Kobe Bryant’s retirement announcement would have moved Genghis Khan to tears. Sam Hinkie also stirred emotions with his resignation letter–confusion being the most powerful one. The former Philadelphia 76ers general manager delivered the 13-page manifesto to team ownership April 6 and it was a mouthful. He attempted to justify the three years of bottoming out to acquire premium draft picks, a.k.a. “The Process”, by comparing his maverick decisions to industry-titans Warren Buffett and Elon Musk. Hinkie’s analytical approach was accepted by the owners of the team in 2013, but their patience wore thin.
Hinkie pitched himself as a disruptor of the market, telling the board members in their first meeting “we should attempt to gain a competitive advantage that had a chance to be lasting, hopefully one unforeseen enough by our competition to leapfrog them from a seemingly disadvantaged position. “ The problem was not the losing–at least not to the owners–it was the net result of losing. Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, both top-12 picks in the 2014 NBA draft, have yet to play a minute in the NBA. Embiid has dealt with a stubborn foot injury, but the Sixers knew Saric would stay in the Euroleague for at least two years when they traded tenth pick Elfrid Payton for him. Payton is a serviceable ball distributor, but The Process was leveraged toward maximizing the team’s chance of selecting players with superstar potential until the right combination meshed into a championship contender.
This is not a radical idea. In fact, that’s the goal of every team that does not have an elite player. The Sixers were given so many headlines because Hinkie went full throttle with the notion of “tanking.” Designing a roster to lose as much as possible so as to increase the likelihood of winning the NBA draft lottery is effective only if management picks the right players. It typically takes years to determine a player’s full potential, years which Hinkie did not have enough to spare.
Appearing on former Grantland and current ESPN writer Zach Lowe’s podcast [1:02:20] an eerie 48 hours before his resignation was public, Hinkie admitted to not having a timetable of benchmarks such as make the playoffs in 2 years, win 50 games in 5, and so on. When asked if that is a problem, he countered by trivializing the concept of trumpeting a forecast only to fall on your face if you fail to reach that arbitrary goal.
Hinkie concluded the thought by saying knee-jerk reactions to immediate results without understanding the methods that led to this point feeds a system that makes the present day the imperative. Lowe replied, [1:09:09] “In other words, you have to investigate the process, and either trust the process…or not trust the process,” as he fought back laughter.
The cruel irony is his plan may start to bear fruit! The Sixers have highest odds of getting the top pick in the upcoming draft plus three first round picks if luck bounces their way. According to new GM Bryan Colangelo–Jerry’s son–and head coach Brett Brown, Embiid and Saric are expected to debut next season, but you didn’t need to hear it from those two. Hinkie detailed the Sixers’ future on page 12.
Published in The Ticker