The Sixers have Been Patient, but Are you as a Sixers Fan?
The Sixers situation is one of the most discussed topics in sports today.
"This Sixers story for those of us who cover the league is fascinating," ESPN.com NBA writer said on the Sports Bash.
"The experiment that Sam Hinkie is undertaking, those of us who write about this and analyze this, we literally talk about this for hours. No matter what your plan is, it's really, really hard to lose. It's hard to walk out of that arena night-after-night, year-after-year losing."
Think about it, a team that has one win as we hit mid-December is talked about more than the 10 win Jazz, the 11 win Blazers, the 10 win Nuggets and a pair 2014-2015 playoff teams, the Hawks and Wizards just to name a few - and it also has a brighter future.
The Bucks are going backwards, people are ready to rip apart the Grizzlies and as Chad Ford explained the Suns are a team that "isn't bad enough to get a high lottery pick or good enough to contend. The Suns are in ninth in the West after finishing ninth and 10th the previous two seasons, which is NBA purgatory."
NBA purgatory, described as mental anguish or suffering.
"Everyone says you don't want to be caught in the middle," former NBA coach and current ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy said on the Dan LeBatard show. "Can you imagine if we were a league where everybody was trying to win big or lose big, what a travesty that would be for the sport of basketball?"
"I don't think Miami gets enough credit for trying to put together as good a team for their fans as they can every year, if you didn't have that middle of the pack group, what kind of league would we have."
While the current day Sixers could be causing mental anguish or suffering, but they're not in NBA purgatory. Van Gundy is right, but this goes back to this being an NBA problem not a Sixers problem, it is admirable that teams are okay being stuck in the middle, giving the fans a good, not great product - the Sixers are hoping for more than good, they want great.
The Sixers current product is an unfinished product, and while it's completely fair to say not everything they have done has been done the right way, the 2015-2016 product isn't anywhere close to the team they will look like in the 2016-2017 season.
If you want to say this years team is a joke, and the on-court product is bad, i'm not going to say you're wrong. But understand this is an unfinished product, that has been done to try to avoid becoming any of the above mentioned teams - all of which took short cuts to end up in the NBA purgatory they are now living in.
You can make an argument that hiring Jerry Colangelo means Sam Hinkie's power is gone or at the very least limited - fine. However, keep in mind, the Sixers have more ammo to improve than any of the teams mentioned above, thanks to Sam.
"Sam Hinkie may end up being a man ahead of his time," Windhorst said. "He may be doing the exactly correct thing, I do think he is absolutely playing the percentages. "
If you say you don't trust Sam to make the draft picks picks in this years draft, fine, but consider that the "plan" as many like to call it, already was coming to an end.
As ESPN.com NBA writer Zach Lowe points out:
"they might be following the plan they already had banked for summer 2016. By that point, they'll have selected a new crop of rookies, learned more about Embiid's prognosis, and perhaps gotten a final decision from Saric. If all those things flip a certain way, the summer of 2016 was always going to be a time for Philly to accelerate the team-building process."
Remember when Hinkie was hired, the Sixers were coming off a 34-48 season, with a roster consisting of Jrue Holiday, Thad Young, Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner as the core group - a group the ownership group decided was not good enough to win with, but not bad enough to land the star they need to be great.
Or NBA purgatory.
"I used too look at the standings and that would tell me the teams that are doing well and not doing well," Van Gundy joked. "Now I read about Philadelphia, they win every trade and they are 1-25."
But lets look at some of the things that Hinkie has done and gotten very little credit for to get the Sixers to this point. We hear the word assets and player development often in this process, but let's see how Hinkie has done in those areas.
(Listen to ESPN.com NBA writer Brian Windhorst discuss Sam Hinkie)
People don't love Tony Wroten, but Hinkie took a chance on a 6-foot-6 guard with great ability to score and get to the rim, sure he has his flaws, but the cost? A 2014 second-round pick for a guy who has developed into a athletic guard who scored 16.9 points per game last season.
