The Philadelphia 76ers are on track to tank for the second-straight season.
With two picks in the top-10 of the loaded 2014 NBA Draft, general manager Sam Hinkie picked two players who won’t see the court until at least the 2015-16 season.
With the No. 3 pick, the Sixers selected Kansas center Joel Embiid. Then Hinkie traded the No. 10 pick to Orlando for the No. 12 pick — collecting a 2017 1st-round pick and a 2015 2nd-round pick in the process — and selected Croatian star Dario Saric.
Embiid has a broken foot and likely won’t play this year.
Saric just signed a new deal with his European team and might not come over to the U.S. until 2016-17.
This is all part of a radical team-building plan that’s rational and frustrating at the same time.
Hinkie’s plan is to collect as many assets as possible, sacrificing short-term results for the relentless acquisition of valuable stuff (young players with high potential, draft picks, maybe an expiring contract or two) that will form the nucleus of the team in the future.
Last summer, Hinkie traded for Nerlens Noel, who fell in the 2013 NBA Draft because he had an injury that would keep him out of the entire 2013-14 season. He also got rid of Jrue Holiday, the team’s best player, and refused to sign any high-priced free agents.
As a byproduct of that long-term strategy, the team was awful. They won 19 games and got the 3rd-pick in the draft — which should have brought them an immediate impact player.
All the experts acknowledged that Embiid was the No. 1 prospect in the draft, but his injuries scared off most teams. When he fell to the Sixers at No. 3, Hinkie had to decide between a high-potential player who couldn’t play right away or a lower-potential player who’d contribute in 2014-15. As he has done every step of the way, he went with the first option.
The Sixers have $US32 million in cap room. But you haven’t heard them mentioned once in big free agent rumours. Their roster is absolutely barren. They aren’t ready to win in 2014-15 …. or 2015-16 or probably even 2016-17.
This team-building plan is radical in the sheer scope of its timeline. Hinkie is asking fans to not worry about winning for nearly half a decade while Embiid, Saric, Noel, NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, and whoever they draft next year develop.
It makes sense. Chasing free agents and drafting immediate-impact players is a futile exercise (just look at the Cleveland Cavaliers). But it also pushes the limits of what fans are willing to tolerate.
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