The Philadelphia 76ers are.......
........making dreams come true at the expense of the fanbase. Sam Hinkie, he's doing it his way.
Working as the GM of the Philadelphia 76ers is a dream job. I am jealous at 76ers GM Sam Hinkie, and I am sure most GMs in every professional sports league worldwide feel the same way. Imagine that you are given a job, where you can implement your entire philosophy and vision with no consequences for four years. There are zero expectations for the first four years of your job and you are paid extremely well. Even if your vision failed in the worse possible way, you are still guaranteed a healthy paycheck for four to five years, and a plethora of networking opportunity with like minded people whom probably will hire you as resident analytic guru/paperpusher in the future.
The only people who suffer are the fans and the hapless coach who hopefully will be allowed to coach a few playoff games when the new POTUS run for his or her re-election. By subscribing to Sam Hinkie's vision, the 76ers are also making dreams come true for some players on their current roster, who will likely never see an NBA paycheck once they leave the 76ers.
The 76ers are unique in that they are openly awful. Last year's Milwaukee Bucks tried to win and had actual NBA players on their team. We can argue for hours if the Lakers are "stealth tanking" this year, but again, they also have actual NBA players on their team. It takes a special creative mind to create something like our present day 76ers. It takes a lot of work to be this bad. First, we have to clear the roster of any helpful veteran players. Next, make sure to get cheap unproven free agents and second round picks, and actually give them playing time. Then, build a temporary team that resemble an NBA team on the surface, but one that is low on skills like shooting the basketball efficiently, which are crucial to winning basketball games. I am sure it is a lot deeper, and Hinkie and company probably have extensive formulas for this.
In our society, nobody in any field are allowed to be openly awful at their job at least not until they reach tenure or obtain a job with a rich relative. Most normal people are not given the chance to be awful at their job even if they build something for future. In teaching, you are held under scrutiny about test scores and classroom management (at some schools, it is like trying to win with Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings on your team) until you reach tenure. New attorneys have to bill certain hours, act like they are working and please the partners and clients. Administrators, middle management, etc. are supposed to make money, if not immediately, soon after receiving their jobs. Even if you build for the far off future, you cannot neglect the present. If Hinkie was running a business, he would hire rookies or people with questionable backgrounds who would work for cheap, and probably push the business toward either a minor spike in profit or the brink of bankruptcy in the first two years. Hinkie would hope that some of these rookie employees develop into assets to build around and that he would not lose too many customers. I cannot think of any business or job where this Hinkie model would be accepted, internationally or locally. This would not work in higher education or a hospital either. In the end, this is the NBA, which at times defy logic. Sixers fans, let's hope that Sam Hinkie's plan will not be the case in which the operation was successful, but the patient died.
An Irreverent Roster Review
On this special edition of An Irreverent Roster Review, the Philadelphia 76ers. As an avid NBA fan and sports information addict, I know way too much about NBA Players, even the ones at the end of every contending and pretending teams' bench. I knew about Austin Daye and the artist formerly known as Jeff Pendergraph. I followed Chris Douglas-Robert's journey from the NBA to the D-League, and back to the NBA. I even keep up with Garrett Temple's situational apprearances for the Wizards. The 76ers? Since I do not follow college basketball until the second of week of March (with the exception of a few Kentucky or North Carolina games), I have no idea who half of these guys are and I intentionally did not google them this season just to see how many obscure players Sam Hinkie can sign. Sam, you are taking this tanking thing way too far, like driving from the San Gabriel Valley to the San Fernando Valley, too far.
Nerlens Noel: Hi-top fade rocking, shot blocking center, who can't shoot. He was a lottery pick. I am not a draft expert but you can find athletic shot blocking rim protecting centers in the second round or late first round, right? At least, ones that did not play for Kentucky.
Michael Carter-Williams: Big point guard who can't shoot. Common sense would suggest that this would muck up spacing. Is he as good as pre-injury Shaun Livingston?
Henry Sims: I have no idea who he is. At first, I thought Sam Hinkie signed a heavyweight boxer from the 1980s to play center. This was the Tim Weatherspoon, James "Bonecrusher" Smith, Tony Tubbs -- guys Mike Tyson beat up on era. (Michael Buffer voice) In this corner, originally from Mobile, Alabama, fighting out of Charlotte, North Carolina.........
K.J. McDaniels: He signed a non-guaranteed contract so he could be a restricted free agent after this season. It was the right gamble since he knew he would get minutes with this 76ers crew. Why didn't other contenders/pretenders draft this athletic marvel? Well, he can't shoot. (I see a recurring theme here. Sam Hinkie is brilliant, sign a bunch of athletic players who look good on the court but can't shoot. But play at a high pace and shoot threes, genius.)
Jerami Grant: He is the son of Harvey Grant, or Horace Grant. (I know the difference between Harvey and Horace, but I can't remember which one was Jerami's dad.)
