Last offseason the Philadelphia 76ers were celebrating the arrival of 7-foot All-Star center Andrew Bynum and sharpshooter Jason Richardson. Bynum and Richardson were greeted to roaring crowds while Sixers fans dreamed of a playoff run led by their new big man and budding young star Jrue Holiday.
Fast-forward to the present day, just a few weeks after the NBA Finals, and the Sixers offseason is already much different than last year’s. The 2013 offseason began when the Sixers made changes within their front office. CEO Adam Aron and General Manager Tony DiLeo were both replaced. Replacing Aron is Scott O’Neil, the former president of Madison Square Garden. The more interesting decision was hiring Sam Hinkie as the new GM. Hinkie comes from the Houston Rockets, where he was the executive vice president of basketball operations.
While in Houston, Hinkie learned under Daryl Morey, who is widely regarded as one of the best GMs in the NBA. In Houston, Morey and Hinkie helped turn the Rockets from a team in the middle of the pack of the Western Conference to one of the best teams in the West. The Sixers are betting that Hinkie can use the model that Morey used in Houston to turn them around. In Houston, Hinkie learned to gain as many assets as possible in order to create space within the cap, and most importantly, improve through the draft. Hinkie spoke about the Sixers and the direction in which they were headed during his opening press conference.
“The ownership here and the people in this organization have a real commitment to build something lasting and to build something big. Sometimes that requires taking risks. Often it requires doing things a lot differently here and there, and I think you’ve seen some of that play out. I think [draft night] is a summation of the kinds of things we’ll have to do moving forward. Try to find more players to be a pipeline of talent,” Hinkie said.
Hinkie’s moves this offseason show that he is using that same model to reshape the Sixers for the future. First came the 2013 NBA Draft, where the Sixers traded Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans for the No. 6 overall pick, University of Kentucky center Nerlens Noel, and a protected first-round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. With the No. 11 overall pick, Hinkie drafted Syracuse University point guard Michael Carter-Williams.
The trade of Holiday will be a setback for the Sixers initially, but they were never going to be contenders with Holiday and the current Sixers roster. Meanwhile, Carter-Williams and Noel will be used as building blocks for a new Sixers team. However, the key prize of the Sixers offseason is the protected first round pick in 2014. Next year’s draft has been widely regarded as one of the best in years, with multiple potential franchise-changing players.
In free agency, the Sixers have been fairly quiet and not making any significant moves, playing it smart as many expiring contracts will be removed from their books after next season. Two of the expiring contracts include centers Spencer Hawes and Kwame Brown. The goal is to create enough cap space in order to sign a big-name free agent in the 2014 offseason. The potential free agents in 2014 include LeBron James, Paul George, Greg Monroe and DeMarcus Cousins.
The Sixers will be a team that struggles in the 2013-14 season, but their future looks bright. Fans should be excited about what Hinkie is attempting to do. Every move he makes comes with an obvious risk; however, trying something new and failing is better than the alternative of mediocrity, which is what Sixers fans have been accustomed to over the past few seasons.
The recent string of moves have given the Sixers an opportunity for a bright future. While playing the waiting game may not be appealing to some fans, it all comes down to whether you believe that the Sixers can come away from this rebuilding process as a good team. If you do, then there are many reasons to be excited about Sam Hinkie and the future of this franchise.