Sam Hinkie Was Great At His Job (It's Not Really Debatable)

Spike Eskin
May 20, 2020 - 6:03 am

Sam Hinkie was not only great at his job here in Philadelphia as President of Basketball Operations for the Sixers, he was one of the best personnel executives in the history of the city. 

Forgive me in advance for being so wordy, as the fact that “Hinkie was good at his job” isn’t just accepted truth is mind-blowing to me. The only people still debating the other side of this are either stupid or being dishonest. They (we will just refer to them as they) are like sports flat-Earthers.  

They are so heavily invested in covering up the fact that they were wrong that they don’t know how foolish they sound. That the very easy to see facts, which are clear as azure sky and an unmuddied lake, are buried deep beneath their infantile rage. The fact that admitting they were wrong on this one, very obvious thing, says a lot more about their self confidence than anything about Sam Hinkie.  They are the same yahoos yelling “where is your Process now?!” when Tobias Harris or Al Horford does something poorly. 

Hinkie had one job, that was to put the Philadelphia 76ers in the best possible position to win a championship. It would have been impossible to take larger steps than what Hinkie did in his less than three years as lead decision maker for the team. 

To accomplish this one job, he had one very simple plan: take as many chances as he could to get superstar players in the draft, and use as much of the rest of the roster as he could to find and develop players that flew a little further under the radar. 

He built the plan in this way because he knew that the draft is an imperfect science in which you have to make decisions with incomplete information. He built the plan in this way because he knew that the “under the radar” players were even less of a sure bet, so the more chances the better. 

He built the plan in this way because he knew that the most difficult thing for young players to get in the NBA is NBA minutes, and the more time they could spend on the court in the NBA, the faster they’d develop, and the quicker the team would know whether it was worth investing more time into them. 

It is very easy to seem credible poking holes in his performance by pointing out the things that he did wrong (he took Okafor! He passed on Giannis!), but they are usually presented without the proper context. The entire point of the plan was based on the supposition that drafting is difficult and they would fail often. At least he had the good sense to only spend one top pick on a bust, unlike the born-on-third-base doofus that succeeded him, who managed to spend not only the top pick in the entire draft on one, but an extra first round pick as well, for the right to select him in the first place. Yes, it’s true that Hinkie did not do a perfect job, but that’s sort of like trying to judge Nick Foles’ performance in the Super Bowl by talking about the interception he threw. 

Through a series of intelligent trades, draft picks and signings, he took a team whose cupboard was basically bare and stuck in the hamster wheel of mediocrity, and transformed it into a collection of young players, future draft picks, and cap space that has rarely been duplicated. The job he did was so good it’s stunning. 

The ultimate judgment of Hinkie’s performance is shown by looking at what happened after Hinkie left. First, Bryan Colangelo (who was hired by his father, Jerry Colangelo), and then Team Collaboration (Brand, Rucker, Cohen, and formerly Eversley), proceeded to overspend, and in many instances just totally waste, just about every asset that Hinkie left them. Cap space, draft picks, young players, all used up like Richard Pryor spending money in Brewster’s Millions. And still, after four years of mismanagement, they entered last summer with max-level cap space, and two of the best young players in the NBA (Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons). 

The best examples of the trades Sam Hinkie was able to pull off look like the time he was able to turn extra cap space into a first round pick and two potential picks swaps from the Kings, or when he bluffed the Magic into trading an extra first round pick to get Elfrid Payton. The best examples of his signings were when he was able to get players like Robert Covington and TJ McConnell on unguaranteed, low-money, long-term deals. 

The best examples of the trades that followed Hinkie look like when GM Burner Accounts was able to trade his own #3 overall pick (which was only #3 because of the pick swap Hinkie obtained), and a future Lakers first round pick (obtained by Hinkie), for Markelle Fultz. Or how about when they traded two first round picks, two second round picks, and Landry Shamet for a player on the final year of his contract that had never made an All-Star team? The signings that followed Hinkie deserve their own column, but include $11 million a year for Amir Johnson, $36 million for two years to JJ Redick, $27 million for three years to Jerryd Bayless, and a Covid-19 bailout level sum to the combination of Tobias Harris and Al Horford. 

It’s true that Hinkie could have been better with agents, and done a little more to satiate the media’s desire for information. It’s true that we have no idea what moves he would have made if he was left to his own devices. What’s also true is that we can only judge him by his body of work, which is exceptional.
The question is not, “was Sam Hinkie a good general manager?” Of course he was. He was an excellent general manager. 

The real question is “why is it so hard for some people to admit Sam Hinkie was a good general manager?” 

Your guess is as good as mine.