Jakarr Sampson: I have worked in many schools in five different cities in Southern California. I never had a student named "Jakarr." They cut Casper Ware in favor of this dude? What? I want to see the Gahr High School and Long Beach State alumni in the league consistently.
Tony Wroten: Seattle area guy, who is athletic and a decent defender, but can't shoot (again).
Malcolm Thomas: Played college ball at San Diego State, he was on the Bulls' roster a few years back.
Furkan Aldemir: I have no idea who this guy is. I don't know if he's Turkish, Serbian, Montenegrin,or Australian of Iranian descent. He might be a Nigerian-American, like our beloved Ekpe Udoh.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute: Ex-UCLA guy by way of Cameroon who was on the Kings before this journey to Philly. He's supposedly is here to mentor Joel Embiid. A decent, but overrated defender who can't shoot (again) and have no offensive game.
Hollis Thompson: I googled him last year, which is the only reason I ever heard of him. Last year, the Georgetown product was a low usage player, who can actually shoot. The Sixers are way too good at this.
Joel Embiid (Inactive): Athletic Cameroonian guy with some injury red flags. The African Sam Bowie?
Andrei Kirilenko (Inactive): If you are AK-47, you wouldn't want to report to the 76ers either. It is okay, Andrei, LA awaits.
Jason Richardson (Inactive): A big chunk of their payroll, apparently intending to make a comeback.
Sixers Watchability Essay
As a fan of professional tennis, I love attending early round and qualifying matches at tournaments. The ticket prices are cheaper, and at some tournaments you may be able to catch the qualifying rounds for free. You can also catch some matches on outside courts, get an up close view of pros ranked between 50 and 200 and appreciate how good they are at their craft. There is always a bloodthirsty level of intensity at these matches. These players are fighting for ranking points, needed money to fund their dreams of continuing to survive as a professional athlete, and perhaps a future match against a superstar. While a top rank player may subtlely tank or pace themselves at non-Grand Slam tournaments, these lower rank pros would run over a grandmother and commit a misdemeanor for a qualifying or first round win.
These are the same reasons why I watch the 76ers. With the exception of their lottery pics, Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel, all these players are fighting for their dreams and professional survival. While the skill level may be lacking and shots will be missed, the effort and intensity will be constant -- except for every sixth game when they play a truly elite team and get blown out by the middle of the second half. Most of the time, though, the Sixers will make Rasheed Wallace proud and play hard. A bunch of second round picks and undrafted free agents are desperately looking for the next contract, which they hope will be at least partially guaranteed and if they are fortunate enough, multi-year. The hunger and desperation of the 76ers role players make the Sixers a must watch for realist NBA fans.
The Sixers also play at high pace. Thus, when the Sixers' are not clicking, they are involved in highly entertaining blowouts like last year's game at Staples against the Clippers, which ended at Clippers 123 and Sixers 78. This year, the Sixers are competing well and there have actually lost a lot of close games. However, there have been a few gems like the Sixers' last game, a 126-86 lost to the Warriors.
Paul Tee's Prognosis
Here is the obvious and honest truth, what if all this team building through tanking does not lead to Championships or even Finals appearances. The middle and bottom of the Eastern Conference will likely be awful to mediocre for years to come, so the 76ers could possibly make the Playoffs in five years, probably as a seventh or eighth seed. But there is no guarantee that the 76ers will become Championship contenders once these draft picks hit their prime. Is it worth taking your fanbase through three to four years of intentionally losing for a seventh or eighth seed? Probably not, but that could be the harsh reality. Michael Carter-Williams look like a solid point guard, but he is nowhere near the level of John Wall, CP3, or even Utah Jazz era Deron Williams and he probably will never get there. Carter-Williams is probably a great third option on a contender. What if Joel Embiid is the Cameroonian Vlade Divac and not the second coming of Hakeem Olajuwon, Embiid could be a solid player like Vlade but not a transcendent talent. Dario Saric is compared to Toni Kukoc. You know what Kukoc needed to be effective -- he needed to be surrounded by Hall of Famers. Kukoc did nothing of significance save a few great games for the Hawks once he left the Bulls. If the Sixers do not get any transcendent all time superstars on the level of LeBron, Durant, or Anthony Davis, there is zero chance they will get to an NBA Finals in the next six to seven years. Careers and primes of superstars, baring injury, lasting longer often up to age 33 or 34. Duncan and Nowitzki are still their team's anchor in their mid to late 30s. LeBron and Durant have games that will age well. Additionally, Sam Hinkie is not the only smart GM in the NBA. Getting real superstars or difference makers, not second tier numbers guys like Kevin Love, to leave their contending teams during free agency is not as easy as it seems. If Hinkie cannot get the Sixers to at least a conference finals in the next six or seven years, he could kill pro basketball in the city of Philadelphia. That is something that advance statistics and analytics could never have predicted.