Sam Hinkie’s Plan Brought 76ers to Finals Contention; Who Will Finish the Job?

    The 76ers parted ways with General Manager Bryan Colangelo earlier this summer after an embarrassing social media scandal. Colangelo was operating

    September 6, 2018

    The 76ers parted ways with General Manager Bryan Colangelo earlier this summer after an embarrassing social media scandal. Colangelo was operating “burner” Twitter accounts to defend himself and make comments about players anonymously.

    Philadelphia still hasn’t found a replacement, with head coach Brett Brown serving as the interim GM. It might not change anytime soon.

    Sixers owner Josh Harris said the team is not rushing to bring in a new general manager. The team likely won’t lift the interim tag off of Brown and make him the permanent GM, although he has front office experience during his time with the Spurs. Too many situations where coaches have a front office role have gone wrong for the Sixers to go down that path.

    In an ironic twist, Philadelphia now has a contending team without a permanent GM after starting with a GM looking to build a contending team.

    In 2013, the Sixers began a rebuilding phase dubbed “The Process” with Sam Hinkie at the helm. It was a radical approach to building a team that incentivized short-term losing for long-term success. Draft picks were gold, regardless of the round. Hinkie shed long-term contracts from the books and avoided taking on big money unless great draft assets were attached to it. Philadelphia went under the salary floor due to the influx of cheaper contracts.

    “The Process” did what it was expected to: It created opportunities to nab talent at the top of the draft. The Sixers made six lottery picks from 2013-17 with four selections inside the top three. In the 2017 draft, the Sixers jumped from the third spot to the first spot in a rare instance of sacrificing a future draft asset for a current upgrade.

    The early results were not promising, but “The Process” eventually paid off on the court. After amassing just 75 wins over four seasons, the Sixers jumped to 52 wins in 2017-18 alone, finally earning a playoff berth. Philadelphia rewarded the players who stuck out a painful rebuild. Joel Embiid received a five-year, $148 million extension. Robert Covington, an undrafted free agent, inked a four-year, $62 million deal.

    As the coach, Brown oversaw player development on the floor during the rebuild. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have emerged as young cornerstones for the franchise under his eye. Brown even pulled his own “Process” move at the 2018 draft when he swapped Mikal Bridges for Zhaire Smith and a 2021 unprotected first-round pick.

    Despite a 52-win season, the 76ers got picked apart in the playoffs by a Celtics team missing its two best players. There was still work to be done. Entering the summer of 2018, the 76ers were expected to be big players in the free agency market. They had cap space, budding stars and a relatively easier path to championship contention being in the Eastern Conference.

    However, the Sixers weren’t able to “complete The Process,” as LeBron James and Paul George bolted for other opportunities. The team didn’t get a meeting with either star, although the Sixers had contact with James’ representatives. The team also lost out on the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes, likely because they could not offer a package that would’ve kept the Spurs in the Western Conference playoff hunt.

    So here’s the question: With no long-term GM in place, can the Sixers land a big-time player via trade or free agency to get to the next level?

    Philadelphia is expected to be a contender this season after James’ departure from the East leaves the conference race open. The Sixers finally have a path to the Finals, and it’s thanks in large part to Hinkie’s radical plan.

    Simmons and Embiid form a dominant duo with several improving role players around them. Markelle Fultz remains an unknown, but his confidence should be growing. Rookies Smith and Landry Shamet have the skills to immediately help the team.

    The remnants of “The Process” even extend beyond the court to Philadelphia’s future draft assets.

    But for a team whose structure is covered with the fingerprints of a singular architect in Hinkie, will the 76ers reach the promised land without a suitable replacement for Colangelo?

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