Sam Hinkie is a man who’s certainly not a myth. His tale is legendary, but not always for the right reasons.
A protege of Houston Rockets general manager (GM), Daryl Morey, Sam Hinkie spent eight years learning and watching how to build up a franchise. Morey most notably fleeced the Thunder in the James Harden deal.
After interviewing for the Philadelphia 76ers GM job during the 2012 off-season, Hinkie ultimately lost out to Tony DiLeo, who was promoted from assistant GM. The following offseason, Hinkie was hired.
Sam Hinkie’s “The Process”
Almost immediately after his hiring, Hinkie started moving critical pieces from the team for future assets. It became known as “The Process.” Less than six weeks in as GM, Hinkie sent Jrue Holliday and Pierre Jackson to the New Orleans Pelicans for Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first-round draft pick.
By August of 2013, Brett Brown had signed on as the head coach to captain the ship during the process. Hinkie embraced analytics at a level no other NBA franchise had done before. If the numbers did not agree, Hinkie shipped a player out.
Hinkie’s first trade deadline was more of a complete house cleaning than anything else. Spencer Hawes had been a consistent starting center for three years: Traded to Cleveland for scraps and a couple of ’14 second-round picks. Evan Turner went to the Pacers for an aging Danny Granger and a ’15 second-round pick. Granger never even reported to the team, as his contract was bought out six days after the trade.
The team had been stripped of its best players and replaced by guys who would sit on most other teams benches, or wallow away in the D-League. But the most crucial thing for Hinkie was the draft picks. With an abundance of second-round picks, the team was bound to strike gold on one or more players, or lump them together for a first-round pick.
“It’s Alive” – The Process in full swing
Summer 2014 was far and away the most important and biggest offseason of Hinkie’s tenure. The team held two first-round picks and five second-round picks. From those seven picks, four noteworthy players were selected: Joel Embiid selected third overall, Elfrid Payton tenth, K.J. McDaniels the second pick in the second round, and Jerami Grant, the ninth pick in the second round.
Payton did not wear the 76ers hat long on draft night, as he ended up in Orlando in exchange for Dario Saric, a 2015 second-round pick and a 2018 first-round pick.
Thaddeus Young said goodbye to Philly in late August, as Hinkie involved the 76ers in the Kevin Love trade, which brought back a 2016 first-round draft pick, Luc Mbah a Moute and Alexey Shved.
As the off-season turned into the regular season, Hinkie did not stop the trades. By the end of the 2014-15 season, the 76ers had picked up two 2015 second-round draft pick, three 2018 second-round picks, and two 2019 second-round picks, a 2020 second-round pick, a 2016 first-round pick and a 2018 first-round pick. For Hinkie to amass all those picks, he dealt away McDaniels who was in the midst of an excellent rookie season, a pair of second-round picks, and some scrap heap players.
The only noteworthy players that remained were Noel, Embiid, and Robert Covington. Embiid did not even play during the season due to an injury. Philadelphia was dreadful in 2015.
An 18-64 record firmly cemented them as one of the three worst teams in the NBA, with only the Knicks and Timberwolves owning a worse record. Selecting third in the draft, Hinkie chose Jahlil Okafor, the big man from Duke who had just led the Blue Devils to a March Madness title. The pick was viewed with some skepticism as Noel, Embiid, Covington, and Saric were all on the roster listed as Forwards and or Centers.
Just weeks after the draft, Hinkie pulled off a trade with the Sacramento Kings, which at the time seemed pedestrian and boring, but ultimately changed the fates of the Kings and Celtics.
Carl Landry, Nik Stauskas, Jason Thompson, a 2017 first-round pick, and a 2019 first-round pick made their way to Philly for a 2017 first-round pick and a couple of draft and stash players. Thompson was eventually shipped off to Golden State. But the picks were the highlight of the deal.
Philly eventually exercised their right to swap picks in the 2017 draft, taking the #3 pick and sending back the #5 pick. Sacramento used that pick to select De’Aaron Fox. The #3 pick was packaged with the 2019 first-round pick and sent to Boston for the first overall pick. Philly selected Markelle Fultz, and the Celtics picked Jayson Tatum and Romeo Langford, respectively.
Hinkie was not around to see that trade blossom into the lopsided mess it became. At the end of the 2016 season, following a 10-72 season, Sam Hinkie resigned. Days later, Chairman of Basketball Operations, Jerry Colangelo, hired his son Bryan to take over as GM. A month later, the team won the draft lottery and eventually selected Ben Simmons first overall.
Hinkie has not held a front-office position since his exit in Philadelphia. The Denver Broncos reached out asking for analytical advice in 2018, after their first losing season in eight years.
Sam Hinkie was criticized more than the average GM during his tenure with the 76ers and was not given a chance to turn things around. While his time as GM was marred by losing, the team went a combined 47-199 in his three seasons, the players he drafted helped the franchise return to the postseason and form a fearful roster.