Flashback to June 27th 2013. Ray Allen’s shot to resurrect the Miami Heat over the Spurs is still burnt into the minds of even the most casual of basketball fans. While Biscayne bay is celebrating, the rest of the NBA is bracing itself for what is being labeled the thinnest draft class in the past decade. While pundits attempt to drum up interest for the soon-to-be blue chip players, executives and general managers behind the scenes are collectively cringing as they see the long list of projects and average at best role players littering the draft.
Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie, however, was plotting.
In a time where superstars are being traded with the regularity of a sixth man, Hinkie’s swap of All Star point guard Jrue Holiday for the sixth overall pick and a 2014 protected pick from the New Orleans Pelicans may not seem as a groundbreaking trade. In the moment, however, the trade was not only shocking but confusing as well. How could a first year general manager, with little front office experience in the first place, just give away the best player of a struggling franchise for what amounted to pennies on the dollar? The trade baffled analysts who were completely blindsided by what amounted to Philadelphia waving the white flag for the season .76ers fans began rioting in the streets and on twitter calling for Hinkies head on a silver platter Aka a typical Philly Sunday night.
Fast forward to today and Hinkie is no longer a pariah but the patron saint of Philadelphia, a superhero in a suit that’s too big and comb over that covers as much as Jamal Crawford does on defense.
The Process that’s how.
St. Hinkie, as he’s known by the cultish super fans within the 76ers faithful, is credited with assembling the most impressive collection of talent the likes of which the NBA has not seen in years. With talents such as Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz in tow, everyone from fans to analysts alike are already predicting greatness with the potential of forming a dynasty capable of taking over for King James once he steps down from his throne in the Eastern Conference. The roster is a manifestation of the “New NBA”, featuring big men such as Embiid, Dario Saric and Ben Simmons able to morph into multiple roles crucial to the position less style of play that is taking over the association.
Hinkie’s ability to accrue such a stellar cache of talent is based on rare combination of foresight, patience and luck with a foundation in new level analytics which is quickly becoming the basis for successful franchises to thrive in the new age of roster building. Hinkie’s poignant insight into the partisan nature of the NBA hierarchy, which is historically cruel to small and mid-market teams, combined with ownership’s willingness to be patience manifested into what is known as The Process.
What is the Process you ask?
The Process is multiyear experiment to create a dynasty utilizing radical measures to obtain draft picks and evaluate talent while simultaneously tanking seasons in order to increase chances at more optimal draft positioning. While it may seem as simple as just trading away all the team’s best players for draft picks and losing a bunch of games to get better draft picks, Sam Hinkie turned it into a science. Hinkie essentially turned the roster into a tryout for players who could fit the new model for the NBA, utilizing the excuse of losing games in order to gauge the values of his young players and molding them into the types of players who could be both versatile yet cheap. In this environment, players such as Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes turned from fringe NBA players to valuable contributors. On the flip side, if a player did not fit Hinkies vision, they were often swapped for a future draft pick. Michael Carter – Williams, Hinkie’s first draft pick, symbolized this philosophy because he was traded just a year after being named Rookie of the Year due to his inability to correct a broken jump shot which, in Hinkies eyes, crippled Philadelphia’s spacing and jeopardized the future of the team.
The future was the end game of the Process. In order to reach prosperity in any professional sport, the team needs a structure and the talent to make sure the structure is executed. In undergoing the Process, Hinkie was able to instill a structure within his existing players while developing them and infusing the roster with impressive talent continuously. In Hinkie, a new way of team building was created with the main focus of failing in the short term as a springboard for sustained success in the near future. As of this writing, other teams such as the Atlanta Hawks and the Phoenix Suns are implementing Process-esque mentalities in order to have a chance in a league that is known for its parity, where only three or four teams every year have a legitimate chance to actually compete for the championship.
Is it maddening?
Samuel Hinkie may not be the general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers anymore but his transcendent views to roster building has the 6ers in an envious position and has the City of Brotherly Love united in Trusting the Process.