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Scouting the Sixers and Our Hinkie Hope: Part 1


Who is Sam Hinkie?

  Sam Hinkie is not your average executive in Philadelphia professional sports. Some execs are home grown and considered too emotionally invested to be objective and competent. Others are too cold and detached from the fabric of this city and fail to resonate and understand the locality of the Philly sports fan base. It is my hope that Sam Hinkie is the outlier we are all hoping for.


The General Manager and President of Basketball Operations for the Philadelphia 76ers was raised in Marlow, Oklahoma, and has a high school football and basketball playing background. He went on to focus on academics and became an outstanding student at the University of Oklahoma in Norman and received high honors in graduate school studies at Stanford University.Photo: hoop76.com


Hinkie is recognized as a pioneer in the overall study of draft strategy, and utilizes research based statistics to target team needs in evaluating specific attributes concerning personnel. This all sounds good to non-jock or hokey nerd types. The pressing questions are: Is Hinkie doing a good job? Does he know what he is doing? And are the Sixers being set up for ultimate success? The answer to all three is yes. I am not basing this on Hinkie’s reputation, fancy language, use of numbers or higher educational degrees. I am basing this on three areas: team transactions, the draft, and the NBA Summer League.


The Tanking Myth


When the Sixers acquired Hinkie from the Houston Rockets, many fans soon started to apply skepticism to a sports geek taking over a Philly team. After trading an All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday for a protected pick and perhaps a future NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Nerlens Noel, many reacted negatively through a lack of understanding. Most fans in Philadelphia are Eagles fans, followed by the Phillies or Flyers and then the Sixers. The fan base follows largely the college basketball teams and only tolerates the Sixers. In any event, Hinke took advantage of this distracted group and there was a limited shelf life of negative attention in dealing away of an All-Star.


The Eagles, the only current bright-spot in the town, are exciting because they share nuanced qualities and pride in innovation. I believe if Hinkie ran the Eagles, he would support the philosophy of Chip Kelly. I also believe if Hinkie ran the Phillies and Flyers, you would see Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels, and Cliff Lee gone yesterday. The Flyers would be in the process of acquiring skill over grit. In other words, Hinkie recognized immediately that the structure needed tearing down and a rebuilding.


So, the standard “tanking” accusation is launched at the Sixers organization at a time when the other teams in the city live in the tank, barring the Eagles. True, the Sixers have set a losing streak record, but not on purpose, in receiving a favorable draft situation. I prefer the terms, team-building, delayed winning, deliberate construction or rejection of mediocrity (mediocrity being generous). Or simply, it’s a matter of “on with the new” – along with a new and correct fit in Coach Brett Brown. Brown is a classically trained Gregg Popovich mentee. The 4 around 1 motion concepts along with the “gaggle” are modified versions thus far, but true hoop junkies are seeing the big picture, in small doses.


If that means losing games to get draft picks, that is only a natural by-product of the correct process. When you rebuild and start over and acquire new talent via the draft you will go through lean years. Recall that in a stroke of pending brilliance, before the 2014 trade deadline, Hinkie dealt veterans with name recognition and acquired a stunning five second round draft choices. After this year’s draft, I decided to watch the NBA Summer League to see how the Hinkie project was looking. It’s obviously too early to tell if it will work but I have not seen any mistakes yet.


In the near future, the NBA may reform the lottery and/or lock-out; the latter being a potential disaster and effecting free agency. Until these two things happen, Hinkie is in cruise control in starting a very exciting time for professional basketball in this city. Shaq was correct when he said of Hinkie, “he’s playing it right, chess, not checkers.”


Dan Falcone is a teacher and basketball coach with more than ten years of experience. He has a Masters in Modern American History from LaSalle University in Philadelphia and currently teaches in secondary education near Washington, D.C.  Dan is also a writer for the Sixer Sense.



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Sam Hinkie photo: hoop76.com