He took a flier on a guy named Robert Covington, who has developed into a very capable NBA player. Over the Sixers last 12 games, Covington has averages of 15.6 points, 2.8 threes, 6.6 boards, 2.2 assists, 2.8 steals and 0.8 blocks.
He turned one of the many second-round picks into Jerami Grant, a hard-working, athletic forward who has developed into a solid NBA player who could find a role as a good bench player
Under the old regime, those minutes would have gone to a guy like Nick Young or Dorell Wright. Now Covington looks like a legit NBA player who should be a part of the team once it adds more talent - he can become the "veteran" presence many people say they lack, they are just creating their own, instead of bringing people from the outside and overpaying for their experience.
The jury is still out on Nik Stauskas, who admittedly has been a disappointment, but that deal also netted the team a 2018 1st round draft pick and the rights to swap their first rounder in 2016 or 2017 if the Kings end up with a better pick, the Sixers can switch picks with them.
Sure, some people don't like the Michael Carter-Williams trade, sure he is better than any point guard they have now, but he simply was a guy the team saw as a good player, not a great player. It's been a tough fit for him in Milwaukee, scoring 10.4 points, 5.4 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game, his rookie of the year season in Philly, those totals were 16.7 points, 6.3 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game. In return, the Sixers own the Lakers pick (top three protected this season), Hinkie took a gamble that pick could turn into a lottery pick and that player will have a higher ceiling than Carter-Williams - so far, I think it was a swing worth taking.
He traded Spencer Hawes, clearing $13.4 million in cap space, would keeping Hawes around helped them win more games? Sure. But again most of Hinkie moves haven't been about today, they've been about tomorrow.
He moved Turner, the 2010 draft mistake, moved Young a good, not great player, waived Kwame Brown, a disaster of a move by the previous front office and plenty of other things along the way.
In the end, the Sixers current product on the floor has suffered, but in reality, what free agent was coming to Philly over the past three seasons that make this team a playoff contender? If they remained in NBA purgatory the past three years, they never get their hands on a talent like Jahlil Okafor, they never have the mystery of Joel Embiid, who still gives this team more hope than any of the teams I mentioned above. They never have their hands on Nerlens Noel, a player who can be an elite NBA defender and they never have their hands on possibly four first round picks in this years draft.
We need to stop looking at the on-floor product today and begin to judge this team when the deals that have been made are actually able to be judged. The Sixers haven't won or loss the Carter-Williams deal yet - the deal really hasn't been finalized.
The Sixers could end up with pick four in the draft with the pick they got for Carter-Williams and turn that into his replacement at point guard, or they could trade that pick and get a more established NBA player.
Think of what Hinkie has done over the past few years like a baseball team dealing for prospects that sit in the minor leagues for a few years before they are able to reach the big leagues, it's hard to asses a trade until a few years later.
In 2016 the Astros are going to look like they got the better end of the Ken Giles deal with the Phillies, but what about 2017 when two-or-three of the prospects start to help the Phillies out, the 2016 Phillies aren't prospering from the deal, but the 2017 or 2018 Phillies might.
In dealing away Thad, Hawes, and Turner to strip things down was like the Phillies finally pulling the plug on Rollins and Utley - just moving on from pieces to hit rock bottom and start over with prospects that may or may not help them today but might tomorrow.
The Sixers needed to move on from the previous era of 2001-2012 where on average they were just 34-48 with just one playoff series win - and they have.
And now they are ready to move on to the next era - let's just not judge that next era just yet.
When a team rebuilds, it takes time to get back to respectability, have the Sixers sunk lower than most? Absolutely. But let's not act like three-to-five years of futility is rare - most teams when they hit rock bottom take years get to where they want to go - if they ever get there.
Most take short cuts, one thing for certain - the Sixers are not.
They had the plan in place, they remained patient, now they need to execute it - something no other team has been willing to do.
"I think Sam Hinkie's plan is exactly correct," Windhorst told me. "I am really totally and fully on board with his process."
They were willing to wait on Noel, they are willing to wait for Embiid, they are willing to wait for Dario Saric, they are willing to wait for the Carter-Williams deal to take shape, and they've are willing to wait for the 2016 draft to put it all together - they question is are you?