. “Maximize draft position” is a euphemism for losing on purpose, something the Sixers did quite a bit of during this run. They went 18-64 in 2013-14, 19-63 in 2014-15, and 10-72 in 2015-16. That last season was especially dreadful, and it brought about the end of Hinkie’s tenure.
In the midst of that 2015-16 season, they were pressured into hiring Jerry Colangelo as an advisor. Colangelo was an executive for the Phoenix Suns for decades and won four Executive of the Year awards during his time there. He was also instrumental in rebuilding the brand of Team USA, helping it become a powerhouse once again on the international stage. With his experience, he was seen as someone who could build better relationships with players and other teams.
To say that Colangelo and Hinkie disagreed is probably an understatement. Within weeks of Colangelo’s hiring, the Sixers traded two second-round picks to the New Orleans Pelicans for Ish Smith. Trading picks for a veteran was the exact opposite of Hinkie’s plan, signaling a shift in the organization’s power.
By mid-April Hinkie had left his post, leaving a 13-page manifesto behind. And with him left several other great basketball minds, such as Ben Falk, founder of Cleaning the Glass.
That summer, the 76ers staged a search for a new general manager. Their eventual choice was…Bryan Colangelo, Jerry’s son. The events that have unfolded since have been pivotal in shaping the current roster and future outlook.
But what would’ve happened if the league hadn’t gotten involved? What if Samuel Blake Hinkie were still in charge of the 76ers? From the 2016-17 season on, the next few slides will outline what the Sixers did under Colangelo and company, and juxtapose it with what Hinkie and his crew likely would have done.
Naturally this is an inexact science. But by looking at what Hinkie actually did, and where the franchise was headed after he left, it’s possible to predict a revisionist’s history.