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So far, Warriors' "plan" is going better than Sixers'

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 credit: rantsports.com 

It is all part of “the plan.”  

At least that is how Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie and his disciples describe the strategy of purposely becoming one of the NBA’s worst teams.  

Since his hire in May 2013, Hinkie has gathered draft choices like they were stock options, acutely managed the salary cap and made the Sixers one of the most fiscally responsible, moribund franchises in the league.  

Still, there is no winning. And frankly, nobody knows if the Sixers have a difference-making player on the roster.  Yet many otherwise intelligent local hoops fans blindly support Hinkie’s efforts, without questioning its merits.

From sports talk radio, to social media, to the office break room, basketball junkies throughout the region spout “the plan,” like those alien Fred Flintstones in the classic 1964 episode: “Yabba-dabba-the plan, yabba-dabba-the plan!”

At this stage, it is fair to question whether Hinkie is actually performing all of the duties required of a successful GM. Think about it. If Sixers’ ownership hired you to make the team as bad as humanly possible, could you do it?  Of course you could, but if they expected you to find terrific players throughout the draft, sign a key free agent or two and make a couple of great trades, the challenge becomes exponentially more difficult, doesn’t it?

Consider this: Lost in all the blind faith in “the plan” is the fact the Golden State Warriors (42-9 at this season’s midpoint) toiled in the NBA’s abyss and draft lottery right along with the Sixers in 2009.  

In fact, the Warriors stayed there for four more seasons, but during that span they selected Stephen Curry and Harrison Barnes (7th) overall, Klay Thompson (11th) and Ekpe Udoh (6th). Yes, it took the Warriors five seasons before their current nucleus qualified for the playoffs, but Curry arrived in year one of their rebuild.  

If you are keeping score, Golden State made one bad choice in that four year period without the benefit of one top five selection. Sort of puts an entirely new perspective on the idea you must draft in the top three for several seasons to get better, doesn’t it?  

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Interestingly, the draft is only part of the Warriors road to NBA relevancy. They also made two shrewd trades.  In 2010, they traded Kelenna Azubuike, Anthony Rudolph, Ronny Turiaf, and two 2nd round picks (one in both 2012 and 2013) to the New York Knicks for David Lee.  That’s almost criminal.  Then in 2012, they acquired Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson from Milwaukee for Kwame Brown, Monta Ellis and Udoh (the bust from 2010).  Photo: hoop76.com

Clearly, Bogut struggled in Milwaukee and is by no means Hakeem Olajuwon. However, he is a major contributor to their interior defense and is important to their success in the playoffs.  

Throw in a utility knife like Draymond Green from Michigan State, whom they found with the 35th pick in 2012, the trade for André Iguodala in 2013, along with the free agent signing of Marreese Speights, and that is NBA general managing at its finest.  

At best, the Warriors rise makes Hinkie’s plan look too slow.  At worst, he looks like a Peter Principle sufferer, whose statistical knowledge makes his basketball acumen seem greater than it is.   

Without question, NBA success is about making good draft choices regardless of when they occur.  And this is not meant to say Hinkie’s plan categorically won’t work. But Golden State proves trades and free agency are equally important.  And to date, Hinkie has not hijacked anyone or signed any pivotal free agents.

Most importantly, Golden State’s former and current general managers Larry Riley and Bob Myers prove there are alternatives to “the plan.”  They show a clear path, while “the plan” seems stalled and has not produced much more than ping-pong balls and solid bench players.  

But go ahead, Sixers fans. Continue to drink Hinkie’s analytic Kool-Aid without questioning why it tastes funny.  Keep believing “the plan” is the lone means to NBA championship contention.  

Don’t let Golden State’s burgeoning success get in your way. 

Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area.  He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention.  His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

Contact Earl at emyersiii@hotmail.com

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Warriors photo: rantsports.com

Sam Hinkie photo: hoop76.com